Tampico Mexican Grill’s expert chefs sizzle fresh meats and veggies to forge a variety of traditional dishes, served with homemade salsa. Culinary expeditions or temporary sculptures begin with fresh guacamole, prepared to taste with diner-selected ingredients such as cilantro and jalapeños ($4.99). The pollo Tampico’s marinated grilled chicken breast cozies beneath a melted cheese blanket ($10.99), and breaded and deep-fried chicken or steak pair ably with a single roasted jalapeño and hearty helping of fries in the Milanesa Tampico ($9.99). Five fajita offerings sail sizzling to plates in portions for either solo diners or dynamic duos, with fresh scallops, shrimp, or steak filling a choice of flour or corn tortillas ($10.99+). Midday munchers can fill plates or fanny packs with 1 of 19 lunch specials, including meat-centric and vegetarian options. Several beers and wines wash down meals, while frozen or rocks margaritas quench thirsts in several sizes, including regular ($4.25+), jumbo ($6.99+), and monster ($10.99+).
The Flores family never dreamed that 15 years after they emigrated from Mexico, Maryland state senator Jim Robey would be on hand at their restaurant opening to whack a celebratory piñata. Yet that's exactly how the business started—with an explosion of candy foretelling a boom of happy customers.
Named for the Flores’s hometown of Nayarit, El Nayar was designed as a reflection of the clan’s personality, which they describe as "authentic Mexican, laid-back, and down-to-earth." They’re proud that amid the exposed-brick columns and blue- and red-tiled counter, immigrants can be found enjoying cactus and eggs beside American businessmen talking shop over tacos and quesadillas. It’s this mentality, along with sizzling fajitas and house-made spicy sauce, that has earned the restaurant an award as a Top 10 Mexican Restaurant by the Baltimore Sun.
Also honored with a Healthy Howard award for the dietary excellence of its menu, the BYOB establishment encourages diners to supplement meals with glasses of a favorite red wine, good for the heart, or shots of tequila, good for hand-walking skills and adding into specialty margaritas.
Former commercial airline pilot Rodrigo Albarran, copiloted by his family and team of chefs, flies vibrant Mexican plates across the runway of R&R Taqueria's eight-stool counter. Though the salsa-spangled morsels emerge from a pair of modest eateries situated at an Elkridge Shell station and the White Marsh Mall food court, the dazzling menu garners praise from a bevy of media palates, including that of Guy Fieri's Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives and the Washington Post. Critics laud the zingy salsas prepared throughout the day, tender handmade tamales, and pastor beef marinated slowly in a blend of onions, dried chilis, and pineapple. R&R also loads fresh tacos with lamb or beef, then dapples each with onions and sprigs of fresh cilantro, following the culinary traditions of Mexico City and Mexican-cheese support groups alike.
Chefs at On The Border sling out a menu of popular southwestern dishes including enchiladas, burritos, and mesquite-grilled fare made from scratch daily with fresh ingredients. Begin a meal with customizable guacamole made fresh at the table using two avocados and choice of tomatoes, jalapenos, cilantro, onions, and lime juice ($8.99). Dig into a house salad, crowned with corn, black beans, and tortilla strips ($4.69) or the jalapeño-barbecue salmon ($14.99), whose hotness draws inspiration from the fish that swim in active volcanoes. Mesquite-wood-grilled fajitas sizzle delicious secrets at diners with combinations ranging from monterey ranch chicken with bacon, pepper jack cheese, and ranch dressing ($14.99) to barbecue-and-jalapeño-glazed salmon with black beans and vegetables ($14.99). Plates of full-sized or mini tacos burst with simple, robust flavors, such as the brisket tacos ($11.49) or the mesquite-grilled chicken tacos with fried onion rings ($10.99), which arrive with a red chili sauce for dipping or adding zing to boot spurs.
Husband-wife duo Julio and Lily Soto opened Azul 17 to celebrate not only Mexican cuisine, but to also embrace the culture through music, vibrant design, and a selection of more than 100 tequilas made with 100% blue agave. Their chefs all hail from Mexico and bring family recipes to the kitchen?including one chef's grandmother's recipe for black beans. It's ?old world style with updated presentation,? says manager Peter Bonohue. Peter has been in the restaurant business since he could legally work, and to him, Azul 17 has an especially fun atmosphere. ?I love tequila now,? he confessed.
While chefs simmer their signature mole sauce and servers add fresh lime juice to margaritas, guests recline atop white leather banquettes or modern chairs. Eyes dance with murals and shimmering blue-tile mosaics splashed against white walls. Those whites are illuminated with a multicolored neon glow as DJs spin club, house, and Mexican tunes starting at 10 p.m. on Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays. On Thursdays at 8 p.m., guests can spice up their tired hokey-pokey routine with salsa lessons.
Chefs use grass-fed beef, cage-free chicken, and steroid-free pulled pork that hail from sustainable sources to craft a bounty of tortilla-wrapped treats that take their names from the likes of Caddyshack, Fletch, and Seinfeld. It's this dual mindset of serious food and irreverent attitude that tinges every one of the eatery's southwestern morsels, from the Art Vandalay burrito to the John Coctostan quesadilla. As the kitchen staff crafts their daily batch of guacamole to join the lineup of six zesty salsas, diners choose from a list of more than 20 ingredients to fill out the entree that will soon be conjured before their eyes. Because dishes are made to order, each finds easy customization for vegetarian, gluten free, and low-calorie diets, and the absence of microwaves, trans-fats, and MSG keep eats wholesome. Meanwhile, a complimentary accompaniment of chips and salsa turns portions into full meals faster than an industry-grade blow-up ray.