Tex-Mex incorporates waves of warm cheese and a chipotle spiciness not found in Baja Mexican cuisine, which has also become popular in the United States. The chefs at La Fiesta Mexican Restaurant tap into the former’s tradition of piquant decadence when crafting fajitas, hot skillets filled with gooey jack cheese and chorizo, and steaks cooked to order. Inside the colorful dining room, frozen mango margaritas complement the bright hues of nachos rancheros crowned with grilled steak and loaded with toppings, or puerco con salsa roja, tender pork marinated in a red sauce and served with rice, beans, and tortillas. A range of imported Mexican beers the color of filtered sunshine or a gold sarcophagus that you didn’t read the washing instructions on cut the spice from the rest of the dishes.
In a big, bright stucco building just off the highway, chefs at Victor’s Chile Mercado Mexican Grill are hard at work recreating Mexican flavors as well as American-influenced Tex-Mex dishes. They blend fresh salsa several times a day and hand-roll pork tamales according to the traditional Mexican method of using fresh masa and wearing giant foam hands. The guacamole is fresh, too—servers mash each order tableside from Haas avocados. House specialties include crispy carnitas with fried onions and peppers and bacon-wrapped steak chile rellenos, but the menu also abounds with staples including burritos, enchiladas, and tacos.
El Sombrero’s selection of traditional Mexican dishes is as wide as the brim of an actual sombrero. That’s impressive, and diners show their appreciation by spooning every last bit of guacamole and salsa ranchera from the restaurant’s scallop-edged dishware. Spicy chili sauce tops the tacos and chile relleños, which counterbalance the chill of seafood cocktails served in frosty glass goblets. El Sombrero often brings its show on the road to cater special events, such as parties and boat christenings.
Since Casa Laredo Latin Grill & Tequila Bar opened its doors almost 40 years ago, three generations of the Rojas Family have taken turns concocting traditional Mexican and Argentine recipes. The restaurant's interior evokes a sense of history with 80-year-old Mexican tiles, and occasional Latin music and free dance instruction prepare hips for jammed turnstiles. Guillermo Rojas often mans the tequila bar, plying skills he has learned in a career arc that stretches from cook to waiter to his current perch as Casa Laredo’s owner. When he’s not greeting patrons or dishing out margaritas, Rojas trades in his owner’s tunic to serve as managing editor of La Semana Del Sur newspaper and news director of Spanish Teletul Channel 51.
Reverently named after Mexican painter Frida Kahlo, herself a talented culinarian, Casa Frida Restaurant pays tribute to the cultural giant with a spicy spread of authentic south-of-the-border cuisine. Casa Frida subdues famishment with hearty meals such as the Enchipotlada ($6.99), enchiladas in bubbling cheese, sour cream, and house-made chipotle sauce. The camarones al mojo de ajo ($9.99) culls sauteed shrimp from the depths of a buttery sauce sea. A melange of marinated beef, chicken, shrimp, chorizo and pork plated beside sizzling bell peppers and onions, the Fajitas Frida ($11.99) supply diners with the materials to create edible folk-art self-portraits. Scrambled egg dishes such as the jalapeno-infused huevos a la mexicana ($4.49) highlight the breakfast menu, served all day so that nocturnal possums can partake without disrupting their beauty sleep.
The menu at Don Serapio’s Mexican Restaurant pays tribute to Mexico as much as it does to the owner's family. Janie Meadow's father Serapio Sanchez helped her brother Larry open his first restaurant back in the 50s. It was at this restaurant that Janie met Jim Meadows, her husband and the man she would eventually join forces with to open Don Serapio’s Mexican Restaurant. Today, the pair draws on family recipes to marinate steak and pork, smother enchiladas in cheese, and fry jumbo shrimp.