El Norte Restaurant’s owners use their more than 35 years of experience working at restaurants in Texas and Northern Mexico to create authentic Mexican dishes to their exact specifications. Surrounded by Aztec-inspired paintings and sombreros hung on the walls, diners dig into pork carnitas, enchiladas suizas, and bowls of chopino. Whether bellied up to one of the restaurant’s two bars or seated at a table blanketed by a colorful tablecloth, guests enjoy the serenades of a mariachi band or the sound of a live harp player politely ordering a burrito. On weekends, karaoke and DJ-fueled dance sessions take over the restaurant’s spare room.
Chef and global restaurateur Richard Sandoval's innovative culinary style melds the precision of classically trained technique with the homestyle appeal of traditional Latin American flavors. Growing up in Mexico City, Sandoval first learned to cook alongside his grandmother as she prepared massive family feasts. He nurtured this passion at the Culinary Institute of America, which taught him the skills needed to forge contemporary French cuisine. However, in 1997, Sandoval decided to return to his roots and use those skills to prepare contemporary interpretations of the Mexican staples he remembered from childhood. Maya embraces this mélange of influences, and the menu "showcases some of the best Mexican food in the city," according to Fodor's. Although the chefs experiment from time to time, they mainly commit to faithful recreations of unmistakably classic dishes. The tableside guacamole can include inventive additions of smoky bacon or spicy crab, and the tequila-flambéed shrimp arrives with chipotle sauce as well as a black-bean purée. Dark, rich mole sauce adds flavorful complexity to a time-tested dish of roasted chicken, which the New York Times hailed as "the most impressive main course" in its 1997 restaurant review. The drink menu also embraces Mexican tradition, and it tempts diners with a selection of mezcal, sotol, and more than 125 tequilas. The bartenders even create their own flavored tequilas in-house by infusing the spirits with everything from jalapeño to roses and chamomile. Maya's terra-cotta-red and lemon-yellow walls add lively splashes of color amid the earthenware tiles and hardwood flooring. Crisp white tablecloths adorn a number of the stout wooden tables, although they don't distract from the collection of framed artwork that was custom-made in Mexico according to New York magazine and some guy who tried to touch them.
Mexican favorites meet Salvadoran specialties at Ranchito Victoria Restaurant and Bakery, which slings up both cuisines with equal aplomb for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. A traditional Salvadoran breakfast, or desayuno tipico, starts the day off right with heaps of refried beans, cheese, and cream crowned with two eggs. Later in the day, savory entrees of cheese-stuffed peppers, salted beef, shrimp in garlic sauce, and pork in adobo sauce steal back the spotlight. Traditional sweets round out the meal and include plantain empanadas and tres leches cake, which contains three different types of milk—just like Gladys, the cow responsible for all the world's Neapolitan ice cream.
Upon walking in to Taqueria Tlaxcalli, patrons are greeted by a Carina, the traditional skeleton depicted in Day of the Dead decorations. The décor, which also includes sculptures and ceramic teapots, originate from Mexico, the native home of owner Mauricio Gomez and his wife, Yesenia. Their recipes and staff followed the same journey, traveling from Mexico to New York. Cooks serve specialty dishes such as tripe-and-tongue tacos with cactus and jalapenos, as well as sweet hibiscus juice, which patrons sip as they sit beneath a bright-yellow mural painted in the Aztec style.
Rattlesnake Cantina operates under the idea that going out to eat should be like a mini vacation. The restaurant backs up that belief by leading its visitors on a colorful trip through the Southwest of the United States, complete with a vibrant wall mural of a Southwestern desert?s golden sand hills and pink and purple skies. Seated next to that mural, or in one of Rattlesnake?s other brightly lit nooks, you can tackle traditional Mexican specialties while sipping on a margarita or tipping an invisible cowboy hat in approval between bites. You can also try out the restaurant?s southwestern spin on American classics, including an avocado and chorizo burger and pork chops served with hot cherry peppers.
Recipes give insight into a culture, and chef and restaurateur Barbara Sibley deeply understands this seemingly simple concept. Originally born and raised in Mexico City, Barbara furthered a passion for indigenous cuisines while studying anthropology in college. She then devoted years to researching and collecting Mexican recipes from as far back as the 1600s, and in the process, she steadily became an ambassador for the culinary techniques and ingredients that define authentic Mexican cuisine. In addition to sharing this expertise with CBS New York, the Food Network, and cooking classes, Barbara published a collection of 75 recipes in her cookbook—Antojitos: Festive & Flavorful Mexican Small Plates. If the cookbook is a reference source, then a meal at La Palapa is an immersive learning experience. Barbara drew upon her research as well as her extensive culinary experience when she founded the restaurant, designing a pan-regional menu of familiar staples and little-known gems that the New York Times hailed as "fascinating." Mexico City–style tacos brim with chili-rubbed pork and pineapple or corn sautéed in assertively herbal epazote, and grilled duck breast arrives in a decadently complex Oaxacan mole sauce made with 26 ingredients. Tradition remains of the utmost importance though, and Barbara takes care to hand make everything from cheese to chorizo in-house. La Palapa takes its name from the Spanish word for the palm-thatched shelters that adorn Mexican beaches: an image that complements the restaurant's casual and inviting ambiance. The dining room manages to embrace its roots by prominently displaying images of Mexico City from the 17th century as well as modern sculptures inspired by pre-Columbian ceramic figures. Although the brickwork archways contribute to this sense of antiquity, La Palapa also features a handful of modern touches, including hourglass-shaped pendant lamps, a jukebox, and levitating barstools.