Just as Thomas Edison stumbled through useless prototypes of light bulbs and movie cameras before perfecting the phonograph, the alchemists at Qdoba Mexican Grill took 47 attempts before landing on the franchise's signature blend of three cheeses, known simply as queso. That attention to detail still pervades every aspect of the menu, as employees spend hours each day chopping, dicing, and simmering the fresh ingredients that find their way into burritos, taco salads, and grilled quesadillas. Beyond the marinated bites of chicken, beef, and pork and hand-crafted tortillas, cooks protect their ripe, fragile avocados from harm by smashing them into batches of fluffy guacamole.
Bartenders pour and mix more than 30 tequilas as chefs craft elegant Tex-Mex dishes that follow Yucatán traditions. Upscale entrees range from pan-seared duck breast with roasted poblano-mashed potatoes to marinated steak swathed in pasilla and ancho chilies in hefty quesadillas. A sea of crystals cascades down a spiral-shaped chandelier that dangles above the fully stocked bar, where Cazadores and Patrón liquors head up an extensive tequila cache. Bartenders also craft numerous specialty margaritas, enhancing sips with such ingredients as fresh lime mixers and agave nectar. Patrons can feast eyes on multiple flat-screen TVs in the dining area, or venture to an outdoor patio to construct a canopy of tortilla chips that will guard against inclement weather.
The chefs at Sol Azteca Mexican Restaurant serve up chiles poblanos, tacos, and steaks that have been praised by the News & Observer and washed down by many a margarita. Combination plates offer medleys of quesadillas, enchiladas, and burritos and sweet sopapillas seal the meal at dessert.
La Fiesta Restaurante Mexicano?s classic dishes have earned the eatery a long-standing award proudly displayed on the website: Best Mexican Restaurant nine years in a row, as voted by readers of the Times-News. At the start of each workday, the restaurant?s chefs fry the popular tortilla chips and whip up bowls of salsa. Then they get to work on such dishes as chicken simmered in a chipotle cream, char-grilled steak tacos, and spinach burritos.
Creating every ingredient in-house, Baja Burrito constructs burritos and tacos California?style, which means using fresh ingredients. Carnitas, carne asada, and or chicken verde dot the menu, lined with ingredients such as homemade chipotle-cream sauce, as well as fresh-made salsa sided by housemade chips.
Tony, the owner of Bandido’s Mexican Cafe, learned the tricks of the trade while working at his family’s Mexican restaurant as a teenager. Today, he and his wife own and operate three Bandido’s locations, which serve sizzling fajitas, crisp tacos, and burritos stuffed with beef, chicken, pork, or sautéed spinach. The Herald-Sun's readers praised Bandido's as the Best Mexican Restaurant in 2009, and the restaurant returns the favor by awarding individuals who finish the El Gigante burrito—a massive compilation of steak and chicken fajitas, rice, black beans, and shredded cheese—with a T-shirt and gentle pats on the back. The restaurant often hosts live entertainment, and the Durham location supplements its selection of lunch and dinner fare with a Sunday brunch menu served from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.