Servers whisk platters of sizzling fajitas, crispy flautas, and decadent desserts to patrons relaxing in large red booths at Carlito's Mexican Bar & Grill. Here, the multihued artwork adorning the canary-colored walls reflects the vibrant flavors on the menu. In addition to Tex-Mex favorites, the cooks whip up traditional Mexican snacks such as fresh ceviche and elotes?corn on the cob slathered in mayo and dusted in spices. They populate a vegetarian menu with poblano-mushroom enchiladas, tofu tacos, and guacamole that's made fresh during tableside service. Capping off meals, their desserts include fried ice cream and chocolate chimichangas that dazzle palates with the dulcet power of a roundhouse kick from Julia Child.
Head Chef Miriam Sosa culled from South American and Caribbean traditions when she built her menu of Latin dishes at the fast-food eatery Latin Chicks. Sosa’s Peruvian-style pollo a la brasa—coal-fired chicken—headlines the menu and makes appearances with fries, in salads, and once on Jimmy Kimmel Live. For a sweet treat, she also presents a choice of filling and topping for churros, including strawberry, cream cheese, and guava.
Caliente's bill of fare is laced with fresh, locally sourced ingredients that lend healthy lowcountry flair to traditional Mexican favorites. Treat your table to a heaping plate of nachos to start, freshly fried white-corn tortilla chips crowned with black beans, shredded lettuce, pico de gallo, and your choice of cheddar, jack, or pepper-jack cheese ($6). Encourage demure dinner companions to speak up by leaving the choice of sour-cream topping (plain, citrus, or chipotle) in their hopeful, trembling hands. Savory soup ($3+) and salad ($6+) options accommodate lighter appetites, and a smorgasbord of made-to-order tacos ($6–$9), burritos ($7–$10), enchiladas ($7–$8), fajitas ($14), chimichangas ($11), and stuffed chile rellenos ($11) helps to hush even the most boisterous belly operas. Puffy tacos are a house specialty, featuring fried and bubbly tortillas that are custom-stuffed with the customer's choice of black-bean ($6), pulled-chicken ($8) or pulled-pork ($9), citrus-chicken-breast ($9), ground-beef ($8), or beef-brisket ($9) filling.
Originally opened as the Top Hat Drive-In in 1953, Sonic has grown into a burger-franchise mecca that today operates out of 3,500 locations across the country, making it the nation’s largest chain of drive-in restaurants. Sonic specializes in made-to-order American classics—including burgers, hot dogs, milk shakes, and marshmallow Ford Thunderbolts—which customers order and receive without ever having to leave their cars. Unique menu items include toaster sandwiches stacked on thick slices of texas toast, as well as the brand’s signature tots and fresh limeades.
Sonic’s numerous awards include a 2011 Zagat survey ranking it among the top-five fast-food restaurants in three categories: Best Value Menu, Best Milkshake, and Best Drivethru. The benevolent eatery has also donated more than $2 million to public schools throughout the country through its program Limeades for Learning, which helps to fund educational projects and retirement plans for classroom guinea pigs.
The chefs cook chipotle parmesan au gratin grouper in their mesquite oven, sizzling it at the precise temperature that will preserve its juiciness—its appetite-rousing aromas filling the adobe-walled restaurant. They then nab the fish from the oven and place it on a plate alongside mexican rice and southwestern-style vegetables, resulting in the restaurant’s signature grouper dish.
For more than 20 years, patrons have been filling their bellies at Santa Fe Cafe knowing that their menu of southwestern dishes has been prepared with the same level of precision and care. As diners nibble, they can snuggle up next to an oak-fire chiminea and listen to live ranchero guitar tunes. On the open-air rooftop cantina, groups can belly up to the curved bar shaded by a wooden canopy, or pull up to a table and admire the stars and the bumper stickers on the backs of UFOs, which read "My other UFO is a bike."
Just walking into El Mariachi Mexican Food feels like a fiesta. Bright yellow walls make the room feel sunny, with Mexican artwork scattered around the space. Tablerunners bring the colors of a Mexican blanket to each table, along with equally colorful mismatched plates that carry dishes such as heaping burritos and enchiladas with special guajillo sauce. One of the eatery's specialties, Platillos Garibaldi, melts mozzarella atop grilled meat and onions, served alongside cactus and fresh warm tortillas.