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.
When Will Caton returned to Virginia from Arizona State University, there was one thing he missed most about his experience there: the southwestern food. Authentically spiced burritos and tacos often served as his late-night studying fuel, so back in Norfolk he was bereft without them. Caton figured out that the best way to get his hands on his favorite burritos would be start his own restaurant, and thus Machismo Burrito Bar was born.
At Machismo, you start out simple?choose from tacos, quesadilla, salad, nachos, burrito, or burrito bowl. Then, you pick a protein, such as carnitas, fish, or steak. From there, things get interesting. Diners can fill their custom creations with saffron rice, enchilada sauce, fresh jalape?os, and salsa, adding in a dollop of guacamole or chipotle queso if it floats their boat. The combinations are many, meaning more than one visit might be necessary to try everything on the salsa-drenched menu.
Recently renovated and reopened under new management, Colley Cantina is looking well-rested and colorful as ever. With its return comes a beach-flavored menu that would fit easily between bouts of surfing the waves off of the coast of Baja, Mexico: conch and shrimp fritters, citrus-marinated mojo pork tacos, kogi short rib burritos stuffed with cabbage and sriracha sauce, bacon-wrapped island dogs dappled with mango, jalape?o, and baja sauce. An equally diverse roster of drinks?16 rotating beers and a lineup of specialty sangrias, mojitos, and margaritas?plays nice with the cantina's lively calendar of live music and comedy. Frequent open mics and open band jams give local entertainers a chance to discover the Lennon to their McCartney or find someone willing to be their ventriloquist dummy.
At Plaza Del Sol, colorful imported Mexican artwork decorates the walls and the aroma of sizzling shrimp fajitas fills the air. In the kitchen, chefs fold steak, chicken, and seafood into a variety of traditional dishes, including tacos, burritos, and quesadillas. They stuff enchiladas with beef and chicken before showering them in red, green, and mole sauces.
As chefs bustle about the kitchen, bartenders keep busy behind the rustic wood bar, doling out hand-shaken margaritas and shots of premium tequilas beneath the glimmer of flat screens. Throughout the week, the festive eatery hosts special events, including karaoke and DJ nights.
Degollado Mexican Restaurant unites American and Mexican traditions in more than just its food: the founder was a cook for the U.S. Navy, and now serves authentic Mexican plates to an ardent fan base of Navy members. These entrees span classic burritos, tacos, fajitas, and dinners such as chicken covered in mole poblano sauce. But they also include lesser-known delicacies, including several varieties of soups. Galdo degollado combines shrimp and tilapia in a flavorful broth, whereas pozole, a Mexican pork soup, is served with hominy, onion, and lime. Meanwhile, daring patrons might opt for the menudo?a beef tripe soup that comes with corn tortillas.
Side Street Cantina’s friendly, casual atmosphere is matched in appeal by its proximity to the oceanfront. Just a block away from sparkling waters, diners mingle over shared appetizers and platters of nachos, which they can wash down with 12- or 28-ounce margaritas. The carnitas—a favorite among regulars—pairs seasoned roast pork with a slew of rice, beans, guac, and tortillas, which make for easy transportation to mouths. Those with senses of adventure or second stomachs can take on the restaurant’s challenge of finishing the three-meat 9-pound burrito in less than 30 minutes.