For Barrio Star's owner and chef, Isabel Cruz, her Latino family's large, frequent gatherings have always revolved around food. She taught herself how to cook with help of friends and family from Puerto Rico, Cuba, and Mexico?and growing up in Los Angeles, she was also influenced by Japanese, Korean, and Thai flavors. Today, she infuses her global, modern recipes into five eateries spanning two states.
Within the vibrantly painted, chandelier-lit confines of Barrio Star, Isabel and co-owner Todd Camburn incorporate unexpected influences into the menu of Mexican soul food; wild blackened-salmon tacos are adorned with thai slaw, pineapple, jicama slaw, and chipotle aioli, as well as cilantro and lime. Coconut permeates her Brazil bowl, loaded with rice, black beans, mango salsa, steamed greens, and a choice of meat. Isabel chooses local, organic ingredients whenever possible to forge her modern, healthier versions of traditional dishes. Her chefs make all the salsas from scratch, rather than rehydrating astronaut salsa, and hand press tortillas from just-ground corn. Meanwhile at the bar, guests gather to sip speciality margaritas such as roasted jalape?o blackberry and classic lime and salt. Craft beer pours from 11 different handles while the Barrio Star brand booms into a vibrant party that now spans across two states in five restaurants.
Twenty-four hours a day, Sagauro’s Mexican Food loads plates with heaping portions of authentic Mexican street fare, including rolled taquitos, chicken tacos, and chili rellenos. Diners choose from a lengthy menu above the ordering counter that details burritos stuffed 15 different ways, six types of tacos, and house-made menudo—a traditional Mexican soup—on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays. The eatery also serves breakfast burritos and entrees such as huevos rancheros every hour of every day, every minute of every hour, and every second of every minute for a total of 86,400,000,000,000 nanoseconds.
Guests at El Comal can sit down to plates of familiar Mexican dishes or savor exotic delicacies for breakfast, lunch, or dinner. Huevos rancheros or sauce-drenched chilaquiles jolt taste buds awake before a long day of licking telephone poles, while tacos stuffed with flaky fish or barbecued goat meat satisfy lunchtime appetites. Crisp morsels of cactus cover tender cutlets of carne asada, and banana leaves keep Oaxaca-style chicken and pork tamales from getting chilly. Guests can also complement meals with frosty cervezas, sweet horchata, or potent margaritas.
Beginning as a plucky, family-run eatery in 1993, Los Reyes Mexican Food has blossomed into a multilocation Mexican-fare fiefdom, enticing appetites with an impressive spread of pillowy burritos, fresh seafood, and savory marinated meats. Within the casual family-style eatery, chefs forge authentic Latin-inspired meals, such as mole-soused lengua and crispy carnitas and buche. Guests pair feasts of flaky fish, seasoned carne asada, and hearty sopes with freshly squeezed juice, rich smoothies, or cold glasses of creamy horchata.
Lauded by USA Today Travel as one of 10 Great Places to Bite into a Big Burrito, Taco Surf Taco Shop slathers its flavorful Mexican fare in homemade hot sauce and traditional seasonings. Choose to chow down on the #5 combo plate, in which cheese and sour cream cha-cha over two enchiladas swollen with a choice of chicken or beef or tackle a specialty platter such as the carne asada chips, a crispy tortilla-chip castle built with an edible façade of beans bricks, guac greenery, and cheese crenelations that stand up sturdily to incursions by an army of sour cream. Alternatively, two soft tortillas swaddle batter-fried fish in a blanket of mayo and mild sauces on the fish-taco-platter special. After eating, tired-out tongues can lounge on the cushiony carbonation of two sodas or surf milky waves of horchata and spiced tamarindo for further taste adventures. While mouths masticate savory meals, Taco Surf occupies eyes with endless reels of surfer films, surf-inspired décor, and a working android replica of Beach Boy Al Jardine.
Playa Grill's menu presents patrons with healthy Mexican dishes that incorporate free-range chicken, beef from grass-fed cattle, and local produce. Appetites looking to rev their engines can fuel up on starters including calamari frito, fried squid with chili aioli ($9.95), and ever-so-dippable guacamole ($7.25). Main courses such as the surf 'n' turf fajitas—filet mignon and shrimp served with warm tortillas ($16.95)—and Playa Grill's signature carnitas plate—slow-roasted Niman Ranch pork accompanied by an entourage of fixings and tortillas ($12.95)—can sufficiently fill any empty stomach or sweatshirt hood. From 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays, diners can munch on brunch items such as breakfast burritos loaded with free-range scrambled eggs ($10.95), or tiger-shrimp tacos ($13.50). The eatery also houses a full bar stocked with 50 tequilas and 15 specialty margaritas ($8–$10), available during dining endeavors, happy-hours specials, or International Salt Rim Day.