When they founded it in 1975, the owners of El Indio Mexicano Restaurant hired cooks from the Michoacan region of Mexico to teach them the recipes of Mexico’s Pacific coast. Owned by the same family today, the restaurant carries on that commitment to authenticity, slow-cooking carnitas for five hours and cooking beans in a cazo, a large copper pot usually found only in the ruins of ancient Ikeas. The cazo is also used to cook a cornucopia of meats, including beef tongue, pork stomach, breaded steak, sausage, and charbroiled steak. These carnivorous cuts fill quesadillas, handmade gorditas, and 13 types of burrito that arrive unadorned or covered in melted monterey jack cheese and house-made ranchero sauce.
The menu at Johny's Kitchen straddles the border between Mexican and Mediterranean fare. Yet the chefs stitch together the distinct cuisines with common components, including fresh beef and chicken packed into kebab plates or fajitas and burritos. Chickpeas suit up and take a dip in the deep fryer while transforming into the falafel dish, and are paired with hummus or baba ghanouj and pilaf or fries. In addition to international fare, Johny's Kitchen slings grilled and deli sandwiches, breakfast bites, and napkin airplanes between sunny yellow walls and TVs.
Ask Lourdes Limon why her raspados taste so good. She'll say, "Por que los hice con amor"?"Because they're made with love." Now that her sons have taken over the family business, they use the same secret ingredient, but they've added a few new specialties. Supplementing the shaved ice treats that give them their name are freshly squeezed juices, chili-imbued slush-drinks, and healthy fruit salads. But the raspados remain the main event. Flavors include exotic fruit such as guava, tamarind, kiwi, and jamaica, as well as more decadent flavors such as caramel, egg nog, cookies and cream, and plain water.
Roberto Ortega Senior and his wife founded Me Gusta Gourmet Tamales in 1999 to introduce the world to the delicious tamales that they make with a secret family recipe. Having started as a small restaurant, Me Gusta Gourmet Tamales now yields its daily harvest of award-winning tamales inside a 10,000 square-foot facility, which is the size of Paul Bunyan's walk-in closet. The kitchen staff makes each batch using quality ingredients, including 100% monterey jack cheese, trimmed cuts of meat, and margarine with 0 grams of trans fat, before wrapping the bundles inside fresh corn husks.
A pleasing jumble of bright warm colors welcomes patrons as they enter Salsa and Beer, where the kitchen turns out myriad Mexican favorites. Bean dip and salsa—always complimentary—flow freely with chips, and the chefs integrate housemade red and green sauces into tacos, burritos, and enchiladas. A huge sun painted on the ceiling watches down on patrons as they eat on painted tables, slicing into deep-fried chimichangas or chipotle-chicken flautas. Hues of lime green, pink, and orange occupy the walls and window paintings in the dining room, and a patio in the front is separated from the street by sculpted wooden barriers, whether in the shape of cacti or a wide sun.