Since 1932, El Restaurante Azteca has cemented its culinary status as a Tex-Mex mainstay over three generations of family ownership. The original downtown chili con carne ($3.50), made following a recipe from the 1930s, whisks taste buds back to a simpler time before chili could be easily downloaded to home computers.
To chef and owner Andrew Gonzalez, the crisscrossed charbroiling on the charbroiled salmon may as well be the markings on an open palm: they both predict a diner's future happiness. He takes his beef very seriously, pairing steaks with a selection of fine wines and turning only the highest quality certified Angus patties into half-pound burgers before covering them with jalapenos and placing them on a homemade bun. In addition to handcrafting buns for burgers, Gonzalez bakes pizzas with freshly made dough. He hand-batters shrimp for frying and serving with coleslaw, or pan-sears them to decorate beds of pasta with spicy tomato sauce.
In 1853, two founders of the colony that would come to be known as Castroville built a classic Sunday Haus near the center of the new settlement. A century and a half later, that structure stands as one of the oldest in the city, and the restaurant that now calls it home doesn't take that fact lightly. The Old Alsatian Steakhouse and Ristorante retains its historic air, seating diners in one of two main dining rooms lined with old-world art and antiques, while displaying many of the building's original structural elements. Here, they serve a menu that nods to tradition, anchored by a hearty lineup of hand-cut steaks and European dishes. The selection ranges from 6-oz. cuts of sirloin and 7-oz. filet mignon to 16-oz. rib eyes, which can be eaten onsite or brought home. Cooks round out meals with plates of alsatian sausage and bratwurst, served with mustard and pickles, as well as fried calamari, jumbo shrimp, schnitzels, and more.
With the historic nature of the grounds, it's not surprising that a recent archaeological dig revealed a bounty of artifacts dating back to the Civil War. Ginger beer bottles, leather holsters, saber belt-buckles—these and a trove of other 150-year-old finds line the shelves of the restaurant's former smokehouse, which now acts as the onsite museum. Both everyday diners and attendees of special events—the space also features a grape arbor, a patio, a spacious lawn, a beer garden, and a full event center—can peruse these unique finds to learn the history of not only the restaurant itself, but a great deal of Castroville as well.
Bit of Mexico fills each burrito, quesadilla, and taco on its menu with authentic Mexican flavor. Sample the south-of-the-border succulents with a shareable starter such as the bean 'n' cheese nachos ($6.95), or test the loyalty of capsaicin-cautious taste buds with a crucible of fiery jalapeño poppers ($8.95). Early risers get their frijole fix starting at 6 a.m. with hearty breakfast dishes such as the eggs ranchero plate, with beans and hash browns ($5.95), and the appetite-demolishing Big Breakfast plate, which includes two fluffy pancakes with eggs, beans, hash browns, and your choice of meat ($6.50).
The sauce slingers at Apizza Mia slather hand-tossed dough in decadent toppings to create a menu populated with authentic New York–style pizza creations. Pairs can partake in one of five preconceived pies, including staples such as the plain cheese or simple delights such as the margherita, which arrives before plates adorned with mozzarella cheese, sliced tomatoes, and basil so fresh it deserves to be slapped. To sculpt the pizza emporium's signature Apizza Mia, doughsmiths mound a sextet of toppings—pepperoni, italian sausage, green peppers, mushrooms, onions, and olives—atop a foldable New York–style slice, and the white pizza foregoes traditional red sauce for a brushing of fresh garlic and bountiful helpings of mozzarella and ricotta cheese. After finishing the savory spread, dining duos can reward tonsils for never running away with a scoop of authentic gelato in a rainbow of flavors, each made fresh daily.
Each pizza on DoubleDave's menu is crafted using dough mixed from scratch in the kitchen and hand-tossed twice daily before being smothered in tomato sauce and fresh cheese. Choose one of four carefully crafted crusts: hand-tossed original, crispy thin crust, deep dish, or hand-tossed honey whole wheat. Then, pile on any number of DoubleDave's 20 toppings ($.99–$1.89 for each topping, depending on pizza size). Diners who prefer their decisions made for them can order one of DoubleDave's six specialty pizzas, such as Dave's Fave (olive oil, garlic and oregano sauce, and mozzarella with meatball and sausage or tomato and garlic spinach), or The Works (smoked ham, pepperoni, Italian sausage, onions, mushrooms, green peppers, and smoked provolone cheese). All pizzas come in four sizes, from 10" to 18" ($9.49 to $20.99).