The skilled chefs at Carlos O’Kelly’s Mexican Cafe whip up burritos, enchiladas, and sizzling fajitas to fill an extensive menu of south-of-the-border cuisine. Diners push aside still-steaming nacho and quesadilla starters as a waiter approaches, arms meticulously stacked with plates of enchiladas and burritos ($8.99–$9.99 each). Chefs slather spinach and mushroom enchiladas in butter garlic sauce, and the burro en fuego specialty burrito befuddles meat detectors by burying contraband shredded beef and spicy chili sauce deep inside a warm flour tortilla. Diners can also look over a gluten-free menu to bite into enchiladas and fajitas prepared on corn tortillas as, in the kitchen, blenders buzz up pomegranate and strawberry frozen margaritas into salt-rimmed glasses for frozen fruit consumption without fear of stuck tongue.
Led by the Hernandez family—whose roots in Des Moines span more than 43 years—the culinary savants at Raul’s transform fresh ingredients into a full menu of classic Mexican eats. Five fillings round out the tacos, which, depending on one’s appetite or multiple stomachs, can be served in batches of two ($8.95) or three ($11.95). The aptly named El Combination Popular bands together favorites, including a flour taco, a corn enchilada, and a corn-nacho pizza ($10.25). For the huevos ranchero, chefs drape two eggs fried over-easy in a hot ranchero sauce and send them out to tables alongside warm tortillas, beef, beans, and rice ($8.95). Meanwhile, eight different beers sit on tap, and patrons can toast to their forefathers without pouring beer on a family tree by sipping Raul's Original Grandpa margarita, which brings together Cuervo Gold, triple sec, and Raul's own lime juice served on the rocks ($6.75). Savory aromas float toward vaulted ceilings inside Raul's casual dining room, which serves as a backdrop for dinner conversations with dark wood booths, striped serapes, an array of fedoras, and a stone fireplace.
Taqueria Sonora's beer-battered fish tacos "steal the show" according to the Des Moines Register, which lauds the eatery's menu for its time-intensive recipes. More than 15 types of tacos, including lamb and goat barbacoa, Sonora-style shrimp, and charbroiled chicken, join other Mexican specialties such as tortas, enchiladas, and ceviche tostadas. The dining room is just as opulent, with cerulean-blue paint casting walls in a festive glow, and setting a vibrant backdrop for its collection of bejeweled sombreros and other artwork.
The agave plant, which is traditionally grown in Mexico, produces a nectar that can become sweeter than honey with proper aging and cultivation. It's appropriate that Agave Grill takes its name from this established Mexican crop, since the restaurant's primary focus is on the cultural authenticity of its dishes.
Modern hanging lights cast shadows on vibrant burgundy, yellow, and robin's egg blue walls, and large front windows fill the dining room with natural light that illuminates plates mounded with chimichangas, sauce-slathered enchiladas, and burritos stuffed with al pastor or tender carnitas. In addition to the tried-and-true cuisine, Agave Grill also pays homage to its spiritual homeland by displaying photographs of Latin American landscapes and demanding that each guest conjugate the Spanish verb for "swallow" after each bite.:m]]
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.
Viva La Bamba's saves flailing tongue buds from edible ennui with its menu of authentic Mexican dishes, specials, and mixed drinks. A combination of tacos, enchiladas, burritos, and vegetarian eats make for steadfast meal mates ($6.25–$7.75), while inventive house specials tantalize palates, such as the Viva La Bamba, a fajita love fest that marries chorizo, shrimp, chicken, and rib-eye steak in delicious matrimony ($12.50). Those looking to sturdy their sea legs sans restrictive sailor suit can choose a pescatarian plate such as the camarones a la diabla, a serving of shrimp piqued with spicy red sauce ($9.50), or the sautéed salmón Viva La Bamba ($9.25).