The owners of Pop’s Garage know how to run a restaurant. In fact, they have run five of them along the Jersey Shore, as the New York Times points out. At Pop’s Garage, they pour more than 85 years of restaurant experience into their kid-friendly, BYOB Mexican taqueria. While evoking the festive, summer atmosphere of Sayulita, Mexico, the restaurant's ambiance exudes an upscale dining atmosphere.
Pop’s menu consists of made-to-order dishes, each handcrafted from locally sourced, natural, and organic ingredients, including fresh lettuce and vegetables. Taco shells are packed with chicken and chorizo, quesadillas ooze with cheese, and burritos are stuffed with ruby rice. Just as genuine as the ingredients are the recipes they are made from. Explaining to the New York Times, “Our intent is to be authentic. . . . One of [the chefs] makes his mother’s mole, a red mole,” which is just one of the menu’s several mole sauces.
El Chico's culinary artists paint their tortilla canvases with melted cheese and spiced meats to curate a menu of fiesta-worthy Mexican feasts. Sizzling fajitas surf in to tables on hot skillets, announcing their arrival with aromatic waves of seared beef, chicken, shrimp, or baby back ribs ($15.99) before lying out to sunbathe on soft flour tortillas. Forks and knives slam against chili relleno enchiladas ($9.99), which burst like savory piñatas with cheese and mushrooms or beef. Chipotle-wine sauce imbues the chicken burrito ($10.49) with an air of sophistication as it commingles with tender spiced chicken, rice, and frijoles rancheros. Boulders of fajita steak and avocado speckle the corn-tortilla landscapes of three tacos ($9.49), and pork-tamale trios ($9.99) unwrap their husks to reveal elaborate cave art scrawled in a thick sauce of chili con carne.
When Baja Fresh opened its doors in 1990, freshness wasn’t on the menu at many fast-food restaurants. Disappointed with soggy burgers and floppy fries, the founders built a casual Mexican eatery around fresh, colorful produce and a commitment to healthy living. Cooks prepare meals by hand, using ingredients that hail from real-world farms rather than freeze-dried packages. Tacos and burritos brim with a choice of meats, including pork carnitas and charbroiled steak. Filled with shrimp tacos, tortilla soups, and grilled-chicken salads, a Healthy Choices menu guides diners toward meals that are low in fat, calories, carbs, and smog.
Since its founding on Cinco de Mayo, 1989, El Taco Loco has sought to transport the flavors of a California taqueria to the East Coast without the help of preservatives, fillers, artificial flavoring, or lard. Along with classic fajitas, enchiladas, and carne-asada burritos, the extensive menu tweaks tradition with offerings such as the Mexican BLT taco and french fries with a piquant house spice blend, all of which can take on extra heat at the complimentary salsa bar. In the summer, sidewalk flower boxes beckon guests into El Taco Loco's storefront, designed to resemble a beach hut complete with grass roof and vacationing starfish.
Tortuga's Cocina keeps belly bearings delectably lubricated with an expansive menu of tacos, enchiladas, burritos, and more. Dull appetites can be sharpened to deadly keenness with starters such as the guacamole dip ($9 for lunch, $10 for dinner) or the nachos supreme, layered with refried beans, ground beef, melted cheese, jalapeños, and sour cream ($12). With their bellies properly primed, diners can dig into house specials such as the chipotle shrimp, ($18), or the pollo mole, a boneless chicken breast marinated in chilis and slathered with a cocoa-based mole sauce ($16).
When the Egoavil and Anguino families emigrated from Peru in 1992, there was an empty Mexican restaurant awaiting them in the United States. They quickly transformed the dining room with a bounty of Mexican and Peruvian art and the menu with a fusion of Mexican and Peruvian dishes, thanks especially to chef Said Anguiano's specialization in the cuisine of Mexico and and chef Carmen Egoavil's knack for Peruvian fare. Their efforts were so successful that they earned the Best of Lambertville Award in 2013.
Today, Anguiano stuffs fish inside tacos and Egoavil marinates the seafood in the ceviche dish’s lime juice and Peruvian peppers. She blankets chicken in a spicy pepper sauce in the aji de gallina dish, while Anguiano folds chicken into enchiladas, burritos, and tamales. The two countries’ traditional meals sit side-by-side on tables in the bright orange dining room or out on the pet-friendly patio.