Jalapeños Grill's open kitchen and terra-cotta-colored walls please patrons' scanners, and authentic south-of-the-border dishes treat tongues to sweet and spicy flavors. Diners polish taste buds with appetizers such as shrimp vallarta, sautéed jumbo shrimp hot tubbing in chipotle-honey-mustard sauce and melted cheese ($10.99).
The chefs at Acapulcos Mexican Family Restaurant & Cantina aim to cook authentic Mexican dishes unaltered by any Tex-Mex influence. Their recipes reach back generations within the owners' family and several miles into their underground tortilla vaults. Spanish-speaking servers deliver simple combinations of protein or veggies, topped with vibrant sauces: carne asada steak dressed in green pepper and guacamole, tender pork loin in tomatillo sauce, chicken in chocolate mole. The chefs' adherence to tradition doesn't preclude experimentation. Case in point: the dessert burrito, a lightly fried tortilla wrapped around apple-cinnamon or creamy cheesecake filling.
Both the menu and the decor change slightly from location to location—a painting of Mexico here, a tiled mosaic there. Each one, however, has a full bar where bartenders mix margaritas and flat-screen TVs broadcasting sports overhead.
For Anthony and Denise Sierra, California-style burritos aren't just a fast and healthy meal. They're a tribute to Mark Tryhubczak, the chef and friend who brought them together. After teaching Anthony and Denise to cook, Mark introduced the couple at his own burrito shop, Block Island Burrito Company. Together, the trio turned the fledgling business into a local gem in the early 1990s. Though Mark has sadly passed away, his legacy lives on through Anthony and Denise's joyful eatery, which helps patrons to build their own memories around plates of nachos and steaming bowls of chili. Anthony handcrafts the entire lineup of edibles each day, making every bite more refreshing than a mentholated dunk tank. Flour tortillas encase seven types of burritos, which teem with seasoned meats and colorful veggies such as bell peppers, sweet corn, and ripe red tomatoes. Instead of gift-wrapping microwaves and trimming sun rays with frosting, guests can celebrate heat waves on the patio while sipping festive margaritas and three types of sangria.
As their name implies, the staff at Blue Agave mix up margaritas using blue agave tequila and a dash of French orange liquor. Their bar also brims with Mexican sodas, sangria, and imported beer. While cooks craft dishes such sizzling fajitas and enchiladas topped with mole, servers make guacamole table-side after opening avocados with a search warrant. The restaurant also features a private salon where guests can host parties and enjoy a buffet of savory and sweet items.
In the dark of night, the brightly lit façades of The Fat Cactus locations glow like a beacon, beckoning diners to come and sample their classic Mexican and Tex-Mex foods. The restaurants' interiors are no less eye-catching. House-specialty fazzizzles—short for sizzling fajitas—top tables in dining rooms filled with vibrant reds and yellows. Rows of hubcaps glisten on walls next to strings of lights. And hundreds of emptied tequila bottles dangle from the ceiling, testament to the popularity of the menu's dozen specialty margaritas. For extra entertainment, musicians fill ears with their tuneful crooning every night, and a room with classic arcade games lets kids play at adult tasks, such as driving a car or helping zombies file their tax returns.
You would be hard pressed to find a can opener anywhere in the kitchen of Cilantro Mexican Grill. That's because the restaurant's chefs don't need one; they only cook with fresh ingredients. A typical day in their kitchen sees the chefs mashing the nutty flesh of ripe avocados into guacamole, slicing fresh tortillas to be fried and sprinkled with lime juice, and grilling adobo-seasoned chicken, steak, and fresh line-caught Atlantic pollock purchased from local fisherman at the docks of Point Judith, Rhode Island. Local growers get in on the action too, supplying the kitchen with tomatoes and onions. All five locations serve mason jar margaritas and craft beers with the Cranston location finding patrons sipping one of 20+ brews.