In a big, bright stucco building just off the highway, chefs at Victor’s Chile Mercado Mexican Grill are hard at work recreating Mexican flavors as well as American-influenced Tex-Mex dishes. They blend fresh salsa several times a day and hand-roll pork tamales according to the traditional Mexican method of using fresh masa and wearing giant foam hands. The guacamole is fresh, too—servers mash each order tableside from Haas avocados. House specialties include crispy carnitas with fried onions and peppers and bacon-wrapped steak chile rellenos, but the menu also abounds with staples including burritos, enchiladas, and tacos.
Wings to Go's fresh, daily-made traditional or boneless wings are available by the bucket and come with bleu cheese, celery, and your choice of 20 sauces. Nab a bucket of 10 with one flavor ($6.99), or fuel a four-hour CHiPS marathon with 30 succulent winglets flavored with up to two sauces ($20.79). Standard wing sauces range from smooth and buttery mild to a tongue-scalding extra hot. Specialty sauces run the gamut of regional American flavor, including hickory-infused honey barbecue and Cajun-spiced hot sauce, and teriyaki and curry sauces fly palates over the Pacific without the pesky jetlag or mid-flight alien abduction.
Attempts to sip a cupcake up a straw rarely succeed, but the staff of The Cupcake Lounge encourages customers to try with their Cherry Limeade cupcake. The confection is made of a lime-infused cake base topped with whipped cherry frosting and comes garnished with a lime slice and a tiny straw.
This drink-inspired treat is one of only 10 cupcake flavors the shop stocks daily. The rest of the menu is a rotation of funkier flavors, including a banana cupcake with a Hershey’s Kiss hidden inside and crowned with peanut-butter frosting. For further sweet treats, diners can nibble at an array of cookies or sip espresso creations infused with amaretto, hazelnut, and other flavors. The bakery also caters to sweet teeth with classes that teach students how to adorn a cake without just stacking another cake on top of it.
The owners and chefs at Santa Fe Cattle rely on old family recipes that demand steaks are aged and cut in-house, rolls are baked fresh each day, and signature sauces are mixed onsite. These touches transform the menu’s casual, regional eats into dishes worthy of John Wayne’s personal dressing-room buffet. Steaks, fajitas, and sliders are plated next to housemade sides of cole slaw, Santa Fe taters, and of course, a bucket of peanuts—which guests shuck directly onto the floor. The peanut shells add character to each one of the restaurant’s 20 locations, which evoke old-west saloons with touches such as brick walls draped in horse saddles and weathered wooden floors.
Home of John C. Reilly’s favorite ode to barbecue, Mr. Spriggs BBQ nurtures hungry stomachs with a menu of 11 sauce-slathered sandwiches constructed within a casual, no-frills space. Patrons order at the counter before settling at a comfy table, while grill masters churn out a slew of classic spit-roasted savories. Feasting quartets can wrap fingers around a tender pulled-pork sandwich or the succulent beef brisket, which chefs serve either chopped or sliced depending on the guest’s astrological sign. Slices of perfectly flame-smooched turkey or chicken breast rest between two soft bread pillows and beneath a sheath of tangy sauce, and ham pervades taste buds with a flavor so smoky it can only be replicated by licking a chimney.
At Napoli's, reverent chefs recreate the tastes of their Old World ancestors in the form of scratch-made pizzas, pastas, and sandwiches. Build-your-own pies arrive sprinkled with 100% real provolone and toppings ranging from pepperoni, ham, and bacon to onions, black olives, and green peppers. Doused in house-made sauces, Napoli's pastas include Italian mainstays such as spaghetti and meatballs, ravioli, and five-cheese lasagna. Their sandwich menu continues the old country love fest, filling plates with Mediterranean specialties including chicken cacciatore subs, meatball heroes, and paninis cut into the shape of Silvio Berlusconi.