Five Places to Celebrate Cinco de Mayo
|Feeding our late-night taco jones at Tacos al Carbon|
Here's Our T List:
Eduardo de San Angel, Fort Lauderdale
Fungi, chilies, and squash blossoms date back to the Aztecs, but Mexico didn't develop asadero, a stringy, whole-milk curd cheese, until Europeans started importing their sheep, goats, and cattle into the New World. Chef Eduardo de Pria incorporates them all at his award-winning gourmet restaurant, a celebration of native Mexican ingredients and techniques. Pria's menu changes often, but tantalizing starters might include chicken posole: Pria riffs on the less common Pacific version from Jalisco, which uses chicken instead of pork and substitutes fresh, fire-roasted corn kernels for the hominy. Cactus paddle or grilled nopales taste like a vegetable cross of eggplant, portabella mushroom, and okra; here they're filled with grilled pork loin marinated in achiote. Seared Keys yellowtail gets the treatment with pico de gallo and cilantro; a trio of tiny, tender, and ruby-centered Colorado lamb chops is brushed with fresh cilantro garlic oil and served with a wild mushroom-stuffed tamale and a miniature corn-husk boat of puréed black beans scattered with queso fresco. Even a grilled petite filet mignon, pan-seared, luscious and pink, comes done up in a pepper brandy sauce alongside marinated roasted red peppers and a silky, fresh masa tamale steaming in its husk.
Taqueria Dona Raquel, Pompano Beach
With its yellow walls and bright open kitchen, Taqueria Doña Raquel is a bit of sunshine tucked among body shops and thrift stores. The entire Mex-Mex menu is written on a large blackboard, with only one seafood dish topping $7.99. Start anywhere; virtually everything is good, from tender chicken enrobed in a perfectly balanced mole and vibrantly flavorful fajitas served with fresh tortillas made in-house to an aromatic bowl of pozole on weekends.
Las Gaonaras, Boynton Beach
The first U.S. outpost of the phenomenally successful Mexican fast-food chain ought to do well here once folks catch on: This is authentic Mexican food, down to the tripe and Spanish wines on the menu, served in a spotlessly clean, rather generic-looking "fast casual" atmosphere. The food rocks: excellent guacamole served in a lava molcajete with hot, oily, made-to-order tortilla chips; queso fundido, giant grilled bulb onions, soups, and steaks cooked every way you like them to be doctored up with little bowls of cilantro, onions, and salsas. Cold, creamy flan for dessert will make you ooh and ahh.
Moquila Restaurant and Tequila Bar, Boca Raton
The 200-plus list of rare and hard-to-find tequilas is the main draw at Moquila, but the guacamole, made tableside, is no slouch either. Chicken tortilla soup is rich enough to make a meal; follow if you can manage it with tostadas of spit-roasted duck, shrimp ceviche, pork tenderloin with salsa verde, and molcajete de carne. But save your taco cravings for a roadside cart at:
Tacos al Carbon, Lake Worth
This tiny taco joint has become a foodie mecca in the decade since it opened -- nowhere else will you find a tortilla as fresh, a salsa as piquant, a carne asada as spicy, and a price tag for the whole shebang as cheap -- tacos are a buck fifty each. The takeout window and the tortilla van in the lot are open 24/7, so you can get your flauta fix at any ungodly hour. You'll be biting into your tacos de chicharron right along with dweebie white guys, migrant workers, middle-class families of all shapes and stripes, and rich lady lawyers: Tacos al Carbon is a melting pot, and it breaks out the streamers and balloons for Cinco de Mayo.