TRY THESE TREATS
For lovers of Mexican food, there has been no better time to live in Delaware. Thanks to a growing number of immigrants, there is an endlessly thrilling world of new possibilities.
Carne a la tampiqueña: Each ingredient has a symbolic meaning. A strip of roasted meat represents the Panuco River. Green enchiladas symbolize the Huasteca region. White cheese signifies the purity of the people. And guacamole represents the fruits grown there.
This, of course, is not so much a category as a catch-all, a hemisphere-spanning assortment of cuisines and cultures that nonetheless share some traits: a love of meat, a predilection for rustic flavors and presentations, and a near-universal respect for the raspy, rousing heat of the chili pepper. It’s also a selection of cuisines that all seem to shine best when honored with home-style aesthetics and simple, straightforward executions.
EAT HERE:AgaveThere can be long waits for the brightly flavored, fresh-feeling creations. Fans endure gladly. Tequila lovers, this is ground zero for those who want to sample widely. The buzz: Corn on the cob with chipotle mayo, queso fresco and lime ($4); shrimp-garlic guacamole. ($10).137 Second St., Lewes, 645-1232 • website
Cactus CaféBeachgoers rave about the lively flavors, authentic character, chicken and seafood entrées, and a willingness to be non-traditional. Witness the popular bacon-wrapped scallops with raspberry-jalapeño sauce ($9.99).West Fenwick Station, Unit 4, Del. 54, Fenwick Island, 436-4492; 37 N. DuPont Hwy., Selbyville, 436-2750 • website
Chicken House Charcoal GrillPeruvian-style rotisserie chicken and its delectable accompaniments are becoming commonplace because foodies and families alike find them affordable, fun—and not all that foreign. The ceviche is peerless.1224 Capitol Trail, Newark, 737-2426; 422 E. Main St., Middletown, 376-7793 • website
Churrascaria SaudadesPay one price to eat grilled steak and other delights all night. Don’t forget a caipirinha or good bottle of wine.230 E. Main St., Unit 203, Newark, 355-5551 • website
Del Pez Mexican GastropubThe creatively conceived menu doesn’t apologize for veering from the playbook, making Del Pez a dependle place for fun. The buzz: The kids’ menu is the most delicious and fairly priced around.76 E. Main St., Newark, 738-3800; 400 Justison St., Wilmington, 691-7974 • website
El Diablo BurritosThe cult of this Cali-style burrito place still grows, partly because of its overstuffed burritos, partly because of fillings such as braised short rib and goat cheese.127 E. Main St., Newark, 439-4541; 5329A Limestone Road, Wilmington, 235-8121; 1812 Marsh Road, Wilmington, 439-4648; 13 Trolley Square, Wilmington, 691-5532 • website
El DoradoA charm-free dining area doesn’t diminish appreciation for the Baja-style fried fish (and shrimp) tacos and burritos. The buzz: Keep your eyes peeled for the soft-shell crab burrito special.18776 John J. Williams Hwy., Rehoboth Beach, 645-1596 • Facebook
El JefeThe well executed and generously portioned food is full of zingy flavors that are at their peak in the visually jolting molcajete entrées—bubbling cauldrons of meaty, saucy seduction.110 Astro Shopping Center, Newark, 894-9000 • website
El TapatíoThe assortment of tacos, enchiladas and burritos is accompanied by a pleasing selection of entrées that blaze no culinary trails, but do inspire return visits. The margaritas are huge.550 Eden Circle, Bear, 836-6477; 1700 Philadelphia Pike, Wilmington, 791-9566 • website
El ToroThe solid selection, consistently gushing reviews and rock-bottom prices make it a favorite in Little Italy. The buzz: The chiles relleños get a hearty filling of cheesy mashed potatoes.624 N. Union St., Wilmington, 777-4417
La Tolteca/La TonaltecaOne of the first to offer Mexican food in the area, La Tolteca and its offspring, La Tonalteca, have never strayed from the beloved script of Americanized Mexican food—which makes it a success.Christiana, Dover, Milford, Millsboro, Rehoboth Beach, Wilmington • website
Margaritas Mexican GrillThis gem is filled with surprises: fresh-made fruit drinks, table-side guacamole, ceviche, and street food such as fried pork rinds in salsa verde ($7.50). The buzz: Jalapeños stuffed with goat cheese in puff pastry on a bed of squash blossoms ($7.50).3320 Old Capitol Trail, Wilmington, 407-5675 • website
MariachiSit on the patio and sip margaritas in the breeze at a favorite for well-executed Mexican mingled with some Spanish. The buzz: Cuban roast pork special, seafood enchiladas.14 Wilmington Ave., Rehoboth Beach, 227-0115 • website
MoreliaThe menu at friendly Morelia features an extensive selection of “world famous” fajitas and lots of seafood specialties, including paella and a ceviche appetizer.4617 Ogletown-Stanton Road, Newark, 369-6888 • website
Papa Grande’s Coastal TaqueriaThis funky favorite takes a pleasantly off-kilter approach, tweaking Mexican classics to create such revelatory dishes as shaved Brussels sprout salad with cotija cheese and pumpkin seeds, as well as short-rib cheesesteak burritos ($19).38929 Madison Ave., Selbyville (near Fenwick Island), 436-7272 • website
Santa Fe Mexican GrillSo long as you oldsters beware of the woo-hooing college-kid revelry toward weekend nights, this Main Street mainstay offers some dependably satisfying favorites such as the chipotle wings, the golden chimichangas and the famously monstrous margaritas.190 E. Main St., Newark, 369-2500 • website
Nicely styled-up tacos from Del Pez Mexican Gastropub//Photo by Steve Legato