280 S. Academy Blvd., 597-3192
Visiting 8-year-old Luna is pretty much visiting Mexico, minus the beach and Montezuma's. Tour through a produce area that leads to the carnicería, complete with a wide cooler of meats. Dig the giant plastic jugs of pickled pork skins and pig's feet. At a deli counter, get generous portions of anything from main plates to fresh juices and smoothies, street-style tacos, soups and sweets.
The Gaspacho ($4.79) isn't tomato soup, but instead a fantastic, highly refreshing drink of pineapple, jicama, mango and cucumber chopped in mango and orange juices, with dark chili sauce lurking within straw's strike at the bottom. A coctel de frutas ($4.99 medium) hosts bigger wedges of mango, kiwi, pineapple, papaya, strawberry, cantaloupe and prickly pear under squeezed lime and chili powder. And the satisfying Chile Colorado ($8.99) consists of chewy pork bits in a bright, mildly spiced red chile sauce with beans, rice and above-average corn tortillas for the stuffing. — MS
424 S. Nevada Ave., 645-8904
Earlier this month, we reported that Spike TV reality show Bar Rescue came and overhauled the Brickhouse Bar & Grill, transforming it into the Garrison Tavern. New York bar baron Jon Taffer gave Tavern owner Jon Nicholls a good step in the right direction. Parts of the building and the menu got gussied up, going from biker bar to outdoorsman's dive.
The loaded hash brown skillet ($6.95) piles soft potatoes, egg, decent green chile and sour cream, studded with bacon and pastrami. It's more New York than Southwest, but the portion is huge, and it's a great beer sponge. Same story with the Philly rolls ($6.95), beef-onion-pepper-orange cheese in an egg roll wrapper. Either washes down well with a Firewatch Whiskey ($6.25), which drowns Fresno peppers in peach syrup and JD-taste-alike George Dickel Tennessee whiskey. Expect decent food, decent drink and stupid-good prices. — GS
1025 S. Sierra Madre St., 473-7832, urbansteamcoffee.com
Though Urban Steam will probably always be thought of first for its first-rate coffee bar, and perhaps secondly for its fun cocktail bar, the spot's also emerged as a sincere eatery, with eclectic, seasonally shifting offerings. The latest addition to the cool chaos: Taco Tuesdays.
Completely respectable house margaritas run only $3, and an upgrade to rotating top-shelf margs runs only $3 more. Recently, we tried a killer Margarita Excelsio made with Espolón Tequila, melon, agave, lime and a potent chili-powdered rim. The drinks, including $2 Mexican-style beers, lead into well-made $2 tacos, such as carnitas, barbacoa, jerk chicken and vegan spicy black bean, garnished with items like chipotle lime sour cream and house-pickled carrots and onions. The Crock-Pot-recipe barbacoa bests the bunch, which can be supplemented by $8 or $14 nacho plates, such as the heaping Muchos Nachos topped in pork pullings, pickled veg and fresh jalapeño slices. — MS
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