Cape Fear Foodie: Dia de los Muertos
WILMINGTON, N.C. (WECT) - With Halloween weekend upon us, it always reminds me to stock up on candy, come up with an ingenious costume and eat Mexican food.
Wait, why Mexican mood? Because of Dia de los Muertos of course. It’s the special Mexican holiday that immediately follows Halloween. Over November 1 and November 2, families celebrate and honor their loved ones that have passed away. And that got me thinking, why not celebrate some of the best Mexican restaurants around?
Where I’m from in West Virginia, there are more Mexican restaurants than McDonald’s. Each small town in West Virginia has its own outpost, and the locals are fiercely loyal to the one in their town. It’s admirable and somewhat comical, given that most of them serve nearly identical food, as the people who own the restaurants are all family or friends.
While the Cape Fear has a wider range of Mexican restaurants, everyone has their favorite as well. Friends in Leland swear by San Felipe, others love El Cerro, Beer Barrio, k38 or La Costa. I’ve had them all, and they all have something special about them, whether it’s the location, the food or the people.
While I won’t go over every restaurant here (I must have something to write about down the road), I will highlight a few of mis favoritos.
This chic Mexican eatery at The Pointe pulls no punches when it comes to making excellent food. It’s as close to fine dining in this genre that you are going to get around here. The food, the plating, the presentation...all top notch. I understand, that’s not for everyone, there are nights when you just want a fried chimichanga with a side of rice and beans. But peel back the tamale of Mexican cuisine and you’ll see there is so much more.
I’ve been here several times, and can vouch for the drinks. Some are straight forward classics, others are more creative, but they are all delicious.
Zocalo specializes in street food, from the wondrous elotes and sopes to flatas and tortas, it’s all here.
However the last time I visited, I went with the Ceviche Sampler for starters.
One tuna, one shrimp and one snapper. Each boasted different ingredients, colors and flavor profiles to play off the seafood. It was a meal in itself, but how can you stop there?
One of my personal favorite dishes is Carnitas, and Zocalo met my expectations.
Tender, slow-roasted pork that’s full of flavor, covered in pickled red onion with a side black beans, rice, guacamole, pico de gallo, and tortillas. The key here is the side of salsa verde, it adds the perfect amount of tang to the pork and is a match made in heaven.
Tequila Comida & Cantina
Another restaurant with a contemporary take on Mexican food but with a nod to the traditions of generations gone by (a true honor to Dia de los Muertos), this restaurant in Monkey Junction is fantastic.
Like Zocalo, the interior is beautiful, and provides a fun and inviting atmosphere to enjoy an incredible meal. With tequila as the name, how can you pass up on a tasty treat from the bar? While margaritas are great, the Paloma is my favorite (and it’s the national drink of Mexico). A refreshing mix of tequila, grapefruit juice and grapefruit soda, each drink is as cool and crisp as the one before…unfortunately it goes down way too easily and can be dangerous on a hot summer day.
Not many Mexican restaurants serve one dish in particular, Mole, which is a rich, sweet and savory sauce that covers meats. A perfectly made mole can takes hours to create, with a variety of chiles, spices like cinnamon and cumin and loads of Mexican chocolate needing time to meld into the greatness it will eventually become. So when I see it on the menu, I jump at it immediately (and you should too).
Tequila’s Mole Poblano features fall-off-the-bone chicken, that deep, luscious sauce, topped with roasted sesame seeds and paired with rice, guacamole salad and refried black beans with crumbled queso fresco on top.
One bite will make you close your eyes and savor the smoky sauce, it’s so good it could be sold by the jar and I would graciously buy a case. The dish is so simple yet complex, and wildly different than your typical red sauces or quesos that drench any number of plates at some restaurants. Tequila prides itself in this dish, and for good reason, it’s very special.
So if you’re looking for somewhere to eat on Monday or Tuesday, make a trip to one of these fine establishments, or just go to whatever Mexican restaurant is your favorite. Grab your favorite drink, order the mandatory cheese dip or guacamole, and try something new on the menu…oh, and remember Dia de los Muertos, and think fondly of those who are no longer with us.
IF YOU GO:
Zocalo Street Food & Tequila is located at 1474 Barclay Pointe Blvd #206, Wilmington, NC 28412
Tequila Comida & Cantina is located at 5607 Carolina Beach Rd #130, Wilmington, NC 28412
Do you recommend a restaurant? Or know of a best kept secret that you want the rest of the Cape Fear to know about? Shoot me an email at email@example.com and I would love to feature your selection. Cheers!
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