Cesar’s Old Mexico, Springfield: Since opening at the end of 2015, Cesar’s Old Mexico has become the lunch spot for those craving authentic Mexican and Salvadorian dishes in Springfield. Arrive after 12pm, and you’ll likely have to elbow your way to a table. The place is tiny, which is part of the charm – as are the oversized Margaritas and cocktails, often garnished with fresh chunks of avocado and lime. Cesar Ortiz, who hails from Mexico, is mostly in charge of the kitchen, but his wife, Sandra Gonzalez, adds a much-loved Salvadoran touch to the menu with pillowy pupusas. Stuffed with tender pork, cheese and beans, pupusas are an everyday dish in El Salvador; Gonzalez says they have quickly become a favorite at Cesar’s Old Mexico along with massive tortas, sopes and more. –Ettie Berneking
Trago Bar and Tapas, Kansas City: Finding a locally owned restaurant near the Liberty Triangle that delivers the flavor, personality and warmth that Trago Bar and Tapas does is worth celebrating. Owner Kandi Kerns opened the doors to her first restaurant in October, serving a tapas menu that focuses on the dishes she learned to cook from her grandmother and celebrates the cuisines of Spain, Guatemala and Mexico. Chef Ryan Nesbitt works with Kerns to plate these comforting dishes in sophisticated ways. Start with the shrimp ceviche served on a bed of fresh guacamole, and then try the street tacos, pan-seared shrimp in a garlic sauce or patatas fritas. Order a traditional paella for the table with either seafood, chicken or vegetables for one of the most traditional Spanish house specialties. –Jenny Vergara
Nixta, St. Louis: Ben Poremba’s newest restaurant serves Mexican fare, but it’s hardly your average taco stand. A playful coral, seafoam green and electric blue color scheme brightens up the interior, with potted succulents and cacti and bright, colorful woven textiles scattered throughout. If the space itself doesn’t transport you to Mexico, the menu – inspired by Mexican street foods and executive chef Tello Carreon’s abuelita – certainly will. Dishes at Nixta are rooted in the traditions of Guanajuato, Mexico, where Carreon hails from, but also weave in seasonal ingredients and contemporary techniques, such as the beef cheeks that served with pickled vegetables and an herb salad and braised in his grandmother’s mole negro. The al pastor is a riff on the classic taco, with pork belly, caramelized pineapple pico de gallo, charred onion salsa and cilantro, while smoked augachile with cucumber, bergamot and serrano chiles is poured tableside over a freshly shucked sea scallop. –Heather Riske
La Siesta, Columbia: With its brimming Margarita pitchers, flaming fajitas, loaded nachos, and colorful plates of chilaquiles and flautas coming from the kitchen, La Siesta is packed every night of the week with patrons filling up on authentic Mexican cuisine at its three locations in Columbia. Owned by brothers Francisco and Benjamin Guillen, who grew up in a small town in the central highlands of Mexico, La Siesta features traditional dishes including the weekends-only chiles en nogada, two poblano peppers stuffed with pork, fresh and dried fruit, spices and almonds topped with a walnut-cream sauce. The corner spot downtown is a favorite before and after a night on the town – or for keeping the party going until 2am when La Siesta closes – especially with guests of The Blue Note music venue just a few doors down. –Bethany Christo
Yoselin’s, Springfield: Juan Pavon and his wife, Maria, say the new Yoselin’s in Springfield isn’t their first rodeo. After successfully operating a Yoselin’s in Pittsburg, Kansas, the Pavons recently opened their Springfield location, offering Mexican cuisine and more – much more. Many of the items on the menu are inspired by different areas of Central and South America, such as chicken Milanesa, and the Pavons’ version of Colombian patacon pisado, a fried plantain on a bed of tomato and onion topped with chunks of steak covered with a cream sauce. Juan expects carne asada and carnitas to be popular dishes at the new Yoselin’s; both can be ordered with tacos, burritos or a taco salad. –Ana Pierce
Photo of Cesar’s Old Mexico by Starboard & Port Creative, photo of Trago Bar and Tapas by Anna Petrow and photo of Nixta by Jacklyn Meyer. This article appears courtesy of Feast Magazine. Feast Magazine is dedicated to broadening the conversation about food and engaging a large, hungry audience of food lovers.