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Originally published June 28, 2009 at 1:29 AM | Page modified June 28, 2009 at 1:32 AM

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Favorite Mexican-food joints

How much do we love Mexican food? This much: The salsa sits in your fridge right next to the Heinz ketchup, and the tortilla chips are alongside the Lay's.

There is also a Mexican restaurant — or six — in your neighborhood.

La Carta de Oaxaca

La Carta de Oaxaca (translation: the menu of Oaxaca) is a knock-back-a-brew-and-a-bite snack shop offering delicious, clean-tasting flavors and an authentic taste of Mexico - from picaditas to posole, molotes to moles negros, albondigas to entomatadas. Its menu is brief, its prices low, its portions restrained. Search and you won't find the fiesta of kitsch and color that too often defines Mexican-restaurant décor. Instead, there's an arresting gallery of Oaxacan photographs, a well-stocked tequila bar and an open kitchen whose comforts include handmade tortillas that star in an array of Mexican finger foods. Open for dinner only.

5431 Ballard Ave. N.W.
Seattle, WA 98107
206-782-8722

http://www.lacartadeoaxaca.com/

Taqueria La Fondita

The taco truck in White Center has sprouted a second branch, this one in a building that used to be a Taco Bell in Lynnwood. Prices are super cheap, even for combo plates that include rice and beans. Put your money on anything that comes inside -- or between -- a tortilla: tostadas, mulitas, tortas, quesadillas. The tacos are especially good with beef or pork. Open for lunch and dinner daily.

20629 Highway 99
Lynnwood, WA 98036-7429
425-672-4209

Mexico Cantina Y Veracruz Cooking

Servers try hard to make customers happy at this fire-lit retreat that offers respite from the hurly-burly of the mall. Brazilian-born executive chef Fernanda Fulkerson produces a menu that merges her own contemporary riffs with more traditional fare. Expect tacos, tamales, burritos and fajitas as well as a fine chile relleno, but also look for entrees like tender chunks of slow-cooked pork, seared rare ahi tuna with grilled vegetables or chicken breast in poblano cream sauce. Start with a trio of dips that includes mild-mannered guacamole, sultry chili con queso and spicy bean puree. Sides include lively Mexican rice and whole pinto beans simmered with chilies and bacon. Don't fill up on the tortilla chips spritzed with lime because desserts are huge, and don't expect much of a wine list - this is Margarita-ville, amigos, and the drinks are muy bueno. Open for lunch and dinner.

600 Pine St.
Pacific Place
Seattle, WA 98101
206-405-3400

http://www.eatatmexico.com

Agua Verde Cafe & Paddle Club

With fresh and spicy flavors hearkening to the Baja region of Mexico and a menu that won't empty your wallet, this spot along the shores of Portage Bay is a haven for a casual lunch or dinner. Tacos (from a variety of seafoods to organic yams) and side dishes (try the chili mashed potatoes) are the dominant theme.

1303 N.E. Boat St.
Seattle, WA 98105
206-545-8570

http://www.aguaverde.com/

1013 E. Pike St.
Seattle, WA 98122
206-322-9950

Cactus

Hungry crowds come to salsa-dip, margarita-sip and for superb Southwest-influenced fare. Don't miss zarzuela, spice-encrusted Cowboy Steak, Indian fry bread. Mexican standards rise above cliche. Start dinner with tapas; finish with caramelly, three-milk Cuban flan.

4220 E. Madison St.
Seattle, WA 98112-3237
206-324-4140

http://www.cactusrestaurants.com/

The Chile Pepper

The Gonzalez family hails from Guanajuato, and the cooking here reflects that region of central Mexico. While you can order nachos, enchiladas, burritos, tacos, tostadas, quesadillas, tamales and flautas, look to the house specialties for Gonzalez family recipes such as mole-sauced chicken, pork simmered in red quajillo sauce or chile pasilla, and albondigas, meatballs in chipotle-spiked tomato sauce.

1427 N. 45th St.
Seattle, WA 98103-6706
206-545-1790

607 N. 35th St.
Seattle, WA 98103-8608
206-632-7303

http://www.elcaminorestaurant.com/

Galerias

Galerias, which introduced Seattle to the joys of regional Mexican food in 1997, offers a fab fiesta feel and waiters as warm and colorful as the complimentary chips served with spicy, avocado-laced salsa.

611 Broadway E.
Seattle, WA 98102-5724
206-322-5757

http://www.galeriasgourmet.net

213 N. 85th St.
Seattle, WA 98103-3604
206-706-9352

2234 Second Ave.
Seattle, WA 98121-2017
206-728-6262

http://www.mamas.com

Ooba's Mexican Grill (Woodinville)

It's a polished hybrid of the fast-food and full-service genres (order at the counter, but they'll bring you your food - and your margarita!) with booths, tables, a salsa bar and friendly service. But the food's the thing, more careful and flavorful than you'd expect at these prices, from the usuals (quesadillas, fajitas, terrific fish tacos) to the less predictable (grilled fish and chili-rubbed pork). Even the burritos offer a creative spark, crafted of minted rice, white beans and extraordinary chipotle cream.

17302 140th Ave. N.E.
Woodinville, WA 98072
425-481-5252

http://www.oobatooba.com

Peso's Kitchen and Lounge

Its youthfully throbbing bar scene and thick Alhambra/dungeon atmosphere would not appear to bode well for the food at this Lower Queen Anne restaurant, but look deeper. Though the usual suspects are available - great chips, tasty green-chile enchiladas and margaritas - they do not alone characterize the menu, which roams from seafood to sandwiches to a few dishes that fuse Latin-Asian cuisines. A happy surprise, if you can stand the loud music, big-screen TVs and exposed navels. Open for breakfast (weekends), lunch and dinner.

605 Queen Anne Ave. N.
Seattle, WA 98109
206-283-9353

http://www.pesoskitc...chen_%26_lounge.html

Copyright © 2009 The Seattle Times Company

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