Amigos and amigas, we’re almost back to the “old normal,” just in time for summer fun. The Pacific and gulf beaches are now open, and you can even bring your blanket or lawn chain and stay for a while. What a great concept.

You are also free to invite your family and friends over for a backyard barbecue. There’s not much on the tube except PGA golf, but you can break out the boom box and blast some NorteƱo music. Looking for some grill ideas to dazzle your guests? Scroll down our featured entrees under the “Hispanic Kitchen” section. Meanwhile, here are a couple of additional menu items you might want to prepare.

Grilled shrimp quesadillas

This is such an easy entree to make, and it will add a unique variety to the usual carne asada barbecue. Here’s what you’ll need:

Two pounds of jumbo raw shrimp, peeled and deveined with tail on; one pound of Mexican blend shredded cheese; one dozen large flour tortillas; Six limes, squeezed into juice; small bunch of cilantro; one small container of prepared pico de gallo (eight ounces); one small container of guacamole (12 ounces). Note: these side items can be found at any large Hispanic super market chain. It will make your life easier, but be sure to check the expiration date.

Arrange shrimp on skewers, dress with lime juice, pepper and garlic salt. Let the shrimp rest for about 15 minutes while you fire up the grill. Over medium heat, place the skewers on the grate, turning periodically so the shrimp is evenly cooked. This process should take about 10 minutes until the shrimp is a pinkish color and slightly charred. Remove from grill, chop off the tails and cut each one in half. Cover in foil.

Place the tortillas on the grill and flip over frequently so each side is warm. Cover with cheese, shrimp, chopped cilantro and pico de gallo, then fold in half and return folded tortillas back to grill. With a spatula, press down on each tortilla and keep flipping until each side is a golden brown. Cut into halves and serve with a scoop of guacamole and beans or Spanish rice. This works for a party of about six guests. Add to quantities for larger groups.

Tex-Mex fajitas

Fajitas are a classic Tejano dish that was first served at top restaurants in San Antonio and Houston, then spread south into Mexico. The problem I have is the skirt steak that was originally used (and still is) in the recipe. This cut of beef is tough and stringy, so I started making my fajitas with rib eye steak, which is more expensive but very tender and flavorful. Here’s what you’ll need:

Three pounds of trimmed rib eye steak; one white onion, a combo of green, yellow and red chile; one large tomato; one dozen flour tortillas. For the marinate, you’ll need a cup of Italian salad dressing; 1/4 cup of apple cider vinegar; 1/4 cup of soy sauce; 1/2 cup of worcestershire sauce; 1/4 cup of brown sugar; four squeezed limes; four cloves of minced garlic. Mix ingredients in a large bowl. Slice rib eyes with the grain into thin strips and drop them into the bowl, soaking in the fridge over night.

The next day, slice up the onion, chile peppers and tomato into strips, then fire up the grill. Over medium heat, place the steak and veggies on the grate and rotate frequently. If the grate is too wide, set two smaller grates on top so the food doesn’t fall through into the fire. Cook for about 10 to 12 minutes until everything is lightly charred, Place your finished creation on a large platter, and serve with slice avocado and a bowl of garden salad (optional).

Select restaurants now open for dine-in patrons

Most of our region’s celebrated restaurants and deli establishments are still only accepting drive through, take out orders. Many places have yet to reopen at all. As summer approaches and tourism begins a comeback however, that is expected to gradually change. Those eateries that have decided to accommodate table guests again must comply to some restrictions, depending on the state where they are located. Some of those rules could include limited occupancy to satisfy social distant requirements. Bar lounges may not be available for seating. Be sure to bring facial covering, and it is wise to make a reservation.

Here is a small list of restaurants that have the endorsement of

San Diego

Many outdoor restaurants within Old Town Historical Park were the first to open to dine-in customers, including Old Town Mexican Cafe and Cafe Coyote. A favorite for me is Chiquita’s, a decades old neighborhood spot located off the 94 freeway at Home Avenue. Patio dining is now available. Great authentic Mexico food and a full bar. Call 619 264-2072 before arriving to give staff a head’s up. Filippi’s has been San Diego’s best Italian restaurant since 1950, and all locations are now open for their loyal customers to dine in and enjoy. See their ad on our home page. The landmark Little Italy location fills up quickly, as well as the Chula Vista spot on Broadway. There’s another new place in La Jolla that has already received rave reviews at their Century City, Newport Beach, Irvine, Las Vegas and Los Cabos locations. That would be Javier’s, the ultimate experience in Mexican cuisine with an emphasis on amazing seafood. The San Diego restaurant is situated near UCSD and the University Town Center shopping mall. Call 858 200-2222 for reservations and info on their other blue chip restaurants. Make sure you have plenty of room on your credit card, but I promise you will love this unique dining experience.

Los Angeles/Orange county

The Mexican Village is L.A.’s go to spot by far, oddly located in Koreatown. One of the first ethnic eateries to reopen for dine-in guests. The menu is extensive and well prepared. Fast service, full bar, upscale but comfortable. It’s the whole enchilada. On Beverly Blvd, phone 213 385-0479 for daily hours of operation. Philippe The Original is an iconic deli that first opened in 1908, then moved to Alameda Street in 1951 to make room for the 101 freeway. Classic decor and great sandwiches. Call 213 628-3781. Puesto Park Place in Irvine provides a unique dining experience specializing in Mexico City-style fare. Super clean, craft bar. Be sure to call for reservations or you’ll walk away hungry. Phone 949 608-7272.

Las Vegas

El Segundo Sol is a 40 year Mexican staple on The Strip in the Fashion Show Mall. Rustic decor, authentic cuisine. Popular local hangout. Phone 702 258-1211. Bonito Michoacan on S. Decatur Blvd. serves up tasty regional fare, great service and stiff drinks. Phone 702 254-6810. The Bootlegger is a landmark, lounge type setting with plush booths and outstanding Southern Italian cuisine. A favorite, family-owned local spot since 1949. On The Strip at 7700 S. Las Vegas Blvd. Phone 702 736-4939.


Steak 44 is an upscale steak house that also serves excellent chops and seafood in an elegant setting. Pricey yes, but definitely lives up to its reputation. Great bar and wine list. Located in the Camelback Village Center. Reservations required. Phone 602 271-4400

San Antonio

La Gloria (off the I-10) recently reopened at this location for its loyal patrons. Family atmosphere, comfort food, full bar and friendly service. Call ahead 210 265-3315. The Yard House-River Walk (as well as The Alamo location) have been greeting guests now for a few weeks. I love this chain with an extensive sports bar menu. Call 210 354-3844.


The Capital Grille

National chain with two locations in Houston at City Centre and The Galleria. An amazing steak house with several cuts of prime beef, select sea food and signature salads. Impeccable service and a wine list that will blow your mind. Phone 713 463-5051. Hugo’s cranks out inspired Mexican specialties created by renowned Southwest chef Hugo Ortega. Not your typical Tex-Mex menu, so be bold and roll the dice because everything will surprise your taste buds. Located in Montrose. Call 713 524-7744.

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