Epicurean

Mex gets twist in menu mix

CorrespondentJanuary 2, 2008 

In the mood for Mexican, but not your usual combination platter? Check out Festejos Mexican Bar & Grill in Clayton (915 E. Main St.; 359-9551), now open daily from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. "We wanted to do something different," says Daniel Flores, one of the owners of the family-run restaurant. And while Festejos covers the usual tacos-enchiladas-fajitas turf, it's the unusual options that set the restaurant apart.

For starters, you can skip over the regular guacamole listing and instead order guacamole en la mesa, which is made to order at your table. For your entree, keep the theme going with parrillada. A brasera (brazier) will be brought to your table, and your meat selection will be grilled on it.

For a side, try tamale cakes, a baked variation on the traditional steamed tamale. Wash it all down with a margarita -- not one of those frozen lime Kool-Aid concoctions but on the rocks, made with your choice of several tequilas.

Mexican -- or more accurately, Tex-Mex -- fare is just one of the options at Sedona (6204 Glenwood Ave.; 420-0340; www.sedonaraleigh.com), which opened recently in the former Hudson's Oyster Bar spot in North Raleigh.

The restaurant bills its culinary specialty as New Western, which its Web site describes as "a blending of American, Tex-Mex, Latino, Southern Californian and native American cuisines." On the menu, that translates to starters such as cornmeal crusted calamari, pork carnitas tamales, bean dip with Navajo fry bread and beef or vegetarian chili. Entree options include coriander-rubbed beef medallions, shrimp and scallops borracho, El Paso baby back ribs, and ancho chile- and coconut-encrusted tuna.

Sedona's selection of blanco, reposado and añejo tequilas is so extensive that you might want to consider ordering a sampler. That is, if you can resist the list of nearly a dozen variations on the margarita theme, all made with freshly squeezed juices.

Sedona is open from 4 p.m. to 2 a.m. daily, with lunch hours slated to be added soon.

At first glance, the menu at Morrisville newcomer Sol Azteca (120 Morrisville Square Way; 465-7320) looks pretty much the same as at countless other Mexican eateries. But look beyond the combination plates and fajitas, and you'll discover an exceptionally large vegetarian offering, as well as unusual options both authentic (chicken soup with chopped avocado, and cucumbers with salt, lemon and chile) and Americanized (Stefanie's salad, topped with grilled beef and shrimp).

According to manager Ramon Gonzales, the restaurant's signature arroz con pollo and arroz con camarones are already among the most popular dishes on the menu. Gonzales also notes that house margaritas and draft beer are 99 cents on Mondays and Tuesdays. I'd say that's pretty unusual, too.

Greg Cox can be reached at ggcox@bellsouth.net

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