Each week Neon spotlights a different cuisine in the Dining Guide, with Mexican restaurants this week. Restaurants are rated on a letter-grade scale, from A to F. Opinions by R-J critic Heidi Knapp Rinella (H.K.R.) are indicated by initials. Price symbols are based on the cost of an average entree: $ = entrees less than $10; $$ = entrees between $10 and $20; $$$ = entrees between $20 and $30; and $$$$ = entrees more than $30.
South Point, 9777 Las Vegas Blvd. South; 797-8075
Signature dishes: Avocados Baja Miguel's, Burrito El Patron.
CABO MEXICAN RESTAURANT
Sunset Station, 1301 W. Sunset Road, Henderson; 547-7777 (also at Aliante, Boulder, Palace and Santa Fe stations and Red Rock Resort)
Soggy rice notwithstanding, Cabo - Station Casinos' new group of Mexican restaurants - offers a lot to like, starting with the salsa bar with warm chips, warm bean dip and a warm salsa and 10 cold (some of them spicy-hot) salsas. We also liked the spicy rock-shrimp tacos served on thick little tortillas, the steak fajitas with their prominent lime flavor and beans both black and refried. (12/30/11 H.K.R.)
3345 E. Patrick Lane; 547-3592
It sure ain't fancy, and it tends to get a little cramped, but Carlito's Burritos is the only game in town when it comes to authentic New Mexican food. Although the margaritas were forgettable, we needed them to put out the fire fueled by the traditionally seasoned chips with red and green salsas, steak combo burrito and pork verde stuffed sopapilla. (1/14/11 H.K.R.)
CASA DON JUAN
1204 S. Main St.; 384-8070
Signature dishes: Mexican breakfast, carnitas.
CHAPALA'S MEXICAN RESTAURANT
3331 E. Tropicana Ave.; 451-8141
Signature dishes: shrimp cocktail, Chapala Chicken, Grandpa Margarita.
Suncoast, 9090 Alta Drive; 636-7111
Signature dishes: Steak Alambre, Tacos de Pescado.
DONA MARIA TAMALES910 Las Vegas Blvd. South; 382-6538 (also at 3205 N. Tenaya Way)
Signature dishes: tamales, queso fundido.
8508 Del Webb Blvd.; 255-1069
Signature dishes: machaca, chicharrone burrito.
807 S. Main St.; 382-9234
El Sombrero has been in the same location - and in the same family - since the 1950s, and there's a good reason for such longevity: solid Mexican favorites. On our last visit, we continued to be enamored with the guacamole, chile relleno, cheese enchiladas and sopapillas. (12/6/11 H.K.R.)
FRANK & FINA'S COCINA
4175 S. Grand Canyon Drive; 579-3017
Signature dishes: charbroiled dishes, chile relleno, nachos.
Fiesta Rancho, 2400 N. Rancho Drive ; 631-7000
Signature dishes: Sunday margarita brunch, handmade tamales.
GONZALEZ Y GONZALEZ
New York-New York, 3790 Las Vegas Blvd. South; 740-6455
Signature dishes: fire-roasted fajitas, red chile shrimp tacos.
Four locations in the valley; 735-6828
Signature dishes: carnitas, Banderillas de Toro.
495 S. Grand Central Parkway; 270-4400
Its see-and-be-seen popularity with the power-lunch crowd makes Mundo a bit of a tough (and noisy) ticket at midday, but go for dinner and it's an island of serenity, complete with twinkling lights. The chicken enchiladas were far removed from the norm (which is a good thing) and both they and the shrimp diablo had a little more of a kick than we expected. A shared starter of queso flameado was a gooey, mellow delight. (6/24/11 H.K.R.)
RICARDO'S OF LAS VEGAS
4930 W. Flamingo Road; 227-9100
Ricardo's is extremely popular with readers, no doubt because its food is reliably nonthreatening. The Sampler de Ricardo's appetizer platter presented jalapeno poppers, chicken wings, beef taquitos, chicken quesadilla and nachos, and we liked the steak fajitas, a fish taco, chile relleno with beans and rice, and the very sweet Crazy Bananas. (9/15/11 H.K.R.)
3460 E. Sunset Road and 6450 S. Durango Drive; 436-5200 or 312-8000 or www.SuperMexNV.com
Signature dishes: large Mexican street tacos, Salmon Sarandeado.
3826 E. Craig Road, North Las Vegas; 643-8888
Viva Zapata's rises above most of the Mexican restaurants in the valley with excellently prepared food and deft little touches, such as a bean dip along with the pre-meal salsa, vegetable bits mixed with the rice and sliced olives scattered across a platter. We had the best chile relleno we've had in years, and also liked the sopa de fideo, pork tamale, green-chicken enchilada, cheese enchilada and beef taco. (5/17/11 H.K.R.)