Esperanza Cocina de la Playa — Manhattan Beach, Calif.
At Esperanza, Chef Raymond Alvarez takes Sonoran cuisine into modern interpretations. Vibrant taco platters, a guac trio, beachy seafood dishes like Playa shrimp taquitos and homey enchilada plates go perfectly with brightly colored cocktails and fruity sangrias.
The Esperanza team tapped architect Gulla Jonsdottir to create the handcrafted-coastal look and luxurious vibe… “one that makes you feel like you’re on a luxury Mexican vacation and one that leaves you wanting more,” says Esperanza’s Leigh Lupinacci.
The Duplex — Chicago
This restaurant and bar in Chicago’s Logan Square just opened with rotating menus from micro-concepts, giving local chefs a golden opportunity. First up: fried chicken sandwiches from The Kluckerz and Mexican-inspired cuisine from Lime and Radish, plus a weekend brunch menu from chef-partner David Rodriguez. Additionally, owner LeQoinne Rice has worked to create an equal and transparent workplace for employees with a position-less environment and an optional pooled-tip model for both front- and back-of-the-house workers, along with plans to provide healthcare in the near future.
Agave & Rye — 10 locations
This Southern-fried/Tex-Mex ode to tequila and bourbon definitely has what some business gurus call a “growth mindset.” The founders, Yvonne and Wade Sarber, call it “an aggressive growth plan.” Either way, the over-the-top taco and spirits selections dominate the menu and the street arty “urban grunge” vibe of the décor sets the tone for 25 one-of-a-kind fusion tacos and a staggering variety of both tequila and bourbon. This concept has roots in Covington, Ky., and recently expanded to foodie-town-on-the-cusp Columbus, Ohio.
Get cozy in a booth
Agave & Rye’s outdoor dining game is strong, as well. Note the high-low vibe: a chandelier, wood paneling, red vinyl and graffiti. That’s what we call balance in the world of polished casual.
Starters at Agave & Rye
It doesn’t get more Southern-comfort than hush puppies (center).
Empanada at Agave & Rye
Elevated empanadas include version with portabella, mozzarella and halloumi; duck confit, goat cheese and chipotle-cherry salsa and jumbo lump crab and shrimp with cream cheese and chimichurri.