Growing up with Latin taste buds, I’ve forever had an affinity for the fine cuisine of California’s south-of-the-border neighbor. And since moving to the Palm Springs Valley and settling in Rancho Mirage, I’ve found that there’s never a shortage of great Mexican eateries serving the fabulous food that I love, whether it’s fine dining, family fare, or even the national chain drive-thrus.

While shopping in the Monterey/Dinah Shore vicinity, I frequently stop into Maracas Mexican Cantina & Grill in the same shopping center as Home Depot and the Regal 16 Cinemas. Open since October 2009 (and an offshoot of the popular Palm Springs restaurant that’s been in business for almost 10 years) Maracas is the kind of place that suits just about everyone, from singles and dates, those looking for a vibrant bar scene (with a great happy hour, I might add), to large family gatherings—all in a 3000-square-foot space with 90 seats indoors and ability to seat 30 more out on the patio. And to add to the festive atmosphere, live music is offered Thursday through Saturday evenings from 6:00 – 10:00.

But for me, a restaurant is all about the food and libations, and Maracas delivers on every level, every single time. Any Mexican restaurant worth its salt serves a magnificent margarita, and you’ll find many amazing variations here, including my drink of choice, the Cadillac. But Maracas doesn’t rest on its laurels with just a good classic cocktail; its astonishing array of more than 100 tequilas will keep you coming back for years as you taste and compare to find your absolute favorite.

As for the food, everything is homemade, with an eye toward healthy living—no lard (soy, vegetable, and sunflower oils are used), no MSG—and Maracas’ chefs are always sourcing the freshest ingredients available locally. The menu contains all the favorites that diners have come to expect of a Mexican eatery, but also a few options that might pleasantly surprise you. On my last visit, I ordered Felipe’s Huachinango, a whole red snapper cooked to perfection and served with a side of Diabla sauce. Amazing. One of my friends dined on Sarten de Maracas (their spin on Molcajete, a molten stew of tomatoes, chili peppers, cactus petals, and Oaxacan cheese, with a choice of chicken, veggies, steak, or shrimp—can you say, “OMG!?”) Others opted for combo platters, delicious carnitas, and succulent Baby Back Ribs. And even with all that food, we ordered a sample of house-made desserts, including a phenomenal flan and Maracas’ Pastel de Tres Leches (the most delicious Mexican cake in the world).

Don’t be a fool and let the mall setting fool you. This is one of the best Mexican restaurants in the Valley. Before or after your next Costco run or trip to the movies, come on in to Maracas and let owners Todd and Flora Flood, Jack Srebnik, and their expert, efficient staff shake up your world!  //

Maracas Rancho Mirage