Heat February up with some sizzling Mexican food

In the dead of winter, there are few precious things that can provide a window of relief from the bitter cold.

Barring a trip south of the border, I gravitate toward blankets, heaters, sleeping cats and sometimes the right meal to help me feel the heat.

A trip to an authentic taqueria or a kicky Mexican restaurant can almost always have me feeling a spark inside, and the next few days offer several opportunities to celebrate one of my favorite ethnic foods.

With National Margarita Day being celebrated today (Feb. 22), and National Tortilla Chip Day on Feb. 24, it’s a chance to add a little sizzle to the day with a trip to one of several terrific spots in town to grab spicy salsa with crispy chips or an icy cold Margarita, or my personal favorite — both.

One of my preferred destinations of late has been the Taqueria Mixteca in Trotwood at 2190 Shiloh Springs Road. The restaurant’s Trotwood location is almost as bare bones and nondescript as their original location at 1609 E. 3rd St. in Dayton. The food is remarkable and authentic at both, but the beauty of the Trotwood location — and the major thing differentiating the two — is a liquor license that presents the opportunity to order up a zippy Margarita or ice cold beer.

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When the freshly made chips arrive at the table with chunky salsa, be sure to put in an order for a generous portion of chunky guacamole ($2.99) and terrific cheese dip ($3.29) blended with jalapeños — after all, you need something to put on those chips to savor them properly.

If heat is what you are looking for, the Bistek Campechano ($8.49) is a winning choice. Savory grilled steak and spicy chorizo are cooked with onions, jalapeños, and mushrooms, topped with a zesty cheese sauce and served with rice, beans and tortillas. For the same price, you can have it made with chicken instead of steak.

The stuffed poblano peppers ($6.75), chorizo tacos ($2.15 each), enchiladas verde ($7.99) and sides of roasted serrano peppers ($1) are also great bets to help warm up and raise the temperature in the room.

There are many other superb local spots to head out for some Mexican fare if Taqueria Mixteca doesn’t fit the bill.

I unapologetically love Elsa’s Bad Juan’s and chips with salsa — to me it’s a neon green Dayton tradition that is worthy of embracing. El Meson’s Margarita is a nearly perfectly balanced mix made with fresh lime juice that is refreshing with the kind of kick that margaritas across the county aspire to have. Abuelo’s in Beavercreek is a great choice for both chips, salsa and margaritas as well as a robust menu of dishes to choose from. The El Toro locations have one of my favorite soups in town, Caldo de Pollo ($8.90), a hearty soup made with an entire chicken breast that has been shredded surrounded by carrots, potatoes, zucchini and served with tortillas, sliced avocados and pico de gallo. A Margarita and chips make it a wonderfully simple and affordable meal as long as the soup has not been salted with a heavy hand.

If you would rather heat things up at home, then heading out to the right spot to shop is key. There are two terrific Mexican groceries (they also have restaurants inside that are worth adding to your list of places in town to try out) that will take your dish to the next level:

La Michoacana #5

748 Troy Street, Dayton

Phone: (937) 220-9600

Las Peñas Mexican Grocery

215 Byers Road, Miamisburg

Phone: (937) 866-4457

¡Salud!

Dayton Eats looks at the regional food stories and restaurant news that make mouths water. Menu updates, special dinners and events, new chefs, interesting new dishes and food adventures. Do you know of new exciting format changes, specials, happy hours, restaurant updates or any other tasty news you think is worth a closer look at? E-mail Alexis Larsen at alexis.e.larsen@hotmail.com with the information, and we will work to include it in future coverage.

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