National Hispanic Heritage Month, which starts Sept. 15, is a more than 50-year-old American tradition to celebrate the histories, cultures and contributions of citizens whose ancestors came from Spanish-speaking countries.
One delicious way to mark the observance, which continues through Oct. 15, is by enjoying the foods that are part of that heritage — at least somewhat Americanized versions of the dishes. In the Cape Cod restaurant world, that means largely Mexican food, but you also might find some culture-spanning surprises.
The observation started, according to hispanicheritagemonth.gov, in 1968 as Hispanic Heritage Week under President Lyndon Johnson. In 1988, that was expanded to its current dates by an order signed by President Ronald Reagan.
The day of Sept. 15 is significant because it is the anniversary of independence for Latin American countries Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua, according to the website. Mexico and Chile also celebrate their independence days on Sept. 16 and 18, respectively.
So where can you go on Cape Cod to get a taste of some favorite foods from Spanish-speaking countries? Here are a few ideas (in alphabetical order):
► Anejo Mexican Bistro
188 Main St., Falmouth, and Anejo Hyannis, 599 Main St., anejo.cc: The menu at both locations features quesadillas, salads, tacos, burritos, enchiladas and chimichangas, with house specials that include Polo Con Mole (chorizo-cauliflower gratinado, poblano mole, grilled corn pico and cotija cheese). There’s also a nice nod to their Cape Cod home, with Chipotle Stung Lobster Bisque, Langosta (lobster) Taquilos and Quahogs Rellenos.
► Burrito Bistro
790 Iyannough Road, Hyannis, and 13 Greene St., Mashpee Commons, burritobistro.com: Unlike many Cape restaurants, business was steady at the two restaurants throughout the pandemic, with easy takeout of burritos, chili, salads and tacos always the main part of the business. Everything is prepped and cooked fresh in-house, including a collection of salsas and guacamole. The house favorite on the Mexican burrito part of the menu is Burrito Max, which can be rolled in a tortilla or put in a bowl: beans, rice, lettuce, cheese, sour cream, guacamole and salsa fresca, with options of chicken, ground beef, steak, pork, fried cod or veggie mix.
► Casa Vallarta Family Mexican Restaurant
70 Davis Straits, Falmouth, casavallarta.us: The chain with four restaurants in Massachusetts (one on the Cape) and two in New York bills itself as “New England’s authentic Mexican-styled food,” with the owners noting on the website that they are sharing “our festive heritage and authentic Mexican styled foods from the port of Puerto Vallarta, Mexico on the Pacific Ocean coast.” The menu is huge and includes tacos, nachos, salads, burritos, enchiladas, chimichangas, quesadillas, platters, molcajete specials, fajitas and huevos. A live mariachi band is scheduled to play 6 to 9 p.m. Tuesdays.
► Craigville Pizza and Mexican Restaurant
618 Craigville Beach Road, Centerville, craigvillepizza.com: Beyond a menu of pizza, pasta and grinder options, there are a dozen Mexican choices “to spice up your day or night.” Among the tacos, burritos and enchiladas, the specialty of the house is the popular Beef/Chicken Pinata Pie, which says it’s for two, but the filling eight slices often feed more. The three-layer dish has three fried tortilla shells layered with refried beans and Mexicali beef or chicken, taco sauce, melted cheese, lettuce, tomatoes, salsa and black olives, then garnished with sour cream.
► Guapo’s Tortilla Shack
134 Route 6A, Orleans, guaposcapecod.com: A story we ran by Gwenn Friss earlier this year reported that Guapo’s has gone back to basics, with takeout once again the bulk of the business, and even in-restaurant diners picking up food from a central table to minimize contact with staff. The menu includes tacos, burritos and snacks, plus popular take-out margaritas in drink pouches.
► Sam Diego’s Mexican Cookery & Bar
950 Iyannough Road (Route 132), Hyannis, samdiegos.com: Sam Diego’s has dozens of options for indoors, outdoors and takeout. Favorites and staples include tacos (shrimp, fish, steak, etc.), chimichangas, quesadillas, fajitas, enchiladas and eight kinds of burritos. The most popular are the chicken fajita burrito and chicken fajita quesadilla, and there’s fried ice cream for dessert.
► Tumi Ceviche Bar & Ristorante
592 Main St., Hyannis, tumiceviche.com: While saying it specializes in “the world’s most famous Peruvian ceviche” and “unique Andean spices,” the welcome on the website describes this tucked-away Hyannis restaurant as “a marriage between traditional and modern Peruvian and Italian kitchens.” Chef owner Jorge L. Siguencia incorporated Peruvian cuisine here with his Italian experience, and Peruvian cuisine, the website notes, is “an incorporation of influence of different times and immigrant cultures including Spanish, Japanese, Chinese and Italian cuisines.” A prix-fixe menu is popular, and specialty cocktails are made with the signature Peruvian spirit “Pisco.”
► Two Brothers Pizza & Mexican
331 Cotuit Road, Sandwich; twobrotherspizza.com: Pizza is the first part of the name here, so the larger part of the varied takeout menu is Italian, with pasta and pizzas — but that includes a Mexican pizza with lettuce, tomatoes, black olives, Mexican cheeses and other cheese. Then the menu offers burritos and quesadillas, nachos and tacos, including fish tacos. Among the specialties are the pulled-pork options, in a quesadilla or taco, made with pork slow-cooked for seven hours.
Contact Kathi Scrizzi Driscoll at [email protected]. Follow on Twitter: @KathiSDCCT.