The Place: Milagro Cantina, 148 Lake St. S., Kirkland, 426-952-6270.
Milagro Cantina's take on chips and salsa
The Hours: 3-6 p.m. Mon.-Fri.
The Digs: Located in downtown Kirkland, the trendy new establishment serves Mexico-inspired cuisine that goes above and beyond beans and rice: braised lamb in mole sauce, lobster enchiladas, and guacamole dressed in almonds and pomegranate seeds. The bar showcases top-shelf liquor from the branches of a steel seven-foot "tequila tree," and patrons can sit around fire pits or at candlelit tables. Essentially, Milagro Cantina is Azteca given an Eastside-style major makeover.The Deal: $3 tacos, $4 draft beer, $5 house wine, $6 small plates. Milagro Cantina starts patrons out with a basket of free chips and salsa--or more specifically, fried whole tortilla spheres that you can break pieces off and dip into two different salsas, as well as pickled vegetables. (Azteca's chips actually taste better, but Milagro's look way cooler.) The taco selection is creative and impressive: butternut squash, braised lamb, mahi-mahi, and rotisserie chicken, to name a few. Small plates include ceviche and that fancy-schmancy guacamole mentioned above.
The Verdict: Come for the cheap and tasty tacos! Skip the small plates. (Seriously, six bucks for guacamole? That's a tad steep for dip, regardless of how gussied-up it is.) Milagro Cantina is a respectable dinner destination, but it needs to improve upon its happy-hour menu. House wine is fine and dandy, but even the trendiest Mexican restaurant should offer a margarita special, or else its happy hour just isn't as bueno.