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Our picks for the sometimes less obvious winners.
Best Mexican (2012)
Peppers MexiCali Cafe
170 Forest Ave., Pacific Grove
The emphasis on fresh seafood is one key to Peppers’ success. The other: They cook with rice oil. The dependability of their taco, burrito or fajita plate also rank highly. But what makes the P.G. spot truly shine is the fusionistic originality of its culinary creations. For example, their chicken Caribe (with citrus habanero marinade and tropical salsa fresca) is an outside-the-box dish that pleases and surprises. Same goes for the mushroom-and-artichoke enchiladas, fresh salmon tacos and sopapillas styled with cinnamon and honey. And the garlic prawns served in a cream sauce is both simple and expertly executed. Only one piece of advice: Tell them if you want it hot and spicy.