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Shrimp fajitas on tortilla shells made from fresh masa dough. 

By the time we’re shown to our seats, Evarito’s already has us under its spell.

Upbeat music pumps out of the PA system, the large wooden bar is adorned with fresh pineapples and other fruits, and the shelves behind the bar glow with bottles of tequila and mezcal. The bar is the focal point of an equally large and open space with lofty ceilings, murals and seating for 145.

During our visit, there was also the option for great outdoor seating on a sidewalk patio. A rooftop lounge with water views is in the works for spring. The food, a high-end take on traditional Mexican cuisine with a few modern touches, is a strong complement to the fun atmosphere.

Opened over the summer, Evarito’s is the latest restaurant from Skål Restaurant Group, which runs The Ginger Man in Greenwich and the Cask Republic bars and restaurants in New Haven, Stamford and Norwalk. Owner Christian Burns had been eyeing the location, a former furniture store, for several years. A native of Brooklyn, New York, and a graduate of the French Culinary Institute, Burns initially wanted to open a location specializing in Tex-Mex food, the style of cuisine he had fallen in love with while living in Texas.

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Christian Burns is the owner of Evarito’s, which opened this past summer in South Norwalk.

Over the years he traveled to many areas in Mexico, and his plans for the new restaurant became less Tex and more Mex.

“During all of these travels, the vision for the restaurant morphed into a modern, chic space, just like many places in Mexico City, that showcases our take on authentic Mexican cuisine,” he says.

To that end, he brought on chef Hugo Orozco, who grew up in coastal Mexico. Orozco has owned restaurants in Mexico, as well as La Slowteria in Brooklyn, and later worked at Vida Verde in Manhattan.

Together Orozco and Burns have created a seafood-centric menu with a variety of common and not-so-common specialties ranging from fajitas and tacos to an extensive raw bar and dishes like wood-fired Portuguese octopus and Veracruz arroz a la tumbada, shrimp, fish, clams and chorizo with chipotle tomato broth.

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LEFT: Evarito’s tortillas are made from a mixture of white corn and blue corn masa dough, which gives them their unique, multi-colored appearance. RIGHT: Cactus salad.

The fresh-made tortillas were a high point of several dishes. Served warm, they have a rich, smoky taste and each is made to order from fresh masa, the dough used for corn tortillas, supplied to Evarito’s by Tortilleria Nixtamal in Queens. “We receive deliveries nearly daily of the white corn and blue corn masa,” Burns says. “The only ingredients are corn, water and hydrated lime. Chef Hugo mixes the two colors of masa to make this uniquely colored, fresh, hand-pressed tortilla.”

The masa-powered tortillas are a star of the tacos, which include chorizo and cauliflower flavors, and the fajitas. One of the strongest dishes we tried, the fajitas are a mix of old and new. “The goal with the fajitas al carbon was for them to be unique and not what was to be expected from fajitas people are used to,” Burns says. “The wood-fired grill is a major part of the unique flavor, along with the marinades we use on the proteins and vegetables. Typically you would see fajitas come with peppers, onion, cheese and sour cream.” At Evarito’s, those standard ingredients are replaced with wood-fired vegetables including leafy greens, beets and squash. Burns adds that the finishing touches “are the hand-pressed, fresh masa tortillas, salsa roja and cilantro crema.”

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Mayan pork rib, a recipe chef Hugo Orozco discovered on a trip to the Yucatan Peninsula.

For a less common but equally well-executed dish, try the Mayan pork rib, slow cooked in a black bean stew with a dense, smoky flavor. “The dish is usually consumed on the Riviera Maya in the Quintana Roo, a state on the Yucatan Peninsula,” Orozco says. “While traveling to visit the Coba ruins, [I] came upon a small eatery where the pots had been simmering through the day over embers. This is where the Mayan ladies served me a dish of only tortillas, black beans, pork and habanero. The marriage of these ingredients was something to remember.” As is Orozco’s version of the dish.

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Shishitos and corn guacamole

It will come as no surprise to Cask Republic and Ginger Man fans that the drinks at Evarito’s are also a strength. The margaritas and mojitos are made with freshly squeezed lime juice, and neither drink is too sweet. There are several house specialties featuring mezcal including the customer-favorite cocktail Foggy Oasis. For non-alcohol drinkers, there are house-made aguas frescas. And the bar will be about more than just drinks, as Burns plans on hosting DJs, live Latin music and salsa-dancing competitions.

Our visit ended with dessert instead of dancing. My party enjoyed the tres leches cake, and a fun helping of churros, though we had little room for either thanks to generous portions and overly aggressive ordering earlier in the meal.

Evarito’s is already a great place to hang out with friends and enjoy well-prepared food, but the restaurant continues to build on its atmosphere. This spring it will open the rooftop patio and bar.

“Our rooftop bar and lounge will be opening by Cinco de Mayo of this coming year,” Burns says. “It will be a party.”

This article appeared in the November 2018 issue of Connecticut Magazine.You can can subscribe here, or find the current issue on sale here.

Erik Ofgang is the co-author of Penguin Random House’s “The Good Vices” and author of “Buzzed” and “Gillette Castle.” He is also an adjunct professor at WCSU’s MFA Program and Quinnipiac University