Blanco Cocina + Cantina

When downtown Phoenix has seen developments with ambitious names like “CityScape” and “The Arizona Center,” it’s hard to get excited about something with the more modest moniker of “Block 23.” All it takes is a little awareness of local history, though, to understand the importance of the redevelopment of this site, named for the numbered system of parcels used when the city was first developed. Block 23 has been home to city hall, a fire station, the Fox Theater, and a JCPenney store before sitting vacant, underutilized as surface parking, for several decades.

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Comedor Guadalajara

The second largest metropolitan area in Mexico and the capital of the western state of Jalisco, Guadalajara is big, busy, and beautiful with its art and architecture. It’s fitting therefore that a restaurant in Phoenix named for the Mexican city has similar qualities. From the outside, Comedor Guadalajara looks to be a basic beige box. On the inside, it’s a different story. The restaurant has three cavernous dining rooms, bustling even when operating at reduced capacity during the pandemic and decorated with beaded sombreros and colorful prints on the walls.

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M’Olé

Mole, the Mexican sauce often associated with ground chilies, spices, and even sometimes chocolate, can be a complex dish. Secret recipes, tacit knowledge, and a certain amount of improvisation can create the nuance that makes each mole unique. It’s a welcome surprise then that mole is the namesake dish at a simple order-at-the-counter lunch spot on the ground floor of a downtown office tower. The restaurant’s name, M’Olé, is both a nod to the signature sauce and a play on the Spanish interjection used to express approval or celebrate victory.

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Maskadores Taco Shop

In the spring of 2020, masks have migrated from a Halloween novelty to an everyday accessory. Public health guidance has shifted to a recommendation that most people cover their mouths and noses in crowded public spaces, but that has not ended the debate. People have been told to leave places for wearing masks and for not wearing them, and masks have come to be seen as yet another aspect of a partisan divide. At Maskadores Taco Shop on 19th Avenue, masks of another type are far less controversial, having always been a part of the theme and decor. Continue reading “Maskadores Taco Shop”

El Portal

Anyone familiar with downtown Phoenix knows the presidential streets that run east-west within the city core. The northernmost is Roosevelt, well known for the arts district transformed into a corridor of new apartment buildings. The southernmost presidential street, however, is not as well known. It’s named for Ulysses Grant, the commander of Union forces during the Civil War and the nation’s 18th president. Just south of Downtown and the Warehouse District lies not only Grant Street, but also Grant Park, which is both a recreational facility and a neighborhood. Continue reading “El Portal”

Taco Boy’s

How far is the average diner willing to walk for a really good taco? It depends on a lot of factors, including ability, weather, and the character of the neighborhood. Half a mile is generally considered the upper limit of walking distance around a transit station, assuming a favorable environment. At the east end of Phoenix’s Roosevelt Row, Taco Boy’s (Yes, the unnecessary apostrophe is part of the restaurant’s name.) is offering carne asada and other Mexican specialties good enough to justify a half-mile trek from the Roosevelt / Central light rail station. Continue reading “Taco Boy’s”

Kiss Pollos Estilo Sinaloa

When a great taco shop comes to mind, it’s usually a taqueria that’s associated with a beef speciality like carne asada or maybe pork prepared al pastor with meat sliced from a trompo. Most taco joints also offer pollo asado, marinated grilled chicken, as a taco filling, but often it seems like an afterthought — not badly prepared by any means, but seldom the business’ signature dish. What makes Kiss Pollos Estilo Sinaloa so interesting, then, is that it deliberately and proudly specializes in chicken tacos, with poultry dominating its short menu. Continue reading “Kiss Pollos Estilo Sinaloa”

Taqueria La Hacienda

 

When should a food truck make the transition to a fixed, bricks-and-mortar location? That’s a simple question with a complex answer that may be different for each individual case. In some situations, it happens quickly, within just a few years. Other mobile operations never settle into one place, and once in a while, owners go in the other direction: closing a restaurant and switching to a food truck. With taquerias, however, there often seems to be a middle ground that involves operating in a truck but keeping the vehicle parked at the same location every day. Continue reading “Taqueria La Hacienda”

Joyride Taco House

“When your chips are down / When your highs are low / Joy ride.” Those words are the refrain of a Killers song from the last decade. The lyrics might refer to chips in terms of a poker metaphor, but there are plenty of chips of another kind to be found at Joyride Taco House, one of a cluster of Upward Projects restaurants located three blocks north of the Central / Camelback light rail station in Uptown Phoenix. Joyride is first restaurant under the Upward umbrella and in the immediate area to serve Mexican, or at least Mexican-influenced, food. Continue reading “Joyride Taco House”

Restaurant Atoyac Estilo Oaxaca

In the indigenous Mexican language Nahuatl, the word “atoyac” describes a place by running water. Restaurant Atoyac Estilo Oaxaca, a Mexican restaurant located on Glendale Avenue in Phoenix, isn’t particularly close to water. Even the nearest canals are about three miles away. It is, however, just across the street from another type of transport corridor, the 19th Avenue / Glendale light rail station. With or without water, this is a decidedly authentic and casual place that stands out among the numerous Mexican restaurants throughout the metropolitan area. Continue reading “Restaurant Atoyac Estilo Oaxaca”

Mangos Mexican Cafe

Downtown Mesa has become a center for public art in recent years. The blocks on and around Main Street have been occupied at various times by colorful pianos for anyone to play, DIY prototypes on a large scale, giant inflatable figures in prominent places, and recurring art festivals. With all that art around, it’s helpful to have a place to eat, especially one with a central location and sidewalk patio.  While a few new restaurants have arrived to offer expanded choices, one of Mesa’s downtown diehards continues to be Mango’s Mexican Cafe.

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Speedy Street Tacos

Street tacos have become a trend in recent years, even when the tacos are served in a distinctly non-street environment with a higher-than-street price. While it’s no longer uncommon to see tiny tacos at a fast food chain or a trendy restaurant, it’s refreshing when a place stays closer to the informal origins of the street taco concept. Speedy Street Tacos is as casual as can be imagined, but its simple menu of chicken and beef tacos, along with burritos and quesadillas, is satisfying. Even better, it’s one of the few non-chain taquerias open 24/7. Continue reading “Speedy Street Tacos”

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