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”

Fry Bread House

For many Phoenicians, fry bread is an indulgence enjoyed a few times a year at an event like the Arizona State Fair or the Heard Museum’s annual hoop dance championship. For the region’s indigenous peoples, the food has a more prominent  and complicated place in their heritage as an adaptation originally created from surplus commodities provided to tribes, often after forced relocation. For those who crave fry bread at any time, it can be found throughout the year at the Fry Bread House in central Phoenix. Continue reading “Fry Bread House”

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”

Chico Malo

It’s hard to believe that CityScape, the two-block mixed use development at the crossroads of downtown Phoenix, is nearly a decade old. While built with support from city government and the business community, the complex has sometimes been viewed as a “bad boy” for turning its back towards the street on key blocks. Now, a Mexican restaurant named “Chico Malo,” Spanish for bad boy, is located in one of the complex’s most visible retail locations, a block from the Washington / Central (westbound) and Jefferson / First Avenue (eastbound) light rail platforms. Continue reading “Chico Malo”

Pepe’s Taco Villa

From gringo-safe chains to hole-in-the wall taquerias, the streets of Phoenix are lined with Mexican restaurants — except much of that food had traditionally been more “border” than “south of the border.” In other words, many local favorites serve Sonoran food, associated with Arizona and the Mexican state of Sonora directly below it on the map. In recent years, migrations from other regions of Mexico have diversified the food choices in Phoenix, but it’s important not to forget restaurants that offered Mexican beyond Sonoran long before it was fashionable to do so. Continue reading “Pepe’s Taco Villa”

Provecho

Whether it’s “bon appetit” in France or “guten appetit” in Germany, many cultures have familiar expressions that can be used to start a meal. In Mexico, “buen provecho” fulfills that function. Strangely, there seems to be no equivalent phrase in English, but the increasing diversification of downtown Phoenix’s food options, particularly the recent and long-overdue proliferation of Mexican restaurants that are far less Americanized than in previous decades, provides plenty of opportunity to say the phrase. One restaurant, Provecho, goes so far as to incorporate the wording into its name. Continue reading “Provecho”

Centrico

It’s hard to believe, but as recently as a few years ago, it was hard to find a good taco, or any taco at all, in the core downtown business district of Phoenix. Business travelers and convention attendees expected the Southwest’s largest city to offer at least somewhat authentic Mexican food within walking distance of their hotels. Instead, they were directed to options that might be near downtown but not within the walkable core of the city. That sorry state of affairs has begun to change with the recent opening of several new Mexican restaurants, including Centrico. Continue reading “Centrico”

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