Saturday, August 30, 2014

Olive & Ivy

The poster child for those who think that Fox Restaurants are more style than substance. Regardless it is a solid location to take in Happy Hour. One of the better spots to pass time in Old Town.

The 'Must Try'- Beet Salad with Ahi

Olive & Ivy on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, August 27, 2014


Beau knows the culinary arts...and service and scenery.  The Valley is littered with great resort based dining options but this is the pinnacle.  This is the special occasion place that is down the road but a world away.

The 'Must Try'- The Bacon Wrapped Filet

Elements on Urbanspoon

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Phoenix's Beautiful Mexican Melange

The once staid and homogeneous world of Mexican food that we once knew, think bean and cheese burritos, has been replaced with a vibrant tapestry that represents the true diversity of a country full of distinct regions and tastes.  Arizona's proximity to our great neighbor makes Phoenix one of the nation's top starting points to explore this colorful world.

This entry will help you navigate this world and will reveal that there are a myriad of tasty options for those willing to look beyond the crispy shell of the chimichanga.

The Sonoran Staples
Given that the State of Sonora is our neighbor to the south their cuisine will be a natural launching point.  This also makes sense as this is the style of Mexican that we are most familiar with.   To Phoenix graybeards there are a few names that stand out- Mata's in the East Valley, La Perla in the West Valley, Carolina's downtown, and the TeePee in East Phoenix. Think enchiladas, burros, deep fried tacos...all familiar combinations on the Mexican menu that we grew up with.
Barrio Cafe

Like the humble burger before it, the venerable taco is the latest street food to move upstream to the more expensive "gourmet" territory.  There have been multiple offerings that have popped up lately; we will help you discern between the legitimate options and the "johnny come lately's" who are just looking to capitalize on a trend and an excuse to charge you $5 for a taco.

First, turn to our patron saint of Mexican food, Silvana Esparza, and her latest creation the Barrio Queen.  Her tacos span the length and breadth of Mexico and are the best of breed when it comes to the higher price point.  The Mission and Milagro Grill also specialize in the higher end taco but they don't have the execution and pedigree of Barrio. The Taco Guild has servicable tacos but their flavor is overshadowed by the absolutely cool location.

America's Tacos
There are no shortage of options once you move down stream.  Tacos Atoyac is the undisputed king of the cheap taco.  Go there for their fish taco, best in the city.  La Santissima has great tacos and the most impressive salsa bar in town.  America's Tacos lays claim to the best carne asada in Phoenix.  We'll let you be the judge. We think that the asada at Backyard Taco in Mesa is equally good.

Heart of True Mexico
Let's head inland and explore the options that give Mexico its reputation as a foodie mecca.  These are the flavors from Puebla, Guanajuato, and Oaxca that most Gringo palates overlook or miss completely. They are the essence of real Mexico and they are fast winning a spot on top of the culinary world.

El Gallo Blanco
It was the great and aforementioned Chef Esparza who first brought this brand of Mexican to our Valley through the famed Barrio Cafe.  Her cochinta pibil will have you wondering if you weren't accidentally transported to Merida.  Not to be outdone, the neighboring Asi Es La Vida offers similar dishes and an intimate atmosphere that is often accented with some great live music. Los Sombreros in Scottsdale will give you the opportunity to sample the love and cuisine of San Miguel de Allende and other spots in Central Mexico.

If you have the sensibilities of a chilango and want something with the flavors of the capitol we recommend Distrito or Gallo Blanco.   Both are lead by impressive names, Jose Garces and Doug Robson respectively.  Each has a menu full of dishes from this vibrant region.

Beach Fare
Let's take a brief moment to imagine the sandy shore and the smell of the salty sea.  In Mexico that means fish tacos and ceviche.  Mariscos Ensenada offers incredible options out of its nondescript 16th Street location.  While not typical of the ceviche you'll find seaside, the upscale offerings at Deseo make for a wonderful Mexican inspired exploration of the bounties of the ocean.

The Burly Burrito and the Tasty Torta

Tortas El Guero
Listen reader, put the Chipotle down and take a journey with us to a few spots that stuff their tortillas and bread with far better vittles. Revo Burrito over in the Biltmore area not only has the best $7 options but you also get arguably the best creamy rice in town. The bombero burrito at Los Taquitos is an Ahwatukee institution.  Their menu is so legit that you swear you can almost smell the exhaust of the bocho cabs out in the parking lot.

Don't think sandwiches when you are fielding an appetite for Mexican? Think again.  The recently discovered torta plays a prominent role here in Phoenix.  Los Reyes De La Torta receives the most praise and rightfully so, but the less heralded Tortas El Guero makes a cubano that is just as messy, tasty, and filling.  Sure the milaneza, avocados, or cheese attract the attention but it is the magically light bread that provides any Mexican sandwich with a distinct and wonderful flavor.

The Border Crossers
El Rancho De Tia Rosa
Yes most of the Mexican food that reaches our plate is a bastardized version that has been altered to fit our tastes. But not all of this is to be shunned as there are some great innovations that take place once this cuisine hits our more moderate climes.

El Rancho de Tia Rosa in Mesa does a great job of taking dishes like mole and making them more accessible to the Gringo taste buds.  Their salmon tacos, while a tad sweet, make for a great way to get your Omega 3's.   Abuelo's provides an upscale corporate take on most classic dishes.  They are safe and somewhat heavy but that doesn't mean they aren't worth trying.  Macayo's is a long-standing Phoenix classic that claims ownership over the symbol of Americanized Mexican, the chimichanga.  There are no shortage of  restaurants in this vein around town.  They are a stone's throw from your nearest strip mall and they make for a comfortable and pleasant Saturday night date.

What happens when you cross a Mexican with a ...
Let's spend a brief moment to appreciate the sweet tastes that can result when you fuse two distinct and disparate cultures.  Phoenix has a few places that really give Mexican a passport to exotic new flavors.

Sumo Maya
The first is Sumo Maya.  This is a recent entry with a menu from the genius of Herb Wilson. Picture a kitchen that contains a wood fired oven, several woks, and a Spanish plancha grill.  Kick back and enjoy the places that those tools in these capable hands can take you. Chino Bandido doesn't have glitz or the price tag of its Scottsdale cousin but it does offer plenty hearty bowls that bring the best of China and Mexico together.

They say that you can really capture the essence of a culture by what the good folks eat on the street.  In Phoenix our streets are the perfect showcase for the most popular Mexican-American love child since Fernando Valenzuela, the Sonoran Dog.  The bacon, guacamole, and soft pillowy bun embarrass even the best frankfurter options of Chicago or New York. The best place in Phoenix is on 20th Street and Indian School at Nogales Hot Dogs.

New Mexican Mexican
Nogales Hot Dogs
We can't get this far into the conversation without recognizing the contributions of our dear friends to the East, New Mexico. Most people don't think past the Hatch Chile, although that is enough to satisfy most appetites.   In Phoenix there is a trio of restaurants that have a long standing tradition in making us remember that New Mexico is more then just Bolo Ties and Santa Fe.  Richardson's is the most formal of the bunch.  Their carne adovada is art and easily makes up for their sometimes prickly service and policies.  If you want real heat you'll want to head down the street to Los Dos Molinos. You will leave satisfied and with several thousand fewer taste buds.  Finally, Frank and Lupes offers the usual standards plus some amazing sopapillas and all in the comfortable surroundings of Old town Scottsdale.

We could go on but we feel like the length of this article belies the focus of this blog which is brevity.  The truth of the matter is that Phoenix has no shortage of world class spots from which you can enjoy the many colors of Mexico, Old and New.  If only we had this many quality spots for Chinese food. Your favorite spot not mentioned?  Shoot us an e-mail and let us know.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Phoenix City Grille

Great American contemporary with a twist of Phoenician southwestern flair.  One of the long standing standards that anchors the ever growing and vibrant 16th St. cooridor.

The 'Must Try'- Beef Ribs and Mashed Potatoes

Phoenix City Grille on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Carolina's Mexican

As much a part of the fabric of Phoenix as the Saguaro, Suns, or Goldwater.  Long standing staple cheaply serving the Sonoran classics that we were raised on.

The 'Must Try'- Screw the calories, go Chimi

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Make it at home: The Citizen Public House Original Chopped Salad

This salad is the stuff of legend, complete with its own fanbase on Facebook. This plate of game changing greenery will have even the reddest of carnivores second guessing their diets.  The wait at Citizen Public House too long?  The recipe is available for home trial and consumption. 


The recipe

1/2 cup smoked salmon
2/3 cup freeze-dried corn
2/3 cup chopped arugula
2/3 cup cooked Isreali couscous
Trail mix 1/4 cup black currants
1/4 cup toasted pepitas
3 Tbsp. ground aged asiago
1/2 cup diced Roma tomato tossed with 1 Tbsp. balsamic and 2 tsp. olive oil, one large basil leaf chiffonade, pinch of salt and pepper

1 cup Best Foods mayo
1/4 cup buttermilk
1 Tbsp. Pecorino Romano
Juice of 1 lemon
12 basil leafs
1 tsp. minced garlic

Combine thoroughly in blender.

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Check Please Arizona- America's Taco Shop

You've got our review of America''s what the folks of Check Please Arizona thought.

The Taco Guild

Coolest repurposing of an existing space since Pope Nicolas III decided to clean up Hadrian's dusty old tomb.  We are hopeful that they refine their excessively creative menu and settle on some tacos that are both unique and tasty to the palatte.

The 'Must Try'- Pick three tacos and hope that they haven't gotten too creative with some of your favorite flavors.