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Jan 23, 2008 06:16 AM

Out of the Ordinary Phoenix Mexican

Lordy, where do they find the customers to allow them to keep the doors open for so many years? Macayos, Ajo Als, Garcias, Carlos O’Briens, Valley Luna, Etc. Etc. All turning out basically the same over sauced, over cheesy renditions of supposed Mexican favorites. Where does one go to find the wonderful double corn tortilla wrapped carnitas or the not so subtle flavor of fresh ground chile in a dark red enchilada sauce? What are some of the not so well known restaurants that serve up food that really impresses? I don’t mean the Barrio, Los Sombreros, Los Dos Molinas, etc. places that everyone knows are innovative standouts but rather the places that serve what the chains offer but who do it right.

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  1. I'm not exactly sure what you're after, as your post hints at competing desires--authentic versions of inauthentic dishes, but here's a thread I started last year that covers some non-chain/non-gringo-ized options in central Phoenix:

    To this list, I would add:
    Restaurant Mexico (Tempe--DF/central Mexico style food
    )Restaurante Huauchinango (central Phx, south Scottsdale--Pueblan/DF style food)
    Taco Nazo (southwest Tempe--mainly taqueria offerings)

    There are several board favorites that I've yet to try, so I'll let others speak for them. Hope this helps.

    Restaurant Mexico
    423 S Mill Ave, Tempe, AZ 85281

    Restaurante Huachinango
    4201 N 7th Ave, Phoenix, AZ

    Restaurante Huauchinango
    7620 E Mckellips Rd, Scottsdale, AZ

    Taco Nazo
    1405 W Southern Ave Ste 2, Tempe, AZ 85282

    2 Replies
    1. re: hohokam

      Thanks for the reply. Not really looking for , as you put it, authentic versions of inauthentic foods. There is nothing inauthentic about tacos, enchiladas and chile rellenos except the perverse lengths to which most chain eateries attempt to flatten the flavor and over sauce the end result in order to appeal to the widest possible segment of the eating public. A good queso fresco or cotija instead of jack or cheddar. Beans that do run all over the plate. Sauces more interested in flavor than volume.

      1. re: AzDumpling


        I was a little confused about what exactly you were looking for. Plenty of places around town serve tacos, enchiladas, and rellenos without burying them under monstrous globs of orange cheese.

        Of course, there are also places that serve dishes that you might not in any form at the "orange cheese" places. For example, some of the masa-heavy goodies at Restaurante Huauchinango (e.g., sopes, tlacoyos, huaraches) are items that I wouldn't necessarily expect to find in any form at a place like Manuel's.

    2. I'm a fan of Rosita's Place on McDowell and the 51. That and Carolina's are my favorite two mentioned on the other thread that was linked.

      I also love San Carlos Bay just on the other side of the 51 for Mariscos.

      1 Reply
      1. re: ValleyFever

        My favorite is El Zocalo in downtown Chandler. The de la Cruz family also runs Mango's in downtown Mesa and El Sol Bakery on Arizona Avenue just north of downtown Chandler. The brothers use their mom's recipes for good-quality standards like shrimp tacos, beef nachos, etc. Everything tastes fresh; not too heavy. I think they have the best salsa in town, too. I believe they're even mass marketing it now through Sam's Club, but I can't say for sure because I don't shop there.

      2. I love El Conquistador on 32nd Street between Greenway and Bell - it's in a seedy looking strip mall next to a Fascinations store and they have some bizarre hours (they close at 8 p.m.), but I've never had a disappointing experience.

        El Conquistador
        16428 N 32nd St # 101, Phoenix, AZ

        1 Reply
        1. re: Beaver Street

          I, too, enjoy El Conquistador's take on Mexican. It is based in the cuisine of the state of Jalisco, so it is not the normal Sonoran, Baja or Tex-Mex. I have enjoyed every meal there, and when they were down the street, in their previous location - just a nice touch of something different.


        2. I like Carolina's also for their tortillas but for just good carnitas tacos and other tacos (I personally just love carnitas) I found Pepe's taco Villa on Camelback and 21st Avenue to have just simple good food.

          8 Replies
          1. re: travelchow

            OH NO!!!! Not west of Central!!!! j/k (kinda)

            1. re: ValleyFever

              It's not over the tracks, just close to them (j/k) We only go during daylight hours

                1. re: ValleyFever

                  If I recall correctly from high school the tracks were supposed to be Grand Avenue but I believe anyone east of central was referring to the I-17, est of tatum the tracks are the 51.

                  1. re: travelchow

                    I live on 44th st, just west of tatum, so I-17 should be my boundary. Truth is though, i rarely find anything worth venturing past 7th Ave for. I'll check out Pepe's though. The name alone is enticing. The only thing better would be Pepe's Taco Shack.

                    1. re: ValleyFever

                      yars ago pepes taco villa was featured on food network for best tacos. it took me 5 years to get over there and try them and I really enjoyed them. I have only done take-out but they do have a full restaurant.

                      1. re: travelchow

                        I think Pepe's uses shredded cheddar on some dishes, but I still think it's a great place with some unusual dishes and good takes on familiar ones.

                        Pepe's Taco Villa
                        2108 W Camelback Rd, Phoenix, AZ 85015

                        1. re: silverbear

                          The tacos I beleive come with pico de gallo and guacamole but I don't recall on the tacos shredded cheddar, they probably use them on other dishes.

          2. Good suggestions here -- the authenticity dimension can't be addressed here -- too absurd and endless to contemplate. To the OP, in addition to some good suggestions here, I would add Arriba, a local chain with a different slant, La Tolteca -- authentic conmigo -- Serrano's Market at 32nd and Shea -- El Portal for cocido -- and yes! San Carlos Bay is excellent for mariscos.