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.
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.
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.
16428 N 32nd St # 101, Phoenix, AZ
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.
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.
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.
423 S Mill Ave, Tempe, AZ 85281
4201 N 7th Ave, Phoenix, AZ
7620 E Mckellips Rd, Scottsdale, AZ
1405 W Southern Ave Ste 2, Tempe, AZ 85282
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.
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.