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Apr 4, 2008 06:48 PM

Are there any regional foods unique to Arizona and Utah?

I'll be driving down through Arizona and Utah, and want to eat local foods. Are there any foods unique to those states other than, maybe, tacos and fry bread? Foods I'm not gonna find anywhere else? I know there are dozens of regional specialties along the East coast, and through the South -- but what about the Southwest? Is there nothin' but fast foods and, if I'm particularly unlucky, faux French? Help me, please.

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  1. Can you expand on what you mean by "foods you cannot find elsewhere"? Given Phoenix's growth, I believe just about anything can be had here.

    I mean, there are places that sell Scrapple. To me, that's hardcore.

    3 Replies
    1. re: jhenner

      I know that I ate alot of quelites, (wild spinach), frijoles de la hoya (beans cooked in a Mexican Pot with fresh home made tortillas.

      That sure was good eating, I don't know if there was any lead in the hoya but we are all fine.

      1. re: cook52

        They're excellent beans, but they're frijoles de olla, "olla" being the cooking pot. "hoya" without the "h" is kinda how it's pronounced, but if you're looking for "hoya" (river valley or basin) you'll look all day and not find it.

        1. re: desertsun

          thank you, at least I can now sleep at night

    2. Not sure about Utah. In Arizona, there are lots of native foods, but I'm not sure where you'd go to eat them. Can't think of any restaurants that really serve them. I know down in Tucson there's a local group that brings out a portable flour mill to grind Mesquite pods into flour; they have a pancake breakfast with mesquite flour pancakes and cactus syrup. People gather their own pods from the desert or their yards and then bring them to the mill to be ground into flour. But that's only certain times of the year. You can find cactus candies, jellies, marmalades at various shops. I've seen cactus pads (they look like they come from a prickly pear cactus) sold in the grocery store. You can find all kinds of local honeys sold at shops and farmers markets. I love mesquite honey. Orange blossom is popular , too.

      There's always Sonoran style Mexican food. Lots of that in the Southwest.


      2 Replies
      1. re: Jen76

        Yeah, for AZ I was going to say nopales or nopalitos ( cactus ) but I really don't know of any restaurant that serves it regularly - although it's certainly edible and a definite "southwest regional" food.

        There's prickly pear which is used quite a bit in jellies/jams and syrups - mostly a desert type of thing. It's used in a lot of drinks as well. Prickly pear margaritas. There's agave nectar also. Made from the agave plant, it's very similar to honey but sweeter. Tonto Bar & Grill in Cave Creek makes a couple cocktails with it.

        Tonto Bar & Grill
        5736 E Rancho Manana Blvd, Cave Creek, AZ 85331

        1. re: azbirdiemaker

          Is catus products unique to Arizona? I see them in the stores and restaurants. Seems unique.

      2. If you are talking about individual ingredients, then nopales or nopalitos (as birdie said) is very regional. Prickly Pear juice, sauce, etc. is quite delicious and can be used in so many things (I even have a cookbook using PP in each recipe).

        If you are talking about regional dishes, I can think of a few things that I am sure you might be able to recreate at home, but are very common here in Arizona and Utah:

        1. Fry Sauce - Only had it once a long time ago, but our friends up in the Beehive State seem gaga over it.

        2. Carne Seca - Basically, it is beef that is marinated and then dried out in the sun and then reconstituted and added to tacos, enchiladas, or served plain with tortillas. It is fantastic, but I only find it in Tucson.

        3. Cheese Crisps - Others may argue, but I have yet to find a good replica anywhere of my most favorite food ever. It is simple, but the execution determined a good cheese crisp or an awful "cheese limp." Basically, it is a large flour tortilla set on a flat grill and heated. Cheese is then added to the top and allowed to melt and then spread out to cover the tortilla. It is then cooked until the tortilla is crispy and the cheese bubbling. Served with either salsa or taco sauce, it is pure comfort food. (And, no, a cheese crisp is not a quesadilla.)

        4. Don't under-estimate the power of the fry bread. Indian Fry Bread House in Phoenix has a wonderful array of fry breads topped with everything from spicy red chile to cinnamon and honey. It will stop your heart, but you will die with a big smile on your face.

        Hope this helps somewhat.

        3 Replies
          1. re: Seth Chadwick

            Love Fry Bread House. Get one of the combos with all the goodies (lettuce, cheese, chorizo, beans) and go to town.

            And when Seth mentions cheese crisps, just nod and agree... :)

            1. re: Seth Chadwick

              So true about the cheese crisps. I never heard of a quesadilla growing up. cheese chrisp we had all the time.

            2. The original comment has been removed
              1. I'm surprised no one's mentioned chimichangas. I had never heard of them until visiting a friend in Phoenix in 1969. She served up lunch consisting of Mexican takeout with chimichangas as the star item.

                5 Replies
                1. re: Sharuf

                  You are sooo right. First I ever had a chimi was Ariz., we, at that time didn't have them in NM.

                  1. re: Sharuf

                    It is a true regional specialty. Two places in Arizona claim to have invented them: Macayo's in the Phoenix area, and El Charro Cafe in Tucson. Macayo's claims they did so in the 50s, El Charro all the way back in the 20s. I'm siding with El Charro mostly because they have the better story... someone accidentally dropped a burrito in the deep fryer, and started to say something very dirty in Spanish, but quickly filled in the rest with another word. Sort of the Spanish equivalent of saying "Oh SHI...itake mushrooms". If you end up down in Tucson, you can easily kill two birds with one stone at El Charro and have yourself a carne seca chimichanga. From what I've heard, the original downtown location (where they still hang the carne seca from the roof every day) is the best.

                    1. re: JK Grence the Cosmic Jester

                      El Charro seems to be sprouting new outlets all the time, but the original location is indeed still good and much nicer atmosphere. Was just there for an excellent lunch in February. The others all seem to have moved into old Sizzlers or the like, from what I can see when we have driven by.

                      1. re: JK Grence the Cosmic Jester

                        I would eat them at a store called LA Chiuaense (spelling?) in Agua Prieta when we would cross border to Mexico

                        1. re: JK Grence the Cosmic Jester

                          I'm now a bigger fan of the chimicanga now that I know it started in Arizona, whereever is true. thanks