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Aug 6, 2011 03:23 AM

Tacos Atoyac

No Tacos Atoyac thread yet? Gotta fix that.

It's gotten some play since emerging, and I know some other folks have mentioned it in other threads, which is great, but these guys need their own thread.

Tacos Atoyac, at Glenale and 18th Ave. is an extremely low-key, very humble and very good Oaxacan taqueria. They're not reinventing the wheel here, but it's nice to get a little change of pace from the Sonoran, the place is dirt cheap and everything is unusually good.

Starting with the obvious, the tacos, they're $1, plain and simple meat, onion, cilantro and all seasoned very, very nicely. Sadly, there's no grill (low-budget startup operation and all), so the carne asada is lacking fire, but the flavor is great, ditto the al pastor though I still cry every time I see it on a menu in a place that doesn't have a trompo. I love the lengua, which is a really succulent, stewed version, and the off-menu Campechano, which cuts a potent (and bright) chorizo with some of the carne asada so it isn't completely overpowering. They do each other well.

Not so much Oaxacan, but they make some *killer* Baja-style fish tacos, with crisp fried swai, shredded cabbage and a seasoned crema. Perfect texture on the fish, both inside and out, and they're a whole $1.50 apiece. It used to be a special but they moved it to the regular menu by popular demand... with good reason.

There are some nice tortas, they'll turn any of the meats into a burrito, and the menu also has a number of Oaxacan items that are somewhat less than typical around these parts. Molotes are little torpedo-shaped masa balls filled with chorizo and potato, fried crispy and topped with pureed black beans, crema, queso fresco and shredded lettuce. They're pretty darn mellow, actually, despite the inclusion of chorizo. Memelitas are another choose-your-meat masa variation, this time fashioned into a sort of half-inch thick cake with raised edges, spread with beans, questo fresco and meat and griddled until crisp on the bottom. There are a couple of other less common items that I haven't had a chance to try yet.

The only downer for me were the tamales, which may have been at least partly a victim of expectations since we were informed they have the masa shipped in weekly from Oaxaca by some friends of one of the owners. Apparently they're not happy with the masa they're finding around here, which I presume must simply be a matter of style, because I have a hard time believing they couldn't find something that suited them. Either way, the fillings... one vegetable, one spicy chicken (kind of tinga-esque, though not exactly) were really nice, but the masa was awfully tough and not very warm. I suspect perhaps they just needed a little more time in the steamer, and would love to hear that they've been better for others.

Also, incredibly friendly folks. Two guys who left the line of corporate restaurants to go make tacos because, y'know, they just love making tacos. Which wouldn't mean much if the stuff weren't great, and it is. I don't mean to oversell it. It's a corner taqueria. But it's a really, really good one and it's especially nice in a town that's so dominated by one style of Mexican food.

Tacos Atoyac
1830 W Glendale Ave, Phoenix, AZ 85015

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  1. I have to second this recommendation. I love the al pastor tacos as well, and the avocado salsa verde that comes with them is the perfect accompaniment. I haven't had the lengua yet, but can say the cabeza is quite tasty, very beefy and tender. The fish tacos, as you say, are quite well done. I also love the molotes, but haven't yet sampled the memelitas. The molotes offer a nice blend of textures and flavors, from the outer crispness of the fried masa to the creaminess of the beans and crema, with the chorizo giving it a little kick. I even enjoy the little helping of fried onions and jalapenos they provide as a condiment; both are very sweet, but again, have a nice kick from the heat of the chiles.

    I love tamales, and will try theirs (maybe they were having an off day when you had them?), and see if there's been any improvement! But I agree that it's nice to have a good, affordable taqueria with some southern Mexican options in the neighborhood, and the proprietor (the one I've met, anyway) just seems like the nicest guy. You really want this place to succeed. Fortunately, each time I've been there, there's been a steady stream of people coming through the door, so they seem to be generating good business for themselves. I would be interested to hear from others who have tried some of the other things on the menu, what you thought (for instance, I believe they have tlayudas, if memory serves me right... haven't had those, and would like to try them if they are offered. I had the tlayuda at the Oaxacan restaurant on Central near Hatcher, and wasn't all that impressed).

    4 Replies
    1. re: ckiddoo

      "I believe they have tlayudas, if memory serves me right..."

      They do, though I haven't tried one yet.

      1. re: Dmnkly

        The best Al Pastor Tacos in Phoenix.
        We have been going to this small taco shop at 51st ave and India School for a couple years. It is a small family run place, very very little English. The menu is limited to tacos and tortas. They are posted on the wall.
        They used to have trompo but I have not seen it for a while. But the Al Pastor Tacos taste the same, with pineapple, grilled onion, grilled cactus and cilantro. Very delicious.

        Taqueria El Pastorcito
        4105 N 51th Ave Ste #100

        1. re: aquablue

          Will check it out. Great al pastor is near the top of my wish list.

          1. re: aquablue

            Sounds like my kinda taco shop. Thanks for the rec! Will check it out one of these days.

            As long as we're on the topic of Latin American food in Phoenix, El Salvadoreno #3 at Central & Dunlap (SE corner) is also good... family-run, friendly people, nice selection of pupusas, tasty pastelitos and Salvadoran tamales, and an enchanting plantain empanada dessert.

            Salvadoreno Restaurant
            8911 N Central Ave, Phoenix, AZ 85020

      2. I finally got around to Tacos Atoyac. I just had 3 tacos and pinto beans. I don't have much to add other than the fish taco could be the best I've ever had. Now, I am thinking about all of the trips I make, west of Central, and how I can route them through 19th and Glendale.

        Tacos Atoyac
        1830 W Glendale Ave, Phoenix, AZ 85015

        1 Reply
        1. re: johnseberg

          They really are the best damn fish taco's!

        2. We've been three times. My husband was disappointed on the first Saturday lunch visit that there was no mole, but we were promised that it would be available the next week, so we went back and he said it was excellent, very rich and complex. I've had all of the regular tacos (except the fish, not being a fish taco fan) and like them all. The trick is ordering the right amount of food, since the tacos and some of the other items are small, but everything is so inexpensive you don't mind ordering more once you've started -- we saw others doing this too. I like the molotes, the quesadilla with epazote and the memelitas, and the horchata with bits of pecan is outstanding. We have added this place to our regular Saturday lunch rotation.

          1. The hubby and I just got back from Tacos Atoyac. In a word: WOW! We were blown away by the food. We had various tacos (fish, lengua, al pastor, carne asada) and all were excellent. I particularly found the flour Quesadilla to be outstanding. We also had the molotes and the corn quesadilla and the horchata. This was an excellent lunch and was complete dirt cheap.

            A true gem in Phoenix.

            Tacos Atoyac
            1830 W Glendale Ave, Phoenix, AZ 85015