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There can be no compromising on meat, either. Mangos does it well with succulent pork, the hearty chunks swimming in tingly green chile verde sauce; or as chile rojo, with red sauce kicked up to an even higher octave.
The crowning touch to a cherished chimi? Ice-cold chopped greens, tomato and fresh jalapeño. Long live the Mexican-American invasion.
The dish is called Camarón Azteca, and the volcanic container keeps the fresh-from-the-oven meal wickedly warm. It’s a good thing, too, because it takes us a long time to work our way through the Vesuvius-size mound of Guaymas shrimp; in any other dish, the shrimp would get cold.
Much of the magic in the bowl comes from its voluptuous sauce, essentially chunky, chile-rich salsa blended with Mexican white cheese. We’re told there’s no butter involved, but it sure tastes of it — a reaction of the milky cheese melted at such high temperature, we suppose.
Thinking Dinty Moore? Don’t. Cocido is more like soup — but soup with an attitude. The clean broth boasts flavor much too intense for its light character. It looks like pale bouillon laced ever so slightly with orange oil, but explodes in beefy force, underpinned with cilantro and just enough salt to tingle our taste buds.
Its body makes it more like stew. Certainly it’s as full-figured as the voluptuous señorita mural on Lulu’s wall, the broth gorged with soft zucchini, celery, green pepper, fall-apart-tender beef, onion, and corn-on-the-cob halves.
This soup makes a meal. Served with soft, corn-studded rice, smoky refried beans and a tortilla, Lulu’s cocido is one awesome comida.
There are as many recipes for mole as there are regions in Mexico. But our local favorite — a rich, velvety sauce containing a dozen types of dried chiles, nuts, seeds, vegetables, spices, plantains and chocolate — can be found at Hacienda.
You’ll have to look carefully for the dish — it’s hidden under the à la carte offerings as enmolada de queso con carne o pollo. And don’t be misled by the unbelievably low $3.95 price tag — you can easily make a meal of these two corn tortillas, stuffed with gooey jack cheese and chicken or beef, then covered with a creamy blanket of the dark addictive mole.
So it’s a bit ironic that the definitive Valley peddlers of this distinctly Mexican treat are two twentysomething gringo siblings based in Mesa. But Nathan Hatch and his brother Adam spent much of their childhoods picking fruit at their parents’ orchards in Chihuahua, Mexico. When they had time off, they hung out at their favorite paleteria and learned the fruit-crunching ropes from the masters.
Their shop, Flor De Michoacán, opened in May, and it’s already pulling in the crucial Hispanic crossover clientele, with its authentic paletas, agua fresca drinks and frescas con crema (sliced strawberries mixed in cream). There are a few worthy paleta stands parked on Valley street corners, but if you’re looking for a real shop, this is the place to go.
And when it comes to the culinary map, Fierros isn’t afraid to go all over it, ingeniously mixing techniques and ingredients with something bordering on genius.
The addition of epazote, for example, a strong, citrusy herb, to his tacos de pescado, makes the simple fish and tortilla combo sing. Even an uncomplicated endive salad sparkles with queso cotija, the “Parmesan of Mexico,” plus roasted Arizona pecans and mesquite honey vinaigrette. When we’re looking for something really different, conejo asado gets our hearts thumping with chorizo-rubbed rabbit and grilled sweet corn. And don’t even get us started on his sublime tamale hash.
The custom option is just one of the things that makes Old Town’s margaritas so good. Fresh-squeezed lime juice and the house standard tequila are others. Even the most basic margarita here is spiked with Sauza silver, a bold and assertive favorite of tequila lovers.
Service makes us smile, too. Our marg is brought in a shaker, blended at our table, and left for us to refill our glasses. The setting, finally, makes our cocktails all that more delicious. We think the 75-year-old Scottsdale adobe home is intriguing, too, with its huge flagstone patio surrounded by 100-year-old pecan trees and its central fountain that often is set on fire.
We’ll toast to that.
Readers’ Choice: Macayo
Mercado Mexico quite possibly has the most comprehensive inventory of Mexican home furnishings in the Valley. Statues, fountains, furniture, dishware and, yes, piñatas are regularly imported from Guadalajara and Mexico City. And if your tastes run to the outré, you’ll occasionally find oddball items like cow skulls, pieces of armor, or a tree-trunk bar.
If this shopping spree somehow lacks the authenticity of an actual trek to Mexico, you can always stop at a convenience market on your way home and pick up some packs of Chiclets.
The chips here are homemade, stacked high in a large bin atop the bar, where they’re kept warm and replaced constantly through the day. They’re thick and crisp, and customers are free to scoop to their heart’s content.
Salsas, too, are homemade and fresh. Mild, traditional salsa is powerful, rich with tomato juices anchored by chunks of tomato, onion, chile and cilantro leaves. Sweet tomatillo salsa packs a one-two punch with marvelously tangy vinegar tones. A sign warns that the bright orange salsa Pica Poco is hot, and it is — a smoldering purée hides heat that grips and won’t let go.
Plunk some of each into the little plastic cups at the bar. Taste them all. But remember, as the sign above the bar requests, take only what you can eat — “This salsa is too precious to waste.” We’ll say it is.
Readers’ Choice for Best Salsa: Macayo
The small space is nothing fancy, but the food is. El Norteño’s kitchen cranks, even producing menudo on weekends. The staff has you fed morning to night: Breakfast on spicy, homemade chorizo-and-egg burros; lunch on green enchiladas, red tamales and tacos; and return to pick up dinner — killer machaca, green chile stew, cheese crisps and chicken tostadas.
El Norteño, we’ll take you anytime, anywhere!
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Best Chimichanga | Border | Phoenix – Phoenix New Times
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