Chilté Tacos serves must-try Mexican street food in Phoenix and Mesa – The Arizona Republic

Tuesday evenings in downtown Phoenix, customers can sit down with a plate of tacos and a pint of beer on the patio of Greenwood Brewing. At the Chilté Tacos stand on site, Lawrence “L.T.” Smith and his partner Aseret Arroyo can be found pressing colorful tortillas and arranging their tacos of the month.
For November it’s all about chorizo — or “mushroomizo” for the vegetarians.
Smith, a graduate of the Arizona Culinary Institute, worked as the executive pastry chef at Tempe Public Market Cafe until the restaurant closed in January 2020. Out of work during the pandemic, he used the time to come up with a taco concept that combined his fine dining background with the street food he experienced when his girlfriend Arroyo took him to Sinaloa, Mexico, where her family is from.
“Sinaloa has a huge culinary scene,” Arroyo said. “It’s amazing, but I’m probably biased because I grew up on it. We wanted to make something fun, unique but rooted in tradition.”
Chilté Tacos had its first pop-up in September at Mesa Farmers Market and Flea and then expanded to two other farmers markets, plus a Taco Tuesday popup at Greenwood Brewing on Roosevelt Row.
Smith said they like changing up the menu so people can come back and experience something new. He usually starts with a classic street taco, such as carnitas, and builds on that idea to come up with something that can’t be found at most local taco shops.
Arroyo and Smith try to use ingredients from local sources, which have included Arizona Microgreens, Chula Seafood, the Wild Shrimp Co., Sonoran Desert Olive Oil Company and Sun Valley Bees.
Their masa comes from heirloom corn grown in Oaxaca, and they hand press each tortilla, made to order. The menu features new items swapped in monthly. For October, Breast Cancer Awareness Month, Smith put together a shrimp taco on a pink tortilla.
In November, Chilté is serving duck fat chicken carnitas, inspired by one of Smith’s favorite Thanksgiving sides, jalapeño cranberry cornbread. The taco features chicken confit, pickled onion and cilantro slaw on a jalapeño and cranberry corn tortilla.
Other menu items past and present have included:
Chilté also serves other items, such as tortas, quesadillas and horchata.
Arroyo said she wants customers to be able to see the process in front of them, from their tortillas being hand-pressed in front of them to the way their tacos are presented.
“At the end of the day, we are street vendors,” Arroyo said. “People don’t expect that whole experience of plating and quality out of a 10-by-10 booth.”
Arroyo, who grew up in south central Los Angeles, said she used to live where there was street food found around every corner, some vendors so popular that people have to call in to place an order. She hopes to see this type of culture expand in Phoenix.
She and Smith plan on turning Chilté into a brick-and-mortar restaurant one day, and later open other restaurants with different concepts and cuisines.
Arroyo, who had a career in marketing before she left to go full-time at Chilté, handles the promotional side while Smith handles the cooking side.
Five years ago, he never imagined he’d be cooking for a living because for most of his life he was focused on football. Smith, a wide receiver with the University of Akron, signed for the Indianapolis Colts in 2015, but after the Colts released him, he hung up his cleats.
After dabbling in office work, he went on to culinary school and got a new career start working under chefs Beau MacMillan at the Sanctuary Camelback Mountain Resort & Spa and Alex Stratta at FOUND:RE Phoenix Hotel.
“I operate like an athlete,” Smith said.
A military-style kitchen brigade doesn’t feel much different than a football team, he thinks. The chef is like the coach, the sous chef like the quarterback and everyone needs to be in their position, able to follow calls, adapt and take criticism, he said.
“Things you learn in sports, they call them the intangibles,” he said. “They translate to real life. That’s the hardest thing for athletes to do, make that transition from athlete to real life, but you get the tools.”
Smith believes it’s necessary to have have a solid foundation before experimenting. He respects the time he spent in hotel kitchens, following a structure and honing basic skills. Now he has the freedom to get creative, disrupt the industry and try something off the cuff with Chilté, he said.
Chilté Tacos can usually be found alternating weekends between Downtown Phoenix and Mesa farmers markets, Wednesdays at Uptown Farmers Market and Tuesdays around 6-9 p.m. at Greenwood Brewing, located in downtown Phoenix at 425 E. Roosevelt St.
For updates, visit or follow Chilté Tacos at
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