Hello Phoenix Hounds,
Three days gave me a chance to try some of your recommendations. Here’s a quick rundown of my experiences:
1. Gallo Blanco – Good coffee, pleasant if hipsterish atmosphere, and sweet and hardworking waitstaff. The chicken chilaquiles were good, except that the whites of the sunny-side up eggs were not fully cooked, which is something I hate. Anyway, I’d be willing to try Gallo again on my next trip.
2. Tacos Atoyac – I really enjoyed this hole-in-the-wall Oaxacan taqueria in spite of its somewhat scruffy location. Exceptionally friendly atmosphere. The fish tacos and molotes were good, not great. However, the memelita (kind of like a sope) was delicious and I wished I had ordered a couple.
3. Carolina’s North – This was the big disappointment of my trip. I can understand why some Hounds like this place – You grew up eating it, it’s nostalgia, the real taste of Phoenix…But this food is just not prepared with enough love. I got the machaca (shredded beef) burro. There’s a silver lining here – I learned the name of the greatest item of Mexican food I have ever eaten, sold to me by church ladies at a fundraiser in Fort Hancock, Texas. Turns out it was a machaca burro. That burro was the Platonic form, of which the Carolina’s version is but a pale, stringy, sodden shadow. The wet, flavorless filling overwhelmed the homemade flour tortilla, which was what had drawn me there in the first place.
4. El Bravo – I hit El Bravo after Carolina’s for a green corn tamale. It was o.k., but not something I’d make a special trip for.
5. La Condesa – Totally inspiring, the highlight of my trip. Two tacos, shrimp with creamy cilantro sauce and the Sonoran carne asada, set me back $12, but it was money well spent. The carne asada, which included a disk of Oaxacan cheese griddled until brown on one side, flirted with perfection. If La Condesa were in my town, I’d eat there every week.
Thanks for the tips.