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Report from Phoenix


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Restaurants & Bars 2

Report from Phoenix

Jim Dixon | Mar 24, 1998 01:21 PM

I did manage to find some real food
this land of strip malls and food
franchises. The best was San Diego
Bay in Guadalupe. Guadalupe is the
historic home of Phoenix’s Latino
population, and, in the days before
the sprawl fueled by cheap air
conditioning, it was a small
community in the desert outside of
town. It’s since been surrounded
by the “creeping pink” of
frighteningly homogenous
subdivisions, but retains both it’s
civic sovereignty and the only soul
in the Valley of the Sun.

San Diego Bay is run by Guadalupe
Martinez (“Just like the town,”
she says), a native of Ensenada
who brings fresh seafood up from
the Mexican coastal states of
Guaymas and Sinaloa. I started
with the tostada especiales, a crisp
corn tortilla mounded with
chopped squid, octopus, and
shrimp that had been marinated in
lime juice, tossed with finely
diced cucumber and green onion,
then drizzled with a thinned sour
cream and topped with sliced
avocado ($3.50!!).

The ensalada nopalitos (another
bargain at $2.75) was served in a
flat, rectangular ceramic tray
about 4 by 8 inches. Diced cactus,
red onion, tomato, and avocado had
been tossed with a simple,citrusy
vinaigrette. I went with the house
special shrimp, butterflied
prawns stuffed with an assortment
of chopped seafood, then wrapped
with bacon and broiled. They were
served in a mushroom cream sauce
that was a bit thick, but not bad.
My wife Judith ordered snapper
filets al mojo de ajo, and the garlic
sauce was thin, intensely flavored,
and delicious.

I didn’t try it but saw a bowl of
one of the seafood stews go by.
Clear broth, fresh vegetables, and
an ocean of snapper, shrimp,
octopus, or the combo called seven
seas. This is definite chowhound
destination. Across the street is a
fruit and vegetable market with
blood oranges, freshly smoked
chipolte chilis, fire-roasted green
chilis from the propane-fired
rotating drum in the parking lot,
and lots of other good stuff you
won’t find in the supermarket at
the corner strip mall. I brought
home a dozen fresh tamales which
I’ve got stashed in the freezer.

I also ate at an taqueria in Tempe
that had good tacos and barbacoa.
Didn’t write down the name, but
it’s right next to the REI at Priest
and Southern Avenues.

We went to Arizona to hike the
Grand Canyon, and the food at the
Phantom Ranch (in the bottom of
the canyon and accessible only by
foot or mule) was decent. We opted
for stew, but the steak eaters
(those are the only choices)
seemed happy, too. A dinner at the
upscale and highly touted El Tovar
at the South Rim was
disappointing. Overpriced and a
little bland, I think you’re paying
more for the historic atmosphere
and the chance for something other
than the feeding trough fare served
at the other cafeterias in the Park.
It is a very nice building, but a
better option is breakfast.

San Diego Bay is at 9201 Avenue
del Yaqui in Guadalupe (south
Phoenix, between Tempe and
Awahtukee), phone (602) 839-

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