I was continuing J.s birthday weekend and was trying to figure out where to take J. for a good Southwestern or Mexican or New Mexican lunch. After much consideration, I decided to try Valley favorite Los Dos Molinos. For as long as I can remember, this has been at the top of most peoples list as a place to take guests from out of town.
It also served as a great place for us to meet up with Madge and Boris for lunch as well. Madge adores J. and thought it would be a great time. Madge considered it a double date. I was thinking more along the lines of a Kafka novel.
We got into my car and drove to South Phoenix. It is a substantial drive and Madge was in rare form as she asked if we had hit Tucson yet. Well, no, but we finally did arrive and parked in the front. We walked into a courtyard and looked for the main entrance. Across the courtyard and through a screened door, we found the host station and placed our name. We returned to the courtyard and I was hoping to grab some seats, but we beat a hasty retreat to the parking lot because the music being pumped into the courtyard was so loud we could do little but sign language to communicate. When a name was announced over the music, it was much louder, so we knew we could have been 50 yards away and would have known when our table was ready.
Our wait was about 30 minutes and we finally got seated at a huge table toward the back of the restaurant. We were very ready for a luncheon and decided to start off with the Chorizo Fundido ($7.95), one of the specials listed on the board at the front of the restaurant. Since there were four of us, we also chose to have a Cheese Crisp ($5.95). We also ordered drinks. J., Boris and I each got an Iced Tea ($1.75 each), while Madge had a Diet Pepsi ($1.75).
Our waiter disappeared with our preliminary order and we waited a bit before another staff member brought us menus and table settings and water.
A few moments later, we were graced with a bowl of chips and two types of salsa. The chips were thin and crunchy and were slightly warm. The green salsa was very good. Fresh, clean, with a hint of sweetness, we all liked this version. The red salsa was also very good, but that is where the heat kicked in pretty quickly. The more we ate, the hotter the red salsa got. We didnt seem to mind and were having a good time.
As we munched on chips, we reviewed the menus and made our selections. Madge decided to go with the menu-featured Chicken Chimichanga with green chili sauce and rice and beans ($11.95). Boris wanted enchiladas and chose the Chicken Enchilada Dinner with Red Sauce ($10.95). J. adores machaca and couldnt resist the #5 Combination ($9.50) which featured a Machaca burrito, enchilada style, rice, beans and a dollop of sour cream. I thought the Carnitas ($13.95) sounded like it would hit the spot.
Our drinks arrived and I was pleased to see they served their beverages in huge glasses. We returned to the chips and waited for our appetizers. We also got a chance to take in the interior of the place. Colorfully decorated, the place was awash in artwork and other decorations that covered the walls, tops of booths and the ceiling. We got a chuckle out of the sign in the middle of the restaurant that admonished parents to not let their children roam around the place. We also noticed that the noice level was fairly high, but we were able to adapt.
Our Chorizo Fundido was the first thing to arrive at our table. In a small bowl a thick, chili stew was covered with cheese and served with fried flour tortilla chips that had been sprinkled with a combination of chili powder and paprika. The chorizo was well-seasoned and the sauce was spicy and satisfying. The chips were delicious. This was a pleasant surprise. My only complaint was that the amount of fundido provided was pretty paultry. We scraped the bowl clean and finished off the chips in record time.
Our Cheese Crisp was brought only moments after we finished our fundido. The large plate was covered with the slices of a cheese-covered tortilla. The tortilla itself was slightly charred on the bottom and crisp all the way through. The cheese was thick and completely melted. We each topped it with one of the salsas and took our respective bites. This was an excellent cheese crisp. No one had any complaints about it at all. I thought the red salsa worked best with this.
The Cheese Crisp lasted only slightly longer than the fundido and we had a bit of a wait before our next round of food. In the meantime, we got our drinks refreshed and noticed the huge lemonades that were being served at the next table. They were in these super high glasses and the lemonade looked great. I made a note to try one next time.
Our meals arrived and we were pleased with the aromas that hit our nostrils. Madge was happy to have her chicken chimichanga. She dove right in. She said the chicken was moist and the flavor was excellent. She liked the tortilla as well, but said what made the chimichanga for her was the green chili sauce that bathed the chimi. She said the rice and beans were above average. She certainly didnt have any complaints about the dish and was happy that the chimi, sauce and rice and beans were not so spicy as to not be able to enjoy them.
Boris is a big enchilada fan and was happy with his meal. Like Madge, Boris found the chicken to be quite good. He raved about the red sauce, although it seemed to have given him a little dose of the sniffles from the heat. He also liked the good amount of cheese that was liberally sprinkled on top of the enchiladas. He also found the beans and rice to be above average, and remarked that he liked the consistency of the beans.
J. was pleased with the #5 Combination. A large machaca burrito was awash in a spicy enchilada sauce and served with rice and beans. J. described the machaca as having a smokey edge to it. The tortilla was soft and fresh and J. raved about the enchilada sauce as being quite good, especially with a bit of creaminess from the sour cream. J. also like the beans, but thought the rice was just okay. J.s only complaint was the spice level of the plate. Frankly, J. would have liked the whole thing a bit spicier, but did confess that having a glass of milk handy would have been helpful as well, in case the spice was too much.
My Carnitas was much different than I expected. I thought there would be pieces of shredded pork in a sauce. Instead, there were three large hunks of pork roast that had been cooked until the pieces were fork tender and pulling apart. The meat was flawless in its flavor and mixed well with a green chili sauce that accompanied it. The pork was falling apart as I touched it with my fork. The combination of flavors was enticing. I thought the beans were outstanding with their spicy kick and the fact that they were less like refried beans and had some body to them. The rice was good. Fluffly, spicy and tasty, I had no complaints with it. The tortilla that accompanied my meal was steaming hot and soft. It would have excelled if it had a bit of butter brushed on it.
What I did find disappointing with my meal was that the large chunks of pork were so large that the sauce really didnt have a change in permeating the meat and infusing it all the way through. Additionally, I was hoping for a dish that was much spicer than it was.
We cleaned our plates and got another round of drinks. Our waiter asked us if we wanted any desserts and J. and I were chomping at the bit to try Los Dos Monlinos version of Tres Leches Cake ($5.95). Madge and Boris decided to go with the Sopapillas with Cinnamon and Honey ($3.95).
Only a few minutes passed and our Tres Leches Cake arrived. J. and I each took a spoonful and were instantly transported away to some ethereal plane. The cake was simply incredible. We gave Madge and Boris a taste and they agreed that the cake was simply outstanding. A soft white cake had been saturated with a combination of cream, evaporated milk, and condensed milk. A layer of the milk mixture was allowed to collect along the top. The cake was then topped with a healthy shot of cinnamon and some whipped cream. Superb. As an added bonus, all that milk and cream took away any of the lingering heat from our meals.
J. and I were done with our cake and there was what seemed to be an inordinate wait for Madge and Boris to get their sopapillas. Even if they were made fresh, the time delay between when they order to when they arrived was very long. They finally did get their sopapillas and said they were quite good. They were piping hot and sprinkled with cinnamon and powdered cinnamon. The puffy pastry was also served with a honey sauce. Madge and Boris dipped the bread into the honey and devoured them quickly. J. tried a bite and said they were excellent.
We finished off our drinks and asked for the bill. The total was $83.32 including tax. Service was okay as there were a couple of long gaps where we had to flag down our waiter for drinks. We drove back to East Phoenix and discussed the meal.
Overall, we thought the meal was really good. We thought the cheese crisp and the Tres Leches Cake were both the two big winners. And while the meals were very good, they were not excellent. There wasnt anything wrong with them. They just didnt seem to be fantastic on most levels. I hadnt been to Los Dos Molinos in several years, but I remember the food being much spicier. Oddly, I have had meals that were much more spicy at Arriba.
Gauging the conversation in the car, I wasnt alone in my observation. We all agreed that it was very good food and we would return to try a lot of other things on the menu. Madge suggested that perhaps we had higher expectations than most since Los Dos Molinos is always mentioned as one of the places to go when in Phoenix.
Still, it was a nice time with good company and good food and J. seemed to enjoy the meal. So it was like a double date, as Madge suggested.
But a Kafka novel could have been most entertaining.
Los Dos Molinos
8646 South Central Avenue
Phoenix, AZ 85042
Notes: The wait on weekends can be long.
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