XOXO, Salsa Girl

The Dish on All Things Salsa


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Myspace Top 8, Mysalsa Top 8

There’s nothing more frustrating than not knowing where to go out for dinner. It always seems like the lists go on-and-on when you aren’t trying to pick where to go, but as soon as you need to think of where to chow down, you brain fart.

I know that there is nothing worse than that brain fart. Except for ….well, we won’t go there.

So I’ve decided to create this map to help prevent any frustration when choosing a Mexican meal. I have reverted back to the Myspace days and created a Mysalsa “TOP 8” with Mexican food restaurants. Additionally, I have included a brief explanation why I love each.

Just like we used to claim about our friendship rankings, I will say here too: these are in no particular order.

Valley of the Sun Valley of Salsa Map

MY TOP 8

Phoenix:

Sam’s Cafe
They have the most delicious chips in the world. Some of their chips are dusted with sugar, while others are coated in zesty seasoning. The salsa is house-made, somewhat sweet and really roasty.

Gallo Blanco Cafe & Bar
My tagline for this place is “You can taste the difference.” The vegetables, the meat, the tortillas, and everything in between are fresh and they just taste different. They use organic ingredients and it makes all the difference. You won’t leave this place feeling heavy like you do after most other Mexican restaurants.

Tee Pee Mexican Food
The old-school restaurant (it’s been there for nearly 40 years) environment here makes the food taste even better than it would if it were served anywhere else. Their chips are crispy and served warm. Hands-down, the best menu item is the “Mary Lou” with green chile. That dish holds a special place in my heart because it is the dish my mom always orders. Hi Mom.

Scottsdale:

Chelsea’s Kitchen
This is not necessarily a Mexican restaurant, but their Mexican food is insanely amazing. The chilaquiles that they serve for brunch are the single most delicious breakfast dish I have ever tried. Also, all tacos are incredible. And so is everything.

Ahwatukee:

The Original Burrito Company
This is both the least expensive and the most “classic” of all of my top 8. Their salsa is so fresh and chunky (and I drink it by the cup-full) and the burritos are only around $4. The classic bean and cheese burrito is the best, just because it is.

Los Taquitos
This place wins all types of awards, and it has been on Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives. Their street tacos are only $1.15 or $1.25 each, and legitimately taste like the tacos I have had in Mexico. Their hot sauces are so amazing and spicy as well. I could go on for days about this place. Maybe one day I will do just that.

Tempe:

Serrano’s Mexican Food Restaurants
This one also holds a special place in my heart. It is my granny’s favorite. They serve bean dip at the beginning of the meal–which is an automatic point-earner. They also whip up a fantastic chorizo and egg burro that I love. There’s lots of nostalgia associated with this place for me too.

Chandler:

Valle Luna
If we’re ranking based on ambiance, this place is up in the top (with Gallo Blanco and Tee Pee). At Valle Luna, you can eat your fajitas while overlooking a lake. It doesn’t get much more sizzlingly tranquil.

…And there it was:  Mysalsa Top 8

Hopefully, unlike that which ensued when I used to rearrange my Myspace Top 8, there will be no drama as a result of this post.

XOXO,

Salsa Girl

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Arizona Taco Festival

I tend to treat tacos as only a means of transportation for getting salsa into my mouth. However, the Arizona Taco Festival this weekend taught me that salsa can’t always be the star of the show.  When it comes to tacos, salsa is to act in a supporting role to whichever meat or seafood the chefs have chosen as their superstar.

I attended the festival with an open heart, an open mind, and an empty stomach. After my friend and I spent a solid 25 minutes observing the overwhelming options of taco stands, avoiding the “see-and-be-seen” tequila bars, and giggling at the sombrero-adorned drunks, we made our first taco stop.

Chelsea’s Kitchen had their mouthwatering carnitas tacos out on display. I’ve been to Chelsea’s Kitchen before, and I can honestly say it makes my Top 5 list of best restaurants. EVER.

Before I indulged, Executive Chef Jorge Gomez was kind enough to step away from his pop-up kitchen to teach me about his tacos and salsas.

Gomez had his green tomatillo and red charred salsas at the festival, and he poured me little shots of each one to taste. The tomatillo had that tangy, acidic taste that I love, and the red charred one was smoky and slightly sweet. Gomez said that the charred salsa is served with every taco on the Chelsea’s Kitchen menu, and he said the restaurant goes through about 10 gallons of the red and 5 gallons of the green each day.

Shots of salsa > Shots of tequila

As for the actual taco that he was serving, Gomez walked me through the line up of rotisserie-cooked and sliced pork that is simmered in ranchero sauce for four hours, and served on a corn tortilla with pico de gallo and guacamole. Hi, get in my belly.

SOL Cocina also put their best pork foot forward at the Taco Festival. They were serving up carnitas street tacos with slow-roasted and shredded pork, chicharron (fried pork skins), onions, avocado, and a tomatillo salsa on a gluten-free tortilla. SO TRENDY!

General Manager, Jessica Kortas, said that SOL Cocina has 17 different salsas that they make from scratch, and each salsa is specifically made and served to compliment a taco. After a bit of wavering, Kortas said that her favorite taco on the menu is the Grilled Fish Zarandeado that has a pineapple-cucumber salsa, because she said the fish and pineapple perfectly compliment one another.

I had a total of 5 tacos over the course of the evening. No shame.

The next three that I tried were inferior to the first two, but delicious nonetheless.

I tried a “Puerto Nuevo” shrimp taco from Tonto Bar & Grill , which is a unique Native Arizona inspired eatery. Their taco had shrimp, peppers and onions, an avocado crema sauce, and a delicious slaw with carrots that they call “Escabèche Slaw.” I am a fan of any avocado-cream-ish-sauce, so I really enjoyed this one.

I tried my best to avoid the chain restaurants, but…

Macayo’s was serving the most non-photogenic cochinita pibil (slow-roasted pork) taco in existence.  I could tell the Macayo’s tent crew was tired of serving tacos all day.

I ended my rounds with a fresh mahi-mahi taco with a mango habanero salsa from Rubio’s, and I walked out of the festival gates while simultaneously eating this taco.


I must have looked so dedicated to my tacos as I exited the grounds. People all around me must have be in awe of my passion and enthusiasm…

XOXO,

Salsa Girl