Category Archives: Mexican

Espos – March 2017

Espos Mexican Food

3863 W Chandler Blvd|Chandler, AZ| 85226

480-588-7377 |

Organized by: Jen and Don

Hidden right in the middle of bustling Chandler is a fast casual gem that has been serving up Mexican favorites and good times for the people in Chandler. Whether it is tender and juicy carne asada or fresh and tasty green chili pork, Espos originally started serving the farm worker community and has been dishing happiness for over 40 years.

We visited Espos on a beautiful April Sunday in Phoenix before the heat melted our skin off so we enjoyed sitting outside in the comfortable patio. There is no table service, rather you order inside and then find a seat. The margaritas are only $2 and they are quite delicious and refreshing on a warm afternoon. You can also order a bucket of beers and they will literally put them on ice for you. Even though the patio is sitting right on Chandler Blvd, it feels secluded and inviting, making you forget that a huge mall is just right down the road.

The portions are plentiful so be prepared to possibly take leftovers home or share a dish. You would think that with this kind of quality ingredients, prices would be high but they are not. A red chili burrito is under $6 and it is not a baby burrito! There are also a variety of snack options such as corn or flour chips with a whole variety of dips such as queso, green chili beef, or pico de gallo. The rice and beans are good, but unless your plate comes with it, I would rather focus my laser sights on enjoying the tasty main dishes. You won’t be hungry, that’s for sure!

So bring your friends, order some good food, and chillax on the patio with a margarita or a frosty cerveza and let summer roll on by…

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Posted by on 03/26/2017 in Mexican


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May 28, 2016 – Old Town Tortilla Factory

Old Town Tortilla Factory

6910 East Main Street

Scottsdale, AZ 85251


Organized by: Fred and Karna

Fred and Karna took the reigns again this month and organized dinner at the Old Town Tortilla Factory in Scottsdale. The restaurant is located in a very cute 75-year old adobe home. You enter through a huge flagstone patio surrounded by lots of pecan trees. Needless to say, the patio seating is amazing!

We started with the “award winning” margaritas that seemed a little watery and light on flavor. So we decided to change it up to a bottle of wine…at a Mexican restaurant with 120 tequilas. Not a good sign. Instead of tortilla chips like most Mexican restaurants, the Tortilla Factory provides warm homemade tortillas with butter. Rightly so. This was a interesting twist and the tortillas were pretty tasty.

From the starter menu we got a few orders of chips and salsa fuego and the much anticipated Chorizo Fundido. I was quite disappointed that it was light on the Chorizo, but heavy on the Fundido.

For dinner, the Red Chile Pork Chops was nicely presented and had good flavor. The green enchiladas with chicken, cheese, and tomatillo sauce was also good. Overall, I would say that the food was okay but I probably wouldn’t come back just for that. The best part of the dinner was certainly the ambiance of the beautiful patio!

We opted not to order dessert and instead part of the group walked down the block to the Hotel Valley Ho for cocktails and dessert. The Valley Ho has been a Scottsdale landmark since 1956. The hotel was renovated in 2005 and brought back to its modern 60’s vibe. The ZuZu lounge had a fun design of 60s modern bar stools, minimalist couches with clean sharp lines and yet still looked comfortable and soft. Since we were there at night, there was a soft red glo giving everything a fun artsy vibe.

We opted to sit outside at the Cafe Zu Zu taking full advantage before the Arizona weather kicked into full gear. When first sitting down, I made the mistake of asking the hostess how long the hotel had been open knowing that it was a landmark but not much else. The young girl sheepishly looked at me and said “I really should know this, but I don’t.” Yes dear. You really should.

After a rousing discussion of Scottsdale vs. Gilbert socialites, we delved into libations. I tried the Bourbon Smash which was Maker’s Mark, muddled lemon, mint, simple syrup, club soda, and lemon peel. Someone else tried the Blackberry Mule of vodka, ginger beer, lime juice, and blackberry and Tony went with a Manhattan.

For dessert, we tried the Raspberry Creme Brulee, Key Lime Pie, and Caramel Macchiat”Oh” Cheesecake. The cocktails and desserts were delicious and were a nice ending to a fun evening of heated political discussions and lots of good times and laughter.

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Posted by on 05/28/2016 in Mexican


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Art and cuisine on Calle 16

Barrio Café
2814 N 16th St
Phoenix, AZ 85006
Organized by: Janice

Besides being an integral part of this neighborhood in Phoenix, Chef Silvana has created a place of legend with the original Barrio Café. Although she has now expanded to Barrio Queen in Scottsdale and even offers samples of her treasures to travelers at Sky Harbor Airport, it was a treat to be able to visit the place where it all began.

Barrio Café is not big, nor is it ostentatious with a ritzy location. Instead it is in Phoenix on 16th street at the entrance of an urban neighborhood and surrounded by strip malls with local businesses. The place is decorated in art by local artists which rotates every few months, showing Chef Silvana’s focus on promoting the people in our community. In addition, the exterior is covered in clever, colorful, and creative murals as part of the Calle 16 Mural Project, which celebrates the vibrant culture and Mexican heritage of the area. (for more on this check out our Links section!)

No reservations are accepted and seating is strictly on a first come, first serve basis. This means you need to get there early if you have a large group because Barrio Café has a reputation for magic and it is only growing with every passing day.

They do have a Happy Hour with super great discounts on their margaritas and Buck any Tacos but the downside is that it is only from 3-5pm on Tuesday thru Friday.

We tried a few different margarita options such as the Flaca (skinny marg with organic silver tequila, agave, and lime); the signature Lowrider (Don Julio Blanco with lime and Cointreau), and the Sergio el Suave (Milagro Anejo with pineapple, lime, agave, cilantro, and candid jalapeno). Warning these margs are smoooooth and go down like water but they pack a punch!

We started with the Guacamole del Barrio and Esquites (similar but not the same to the signature dish of Elote). The table-side guacamole was insane. So fresh with large chunks of avocado instead of just green mash. A special seasonal treat of pomegranate seeds were also included which gave it a nice bit of sweetness. Many of us also ordered the iconic dish of Chef Silvana which is the Chiles en Nogada (roasted poblano pepper filled with chicken, apple, pear, dried apricot, and pecans topped with almond cream sauce and cilantro, queso fresco, and pomegranate seeds). This dish was delicious! The sauce was much sweeter than expected and if you tried the pepper with just the filling it had a nice soft spice that could easily stand on its own without too much sauce.

We also tried a couple different Pescado del Dia since it was wild Alaskan Halibut; Veracruz style with onion, tomato, and black and green olives; and del Mar topped with shrimp, scallops, crab, chorizo, onion and roasted poblano. Yum!

Bill absolutely raved about his Enchiladas Suizas red onion, cilantro, Mexicana crema, and topped with chorizo. He said the chorizo was so perfectly done and not too greasy. It was so good he HAD to finish it all and left with “painfully full” tummy.

Don who is our resident Mole connoisseur ordered the Pollo en Mole and tried both the sweeter black and the spicier red. Both passed the Don test with a thumb’s up! Fred K had the center cut bone-in pork chop with chile sauce. He said it was cooked perfectly and the sauce was a sweeter chile sauce, which he enjoyed very much.

For dessert we sampled the Flan de mi Mami (traditional flan topped with candied pecans) and the Churros Rellanos de Cajeta de Cabra (churros filled with goat’s milk caramel and served with vanilla bean ice cream, more caramel, and candied pecans.) Whoo – talk about sweet but rich in flavor! But I wouldn’t expect anything less from a chef that started in a family Mexican bakery.

There is live music on Thursday, Friday, Saturday, as well as on Sunday afternoon. When we were there on a Saturday evening we enjoyed an upbeat duo with a guitar (and perhaps a conga drum?). Either way, they were fun, upbeat, and they graciously sang Happy Birthday to our very own Fred S. J

There was so much riding on this visit for me because of all the great things I had heard about it already and I am so pleased that they lived up to my every expectation! I can now say that I was able to enjoy the Barrio Café experience.

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Posted by on 09/14/2013 in Latin, Mexican


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Classy and casual – the southwestern kitchen at TQLA

1840 S Val Vista Dr
Mesa, AZ 85204
Organized by Jen and Don

TQLA is a Southwestern Kitchen and Agave Bar with a location in Houston and a recently expanded location in Phoenix area that opened in Oct 2012. The ambiance and decor of the building is very upscale and rustic Southwestern which matches the menu. There is a really nice outdoor patio with tables and lounge cushions but also flows really nicely into the clean and modern-rustic dining room, which contains a full bar. And I mean FULL, the sucker is huge!

They have a Happy Hour from 3-6:30pm with all appetizers half-off and specials on margaritas and Mexican drafts. The margaritas are good, but that is up to the taste of the drinker. The bar tenders can even mix up any kind of drink if you want to be creative. Jen loves a special spicy jalapeno one that she created with the bartender! Some are huge fans of the margaritas while I crave the Perfect Storm margaritas across the street at Nando’s, but really it is all about personal taste preference. The chef also really creates some exciting and fun twists on normal Mexican dishes on the appetizer menu such as a Wild Mushroom Tamale and the BBQ Duck Tamale. Muy delicioso! The chips and salsa is also quite good – which is a test for me of any Latin/Mexican/Southwestern restaurant – and be sure to try the habanero salsa, it’s bright orange…you can’t miss it. 🙂

All the dishes are very tasty. They all feel fresh and not overly loaded with cheese, rather you are able to really enjoy the flavors of each ingredient. A favorite of mine is the Chicken Tortilla Soup, which has a nice spice because of the tomato chile mixed with the queso fresco and avocado, and topped with Mexican crema. Even their Ensalada de Casa is not boring and stands out from the crowd. It’s just a simple house salad but they mix in picked onions and a tequila mango vinaigrette to give it an extra kick and stand out from the crowd.


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Posted by on 05/18/2013 in Latin, Mexican


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Ticoz Resto Bar

Ticoz Resto Bar
5114 N 7th St 
Phoenix, AZ 85014
Organized by: Ann and Jay

Thanks to our exceptionally socially conscious Ann, we were able to participate in Dining Out For Life. This annual event raises money for AIDS service organizations. Ann was quite familiar with it in the Seattle area and was super excited when it came to Phoenix! We were happy to join her in benefiting a good cause!

Ticoz was selected from the participating restaurants because they had a large portion of their profits that night (75%) going directly to the organization. We also lucked out that it was an enjoyable place as well. 🙂

The trio of dipping sauces with the house made chips was to die for! Spicy Choirzo Queso, Pork Chili Verde, and Lobster Spinach Queso. yum, yum! My favorite was the Pork Chili Verde because I am always a sucker for green chilies and pork anything. There was a very interesting combination of guacamole and garlic hummus called Guacammus and it was surprisingly very tasty. Not every culinary “mash up” always works and this was a tasty exception. 

On to the entrees, first there was Pork Chili Verde Mac N’ Cheese. Stop it. Right now. Hold the phone. That was insanely delicious! Then there was the Blue Corn Enchiladas, which received rave reviews online and rightly so. It has blue corn tortillas with shredded chicken, green chile, cheese, and a sour cream green chile sauce. You can also get it topped with a fried egg if you wish. You can also get the Pork Chili Verde in an enchilada as well, because really, can you ever have enough Pork Chili Verde?

The food was excellent and pretty much every dish was delicious. Sadly the cocktails did not live up to the caliber of food. We are a group of drinkers so I guess we are a little picky with our alcohol standards. The margaritas were okay and the mojitos were way way too sweet. I even tried the Sangria, but it was nothing compared to the nectar-of-the-gods at Rita’s Kitchen. I ended up just settling on a safe Stella Artois, which was okay because it left my taste buds free to enjoy the splendor of the food. There was a party in my mouth happening, Pork Chili Verde style!

the gang Dining Out For Life

the gang Dining Out For Life

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Posted by on 04/25/2013 in Latin, Mexican, New Mexican


Let’s Get Devoured

Today some of the DDs made it out to Devoured Phoenix Culinary Classic 2013 held at the Phoenix Art Museum. There was a bazillion different restaurants and wineries providing tastes of their creative culinary skill. The event is organized by Local First Arizona, which is a non-profit designed to promote the benefits of buying locally and strengthening our local communities. Through this organization we have uncovered an amazing community of restaurants and an emerging gastronomic culture that is putting Phoenix on the culinary map.

Being held at the Phoenix Art Museum is a nice treat because once you are finished eating and drinking your way through the event, you can walk it off by perusing the museum exhibits.  

A word of warning, it seems like ALL of Phoenix comes out to this event and it is wall to wall people. The beer tent opened 30 minutes prior to the food tasting so naturally everyone piles in there and begins with the marathon drinking. Thankfully they did have some desserts available to sample or else we probably would all be a little closer to hammered before we even hit the food.

Below are some of the great places we experienced:

JJ’s Brownies: Chili and Cinnamon fudgy brownies topped with sea salt and caramel drizzle – decadent taste with a spicy kick that hits you in the back of the throat later.
Citizen Public House offered a duckling ham but be careful about asking what that is, they may respond with “it’s a duckling that’s been hamed”. oh yeah? well this is a dish that is just ok
Tuck Shop (with next door neighbor Astor House) never fails to deliver and today they had a TuckRib which is a boneless rib sandwich on a soft roll topped with red onion and pickle. Delish!
The Windsor (which is a new place for me) served a beer braised pork with chorizo hash. O.M.G. can i have another?! This is definately a place we are going to have to try.
Federal Pizza (part of the North Phoenix restaurants corridor with Postino’s and Windsor) served a refreshing cocktail of grapefruit and ginger beer as well as a short rib ravioli topped with a mushroom au jus. Definately a winner with many and another place on the list to try.
Caduceus Cellars was on site and we sampled both the (unavailable) 2009 Nagual de la Naga which is a fantastic blend of Cab and Sangiovese and the Merkin Vineyards Chupacabra, which is a red blend of Petite Syrah, Syrah, Cab, and Viognier.
House of Tricks (one of our local favorites in Tempe) offered a foie gras taco, which I am told was very tasty, and duck pasole that had a delicious green chile flavor that was not overpowered by duck.
Pig and Pickle is a new player in town just recently opening in Scottsdale and serving an amazing pork shoulder tostada with ginger aioli and topped with an unexpected homemade kimchi. The spice of the kimchi was not too overpowering for the port and instead gave is a nice punch. There was also an Elvis dessert of peanut butter with chocolate which was okay, but why eat that when you can just savor the pork tostada a little while longer.
Bliss Re-Bar had a bacon meatloaf which I was told was quite good but it takes a lot for me to try a meatloaf. Maybe next year I will take the plunge.
Short Leash Dogs was an unexpected treat for me. I have longed to try this mobile gourmet hot dog eatery but can never seem to be in the right place at the right time. Apparently today was my day because I was able to sample their bratwurst on a pretzel roll with saurkraut and german mustard. They also offered a crispy dog made from Schreiner’s jalapeno cheese brat and served in a crispy tortilla. yum! The food truck revival is on a roll! (get it..heh heh)
Atlas Bistro is a local BYOB with an intimate dining room but a staff that is passionate about what they do. Today they treated us to blistered watermelon radishes from Duncan Farms with a triple brie with peppercorn crust and raisin mostarda. So good it required a double visit!
District Kitchen offered a mac n’ cheese chorizo with snack cheese puffs on top. The cheese puffs were a little strange but the mac n’ cheese was good.
Gallo Blanco Cafe was a special treat since I have heard rave reviews of this local gem. We were treated to very tender goat tacos.
Beckett’s Table served up a super delicious deep fried deviled egg with a spicy aioli sauce. Not something that sounded tasty but ended up being a hit (with most of us).
Relish Burger Bistro which is located in the Phoenician had a winner with deviled eggs served with pork belly on a skewer, which will find their way to the menu this spring and tacos in a crispy shell that I was told were very good
Santa Barbara Catering hosted some samples inside the museum’s cafe Palette such as the sausage and peppers (I’ve had better), a Dulce de Leche Twix Bar that was really too sweet, and a pork belly ruben with ale mustard. The pork belly sandwhich was good but their offerings today were a little disappointing as we have been at events catered by Santa Barbara before and the food has been fantastic.
The event was packed and I am sure I missed some of the places we tried but with so many options, it is to be expected! We walked, ate, and drank our way through everything and ended up stuffed, tipsy, and slightly overdone from the sun. Even so this is a terrific sampling for the burgeoning foodies in AZ and not an event to be missed!





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August 11, 2012 – Elote Cafe

Elote Cafe
771 State Route 179
Sedona, AZ 86336
Hours: Tue – Sat 5-9pm
Reservations are not accepted so come early.

This was not an official dinnerclub but a few members happened to be in Sedona and we went out to dinner at Elote Cafe. The food was so incredible it almost seemed criminal not to document the magical night. The creations of Chef Jeff Smedstad are inspired by the markets of Mexico and he focuses on incorporating sustainable, local, and healthy products to the savory delight of his guests.

Tucked away inside the King’s Ransom Inn on Hwy 179, Elote Cafe sits like a obvious yet undiscovered gem amongst the magic of the Sedona red rocks. Although travelers from out of town may not always know about Elote, clearly the word has gotten out with average wait times of an hour, even if you arrive just after 5pm. But have no fear, while you wait you can enjoy some tasty cocktails from the beverage window or margaritas made from 100% Agave tequila. You can have the El Roble with oak aged Tres Agaves Anejo and Grand Marnier or even a special one with chili pepper flake. Jenn and Ann said it was quite delicious and not nearly as hot as the jalapeno mojito at Distrito, which is a good thing.

After waiting about an hour and people watching by the pool, we were seated on the outside patio. It was hot and humid but soon the sun started to set and the patio became fantastic, not to mention the incredible view just to the north.

For starters, we tasted the Guacamole that is simple in its design of avacado, cilantro, lime, and jalapeno yet knocks a punch with its flavor; Roasted Duck Empanadas crispy turnovers of decandent slow roasted Duck, cheese, guacamole and Salsa Verde; Green Corn Tamales which are handmade with fresh corn and roasted chiles topped with Salsa Verde and Crema; and their name sake, the Elote. This corn dish is fire roasted corn that is taken off the cob and mixed with spicy mayo, lime and Cojita cheese. Be careful! It is addictive and will cause you to order more and eat until you transorm into an ear of corn!

As if there was room, we then moved on to the main course. We each ordered many different dishes but then had the chance to taste each of them to sample the genius of Chef Jeff Smedstad. If you go, you MUST try the Lamb Adobo. According to our server (and the best one out there) Shauna, this dish “put Elote on the culinary map” and when you try it you can see why. It is a braised Rosen Farms Colorado lamb shank , with a sweet and spicy Ancho chile sauce and Cilantro crema. Not only is it cooked to perfection, converting this eater who used to avoid lamb for the greasiness, but also it is so tender you can literally pull the bone out clean with two fingers. It is a wonder how the meat stays on the bone while traveling out from the kitchen.

We also had the Pork Cheeks in slow-simmered tomato sauce with corn cake, lime aioli, and dry Jack Chicharron; the Roasted Beet Salad with poblanos, goat cheese and citrus-honey dressing; delicious Chile Rellano; and the Carne Asada which is skirt steak sublimly grilled and served with a Pasilla negro sauce, guacamole, and Niman Ranch bacon. Bacon with Carne Asada, you ask? YES! It is like they were meant to be together.

We paired all these dishes with a couple bottles of Conundrum white wine, which were an excellent choice to sooth both the heat of the evening and the spice of the food.

Then because we are slaves for punishment, we moved on to dessert. Not because we had room but because we absolutely had to try some of the amazing creations on the dessert menu. After some “discussion” as to what we needed to try, we finally settled on the special that evening of Ancho chile skillet brownie with homemade cinnamon ice cream, fresh wipped cream, and sweet pecans; Crepas de Cajeta which are fantastic crepes served with cinnamon ice cream, tequila-apple compote, sweet-spiced pecans, and Black Mesa Goat’s milk caramel; and the Pastel de Elote, a corn cake served with homemade Dulce de Leche, raspberry jam, and sweet corn ice cream. While we also couldn’t agree on what was the favorite, we can agree that with all of the homemade desserts, Elote served up some magic.

Not to forget the great service that we experienced by everyone on the staff, inlcuding Shauna. She was such a gem and was able to keep up with our group which is a feat in itself. We can be a handful sometime and she didn’t miss a beat. It is obvious that she has a passion for the restaurant and the menu that you don’t often find. Cheers to Shauna!

So, now I won’t say “if you go” instead I will say “when you go”, because visiting Elote is a must! Just make sure you bring some corn back for me…

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Posted by on 08/11/2012 in Mexican