When you’re in Moab, Utah, it’s probably best to be as Moab as possible. This might mean crazy mountain biking, death-defying humvee riding or long hikes. Or it could mean a meal out at Miguel’s Baja Grill, a Mexican restaurant right in the middle of town. But it’s not enough to simply go to Miguel’s – the key is to eat Miguel’s M.O.A.B. (Mother of all Burritos).
The Phoenix area is wealthy in greasy Mexican fast food. These places generally have drive-through and are open 24/7. Moreover, they quite simply make the world a better place. Take Armando’s in Deer Valley, for example. I was hankering for something good on the way to northern Arizona, and Armando’s stood out like a shiny beacon calling for me.
There’s little not to love about Tex-Mex, but it’s also hard to distinguish the difference between Mexican food that happens to be served in Texas and Tex-Mex. I have a theory that queso is the difference. Sure, queso literally means cheese in Spanish, but in Tex-Mex it means melty cheesy sauce. Torchy’s Tacos (originally from Austin) in San Antonio had some attractive queso on its menu, but I was also eager to eat its namesake tacos.
Tex-Mex is its own category of food. It seems weird because it gives the impression that Texans just somehow bastardized real Mexican food and had the audacity to put Tex before the Mex, but when you remember that Texas was once a part of Mexico, it begins to lose its weirdness. There is probably no place in the state of Texas where the former Mexican history is at the forefront of thought than in San Antonio, home of the Alamo (remember it). And in San Antonio is Mi Tierra, an old school Tex-Mex place with a full on panaderia to boot.
Scottsdale and breakfast go together like peas and carrots. Well, assuming those peas and carrots are nowhere near me. But having breakfast near me is good, so it became time to check out Ncounter in Scottsdale, its third location after presumably finding success in Tempe and Phoenix. I’m not sure what the “N” stands for, but the rest of the name is descriptive of the ordering style of the restaurant, so that made sense.
How many agaves are too many? 10, 100, 1000? Cien Agaves seems to have settled on 100 as the right number. And, people seemed so happy with that number of agaves at the Old Town Scottsdale location that they decided to open a second location in north Scottsdale, technically bringing the total to doscientos agaves. But whatever, I was there for Mexican beer and Mexican food, not Mexican math.
Once again, I found myself at one of the Phoenix area’s seemingly endless supply of breakfast/brunch spots. This time it was a place called Scramble in Scottsdale. Scramble is one of those places where you order at the counter, which is all good and well until there’s only one person at the counter with a line out the door and a bunch of empty tables inside. But I digress, as even with that wait to order it probably took just as long to get my food as it would have if I had sat down and ordered at the table.
Tacos, tacos and more tacos. That was the premise of the Rockin’ Taco Rumble in Downtown Phoenix on March 2nd, 2018. $45 got you unlimited tacos, six drinks and a wooden nickel to vote for your favorite taco. It took place at Events on Jackson, which was a pretty cool venue, but what was much less cool was the fact that some spots were already running out of tacos by the time I arrived and the lines were crazy long. Nevertheless, I persisted and was able to identify some favorites.
I love old school greasy Mexican places. The types that have been around from years, have a stable menu and don’t try to introduce something crazy to the menu (I mean I like those too, but there’s a special place in my heart for the former). Ajo Al’s in Scottsdale is one of those old school places. Maybe it hasn’t been around since some of Phoenix’s older spots, but it opened in 1986, which is like 100 years ago in Arizona years.
Being in the media has its advantages. Case in point: getting to check out the menu and beers at SanTan Brewing Company in Chandler. For this event, SanTan wanted to highlight beer pairings and the normal menu without any specials, but also showed off the backroom where the brewing is actually done. Unlike other breweries I’ve been to, we were encouraged to bring a beer along for the tour, and that beer was the StrataBlaster IPA, part of the brewery’s pilot series and a great place to start.