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Cheese with a Side of Cheese at Ajo Al’s

Open-faced quesadilla.

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.

Like many local spots, they have their twist on the open-faced quesadilla. Locals call them cheese crisps, but people like me know the truth. And unfortunately, Ajo Al’s Cheese Crisp is pretty subpar. I mean, you can’t go wrong with cheese on tortilla, but this one just wasn’t anything more than that.

Picture perfect.

Yet, the main course I ordered was nothing less than perfect. It was the Pollo Con Queso, which literally means “Chicken with Cheese” in Spanish, but that translation doesn’t do it justice. This is a burrito simply filled with shredded chicken and deep fried, then it’s topped with spicy cream cheese and a thick layer of, well, more cheese. It also comes with beans (I opted for refried) and rice.

It’s what’s on the inside and outside that counts.

And yet, while this sounds like the most overwhelming meal of all time, it’s actually shockingly balanced. Each bite is better than the last until you reach the inevitable diminishing returns toward the end of the burrito. But, then, there’s rice and beans to rescue you in case things get a little too delicious. The only complaint I can really lodge is that there were a few pieces of lettuce thrown on the plate next to the burrito with no explanation whatsoever.

You can get better cheese crisps elsewhere, but I’m not sure the same can be said for a deep fried, chicken-filled cream cheese and regular cheese-topped burrito.