Barrio Café is the best Mexican restaurant in Phoenix
When you’re looking for the best Mexican restaurant in Phoenix, it feels a bit like trying to find the best prom date at the Playboy Mansion: There are so many of them, and they all look so good.
According to the Arizona Republic, the restaurant you should seek out is the Barrio Café. The largest news paper in the Valley of the Sun has named Barrio Café as the best Mexican restaurant for the past six years – ever since the café opened, in fact.
I had the good fortune and deepest pleasure of eating at the Barrio during a recent Arizona golf trip, and I was blown away. If you are looking for cookie-cutter, uber-spicy TexMex fare, do not even set foot in Barrio.
If, however, you’re looking for authentic Mexican food typical of the cuisine from Mexico City and southward, then you are in for an amazing treat.
You see, Mexican food is not typically ultra hot nor completely slathered in enchilada sauce and yellow cheese. In fact, if you want one simple rule of thumb for good, authentic Mexican food, check the cheese: If there’s any yellow cheese at all, make a run for the border…or at least for the front door.
Real Mexican food only has white cheese (mainly Chihuahua), and at Barrio, you are also served up copious cream sauces, with just a hint of heat underlying the often rich and richly herby flavors that dominate.
The menu changes regularly, taking advantage of local, seasonal ingredients. An outstanding example of this, which literally blew me and my taste buds away, was the homemade guacamole with pomegranate mixed in. You have simply not tasted guacamole until you’ve tasted this sublime masterpiece.
For appetizers, the mini-quesadillas with chunked rock lobster were also incredible: rich and creamy with a hint of citrus and spice. The pork chili rellenos were like no other chili rellenos I’ve ever had (and I’ve had way more than my fill) in their marriage of sweetness and spice, with just a subtle, steady, slow-rising heat. For a main course, the enchiladas del mar – chockablock full of seafood – were equally impressive, and again, the sauce was creamy yet slightly acidic from the roasted veggies inside the enchiladas.
Rather amazingly, despite the high praise that Barrio Café has earned, Chef Silvana Salcido Esparza has succeeded in building an accessible yet completely unique menu, and, more impressively, maintaining a neighborhood feel. So very appropriate for a place named “barrio” (neighborhood).
And finally, lest you thought the connection between great Mexican food and Playmate-caliber prom dates was tenuous, let me tie the analogy together:
In the same way you can tell the best Mexican food by avoiding the faux-Mexican yellow cheese, the best prom date at the Playboy Mansion would be the girl without the fake … well, you get the idea.
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