The newest edition to downtown Gilbert is nicely squeezed in between Bergie’s Coffee and Joe’s Real BBQ. Topo is a small walk-up food stall with a huge gopher on the roof (Topo means gopher or mole in Spanish). Leave it to owner Joe Johnston to add a little something fun, unique but weird to the growing downtown Gilbert area. This place draws you in like many of the weird roadside attractions do if you were driving on the Route 66 in northern AZ. What I like most is its very simple menu – burrito, beverage and ice cream. What else do you need in life? You can order a regular burrito (chicken or pork) or have it loco style with elote corn, fritos chips, tomatillo cream and hot sauce. They offer a small bowl of elote for a side. For dessert, they have vanilla or prickly pear ice cream cones that you can dip in chocolate, lime or prickly pear. That’s it – very quick and simple. I came on opening day and it took about 15 min waiting in line to order my food (I’m sure that will decrease over time). Food came out in a few minutes. Joe Johnston greeted people in line and offered us gopher stickers. The kitchen space is small and systems-based. I noticed they weigh every burrito that is made before they serve them. There are a few tables off to the side, but most people use the larger picnic tables next to Joe’s BBQ. This place is unique and fun and opens late. They should get quite a good crowd that just want a quick bite to eat.
I love tacos. I especially love Taco Tuesdays! It has become such a big concept and everyone who serves up tacos puts out great deals for this day. Backyard Taco is a popular spot here in the Valley that serves up tacos al carbon. “al carbon” means to cook over charcoal and are very popular in Mexico. I was introduced to this place when I ate here with my foodie group a few years back. Backyard Taco was started by Ruben and Maricela from Mazatlan. Their business was birth from cooking tacos in their backyard for friends and neighbors. So hospitality and making customers feel at home is a big part of their business. They use fresh simple ingredients along with their amazing selection of meats to create the authentic taste of Tacos al Carbon. I love it when you walk into the lobby and get a glimpse (and smell) of the meat grilling on their mesquite grill. I came by for lunch and sampled a few of my favorite tacos – Carne Asada, Pollo and Al Pastor. Of course I grabbed a horchata to wash it all down. They also do quesadillas, burritos, tostadas, gorditas and a crazy potato. My favorite thing about Backyard Taco is the condiment bar which has a variety of salsas, onions, limes and jalapeños for toppings. Lunch was delicious and affordable as always and made for another fun Taco Tuesday.
¡Lotería! Grill first opened in the LA Farmers Market by Jimmy Shaw in 2002. Now there are five locations across LA. Jimmy wanted to put true Mexican food on a plate after seeing so many Americanized versions of it all over Cali. Lotería is a type of bingo game in Mexico that uses game cards with images that represent Mexico. Many of these images are posted all over their restaurant. I read a guide of best foods to try at the Market and their popular nachos made the list. Some of their other favorites include the Chicharrón de Queso (pork dish), the tacos and their signature Guisos (slow-cooked stews). They also have a full breakfast menu for the early risers. Even though I was just sampling today, this mini nacho plate packed a punch. It consisted of corn tortilla chips, black beans, Pico de Gallo, jack cheese, tomatillo Salsa, onion and cilantro. I love nachos that just ooze with cheese and this one didn’t disappoint. The staff was great and it was fun to sit behind the counter and watch them passionately cook up some great food. I hope to grab a full meal next time around.
Whole Foods sells Engine 2 products and I thought I’d try one of their recipes. Engine 2 makes whole plant-based foods that taste good. They hope to help people rid themselves of refined and processed foods and live a more healthier lifestyle. I love stuffed bell peppers and this was a simple delicious healthy recipe to make.
2 red bell peppers, halved lengthwise through the stem end and seeded
1 avocado, diced and divided
1/2 cup fresh lime juice
1 teaspoon ground cumin, or to taste
1 (13-ounce) package frozen Engine 2 Plant-Strong® Organic Fiesta Blend Grain Medley, prepared according to package instructions
1/4 cup chopped red onion
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro, plus more for garnish
Preheat the oven to 400°F. Arrange bell pepper halves cut-side down on a parchment-paper-lined baking sheet and roast until just slightly charred and softened, 10 to 15 minutes. Let cool.
To make the dressing, blend avocado, lime juice and cumin in a blender until smooth. In a large bowl, toss the Fiesta Blend Grain Medley with onion, cilantro and half of the dressing. Taste and add more dressing if desired; save remaining dressing for another use. Mound the mixture into the roasted bell pepper halves and garnish with cilantro.
This place is always a favorite for my boys and I. It is some of the best Mexican food in Chandler. Si Señor Restaurant has a location here in the Valley and one in New Mexico where they get some of their famous Hatch chiles that they use for some of their dishes. Hatch Chile is a high-grade, sun-dried chile that comes from Covarrubias Farms in the Hatch Valley along the Rio Grande (the “Napa Valley of Chile”). Martin and Irene Castillo established the first Si Señor Restaurant in their hometown of Deming, New Mexico in 1984. This location in Chandler opened in 2001 and is a huge local favorite. They have great happy hour specials, four dipping sauces to choose from for your chips and a live mariachi band on occasions. They even make their own tamales and tortillas in-house. The hospitality is always great here and the food is pretty amazing. And of course you can’t leave without having some delicious Sopapillas for dessert.
Hi Foodies, tonight we travel south of the border to a local taco “stand” that is a favorite of many in the community. It started out as a true taco stand in the backyard of a home and as it grew in popularity with the neighbors and locals and finally outgrew its backyard roots. After searching for a new “official” restaurant site, and gaining an investor this once small taco stand has grown into a full restaurant.
It doesn’t get more authentic than this. My Tuesday night foodie group chose Backyard Taco as our evening food destination. One of the things I love about AZ is the great Mexican food we have here. You can smell the Tacos al Carbon grilling as you walk up. They serve up fresh ingredients and have a great salsa bar. Eating the tacos here make me wish I was in Mexico chilling on the beach eating some yummy street food. Taco Tuesdays are $1.25 tacos during happy hour times. Great find!
A tamale is a traditional Mesoamerican dish made of masa, which is steamed or boiled in a leaf wrapper. It can be filled with meats, cheeses, fruits, vegetables or chilies.
I’m a huge tamale lover. It’s traditional for me to pick up a dozen or two before Christmas. I get them either from some of the hispanic ladies at my work or from Aunt Chilada’s. Every year before Christmas, Food City puts on this Tamale Festival. My mother wanted to go and we hung out and ate some good tamales while soaking in the hispanic culture.