Lucha Libre Tastes Better When You’re In The Golden Booth

Posted by Shawn | Posted in Mexican | Posted on 11-05-2012

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lucha-libre

This past week a good friend and coworker decided to pack up and leave San Diego for Detroit. I know, I know… who the hell would do that right? Whatever his reasons we decided to treat him to a lunch fit for a king and that meant only one place – Lucha Libre. At the intersection of India and Washington streets in Mission Hills, this place has been featured in Man vs. Food and various other media. It’s no secret to San Diego residents but fewer have ever been worthy enough to sit in the golden booth.

Thunder SEO in the Golden Booth at Lucha Libre

Complete with gold cups, a candelabra of salsa and a diamond-ish centerpiece, the glorious golden booth sits alone in all its glory (in the corner next to the soda machine). Reserved for champions only (or anyone who makes a reservation), the booth was a perfect way to send Kevin off in style.

Tacos at Lucha Libre

Ok enough of that. On to the food. Lucha Libre makes a damn tasty burrito like their Surfin’ California. Filled with grilled steak, shrimp, french fries, pico de gallo, cheese and a chipotle sauce, this burrito featured by Adam on Man vs. Food is a winner. I personally go for the Classic California burrito because I like to stay away from shrimp in my Mexican food but anything on their menu is almost guaranteed to be good (and huge).

California Burrito

Other favorites here are the Tap Out Tacos and the Full Nelson Enchiladas. One huge plus to Lucha is their salsa bar in which I would be remiss if I didn’t mention. Next to the soda fountain (and Golden Booth!) is a bar of about 10 different salsas, each unique and completely different. Their mango salsa is amazing and a couple of their reds are good too but don’t miss out on their chipotle sauce. One meal for me usually means 5 salsas on 1 burrito (which sounds like the title of a food porno).

Salsa Bar at Lucha Libre in San Diego

Check Lucha Libre out next time you’re in Mission Hills or just driving by on the 5 freeway since it’s right off Washington.

The LuchadorThe Luchador pics in this place are great.

The Wall at Lucha LibreMore pictures of masked wrestlers to entertain you.

Racer 5 - Beer Selection at Lucha LibreGot to have some good beer to wash that California burrito down.

Brian Skarin Going to TownBrian Skarin going to town.

The Herb Box

Posted by Shawn | Posted in American, Mexican | Posted on 27-01-2011

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Butternut Squash Enchiladas at The Herb Box

Time for another Old Town Scottsdale review but I promise to explore outside of my square mile radius next time! For now though, I was excited about the recent opening of The Herb Box in the SouthBridge strip of Old Town after having eaten at their DC Ranch location before. SouthBridge has had a somewhat unlucky start with restaurants and shops either closing not long after they opened or staying open long enough to see the slow decline of business.  But I want this review to motivate you to go give some business to The Herb Box and keep them open so that I can continue to order what is arguably my favorite dish of 2011: The Butternut Squash Enchiladas. Yes, I am going to jump right in to the food.

The Herb Box in Old Town Scottsdale

Before I even get to the amazing patio and great wines available, let me first say that I went to this place knowing I was going to order these enchiladas.  I was tipped off by a fellow blogger Rodney (@TheLargWhiteMan as he’s known in Twitterland) who said that I had to try this.  I personally like to order other people’s recommendations because I not only might come across something really good but I can also judge that person based on how good the dish is. So Rodney…things are looking good for you at the moment.

Butternut Squash Enchiladas and Fiesta Salad

These Butternut Squash Enchiladas are basically corn tortillas wrapped around the butternut squash with spring onion and a tomatillo verde sauce.  The sauce is very tart just like you would expect from tomatillos but it makes for a great contrasting taste to the bit of spice that comes from the pepper placed on top and the sweetness of the squash. Mix that with the “fiesta” salad served with red peppers, cotija cheese and candied pecans and you have yourself one hell of a dish.  Not only do the two items come together really well but the portions were pretty large too!  Now maybe I had a little too much red wine that night but I honestly believe that was the best meal I’ve had so far this year, if not in the last few months alone.  I say “so far this year” because last year I went to some pretty cool places like New York and tried some of my bucket list restaurants.

Wine Glasses at The Herb Box

Now if I can backtrack I’d like to say that the location despite it’s reputation is beautiful.  Perched right on the canal with the lights from 5th avenue and the new Soleri Bridge, you couldn’t have a better setting for dinner in Scottsdale.  The place itself was done nicely too with a bar taking over the corner of the building that had access from both inside and outside, a cozy interior with plenty of tables and a marketplace in front where you can place pickup orders or stop in for some quick meal ideas.  The patio however was the winner in my opinion, and it wasn’t crowded when we went so we sat right next to the railing and quickly ordered some wines we had peaked at earlier.  Our waiter Scott was very nice and shared a few of his favorites on the menu to start off with but explained that they didn’t quite have everything in stock yet even though it might be on the menu.  For example, the cheese and charcuterie was a focal point on the menu but they only had cheeses at the time with no meats like prosciutto.

Smoked Gouda Mac and Cheese at The Herb Box

We decided on the Smoked Gouda Mac & Cheese to start off with which turned out to be a solid choice.  Topped with crispy breadcrumbs and rosemary, this mac and cheese was good but since it was a side dish and not an appetizer, it was a bit small to share between 2 people.  One of Scott’s favorites was the Smoked Trout Beignets served with roasted red pepper aioli, but my dining partner Becky was ordering Salmon so we went ahead and ordered our entrees.

Indian Spiced Salmon at The Herb Box

You already know about my dish but Becky ordered the Indian Spiced Salmon served with mustard seed Yukon potatoes, wilted purple cabbage and a cilantro-mint pesto.  Unfortunately, Becky said the salmon was a bit bland which was surprising since usually anything with Indian spices is anything but bland.  The potatoes were good though and so was the cabbage mix but for $19 it was not enough.  Luckily though, the Butternut Squash Enchiladas are the cheapest entree on the menu so there’s another reason to try them!

Blueberry and Cream Whoopie at The Herb Box

After everything we tried there wasn’t a lot of room left for dessert, but they do have some tempting ones like their S’mores Creme Brulee and Warm Pear Chocolate Crisp served with honey ice cream.  They also had some good treats in the front marketplace like the Blueberry Cream Whoopie pictured above. In the end though, we were plenty satisfied with our food and drink choices and had a great time at The Herb Box. If anyone does give them a visit, please let me know what you tried because I will definitely be going back and I can’t wait to judge you.

Tip: If you can’t make it for dinner, the marketplace in front is open at 8am weekdays for coffee and pastries or the restaurant is open for brunch on Sundays.

http://theherbbox.com/

7134 E. Stetson Drive
Scottsdale, AZ

Via Delosantos

Posted by Shawn | Posted in Mexican | Posted on 26-10-2010

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Margarita at Via Delosantos

I’ve never seen a Mexican restaurant with a bigger menu than Via Delosantos and when it came to deciding on a plate, I was no closer after 5 minutes than I was at the beginning. Everything sounded good but that was partly due to me holding off on lunch in preparation for a Mexican fiesta. The menu offered all kinds of combinations of the main items (tacos, burritos, tamales, enchiladas, tostadas, etc.) just like most Mexican places, but they also had some fresh ideas like the Spinach and Asparagus enchilada. The reason I point this out is that to many, Mexican dishes are so similar to each other that sometimes it doesn’t really matter what you order, because you know you’ll be getting some combination of cheese, meat and vegetables on a tortilla. But in my mind, Mexican food can be so versatile depending on the way its prepared, cooked and paired with outside ingredients. I feel like Via Delosantos understands this because they offer some very fun dishes and don’t fall into the boring category of Mexican food you can find anywhere.

Patio at Via Delosantos

After reading a lot of reviews on Yelp, I came across a common theme saying the green chile was something I had to try there. With that goal in mind, we walked in and went straight for the patio because it was a perfect, cool evening and seemed like a perfect opportunity to enjoy a margarita. Little did I know (I discovered this after we got the bill) that margaritas were only $2.99! Every day! That’s dirt cheap to me, having lived in Scottsdale most of my adult life where a margarita requires a $10 bill. And the better part is that Via Delosantos proudly boasts more than 150 different types of tequila (proven in some of the pictures), so off the bat they have earned a point from me.

tequila

Our waitress brought out some chips and salsa with two kinds to dip into: a mild but very good one I would describe as chunky yet smooth (does that even make sense?), and a spicy one with the consistency of crushed tomatoes. We immediately ordered a cheese crisp to start as we looked at the menu because one of our group came here regularly and knew what to order. She was no help however when it came to deciding on my dinner because it turned out she has always stuck with the same tested and proven item: the Chicken Enchilada.

Chicken Enchilada

I eventually decided on a combination plate, #5, that included a green chile tamale, cheese enchilada and bean tostada.  Having followed Yelp’s advice on this one, I was eager to get to that green chile tamale.  In the meantime, our cheese crisp came and it looked like any other cheese crisp (it’s cheese melted on a tortilla, how else could it look?) but it had a bit more depth to it than others.  Spread some of that good mild salsa on it and you got one hell of a starter.  To top it all off, my margarita came out at the same time and I was feeling better about skipping lunch that day.  My friend Jeff decided to go with the Via Mexico, a platter of mini items like the mini shredded beef tacos, mini chimichangas and mini enchiladas.  I think it even had 2 mini tamales.  His direct quote once he started eating: “I keep finding food under other Mexcian food!”. Needless to say, I was a little jealous that he got to sample half the front page but he did wind up paying more than mine plus a margarita, so we were good.

Via Mexico

My dish came out and I was so eager to try the tamale I didn’t let Jeff get a good picture of it before I had dug in.  The tamale was excellent and I smiled up at Katie (the regular to the restaurant) while she nodded with approval.  Worth the drive in my opinion.  It was thicker than most tamales I’ve had and the corn wasn’t overcooked as sometimes happens with this dish.  My fork would cut through the tamale easily, but the bite would hold its shape at the same time.  The green chile was also as good as promised.  The sauce had a thick consistency to it as if flour was added to it like a roux, but it was a perfect companion to the rest of the dish.  The enchilada was also very good while the tostada wasn’t all that impressive, but overall I was happy with my choice.

Dusty

The rest of the experience I would describe as relaxed.  The patio was calm and we had Katie’s dog Dusty with us for his first Food Revu which he handled like a champ.  The inside of the restaurant is dimly lit but comfortable until you see the tequila bar which shines like a neon beacon.  You can tell they really are proud of their tequila selection.  The bartender Eddie was laid back and answered a few questions for us before chatting with us about the football game on TV.  Looking around you got the sense that this was a local’s hangout but could meet the expectations of first time visitors. I would definitely say that if you’re in the area and looking for a drink or some good Mexican, give them a visit.

Tip: Thursdays and Fridays bring a younger crowd at night with music played off the jukebox. Go these nights for a more lively dining experience.

http://www.viadelosantos.com/

9120 North Central Avenue
Phoenix, AZ 85020

Aunt Chilada’s

Posted by Shawn | Posted in Mexican | Posted on 18-08-2010

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Aunt Chilada's Flour Chips

Giant sized portions of food, delicious flour tortilla chips, tasty margaritas and some killer spicy salsa to top it all off…you’ve got yourself a great night at Aunt Chilada’s.  I want to personally thank the people behind the Twitter accounts @Woolymanphx and @AuntChiladas for getting me to go outside my normal rotation of Mexican restaurants.  I had a great time and a full stomach after leaving what seemed like a perfect spot for happy hour (my next intended visit).

Let’s talk food.  I was given a recommendation to try the Machaca burro, Chimichanga style and the chips and salsa that come standard for the table.  My first thought was that I’ve had so many “chips and salsa” combinations before that I wouldn’t see anything too different.  But then I started to read some reviews on Yelp and I kept running into people saying that the chips were a highlight of the dinner.  So with my expectations a little high, I dove into the bowl before my friends had a chance and tasted them without salsa first.  Wow, seriously good.  In the bowl was a mix of flour and corn tortilla chips, the corn being the chips I’m accustomed to and the flour a sort of flaky, soft version which probably means they spent more time in the fryer.  They also came out with a mild salsa (with olives in it which was a first for me) and a spicy salsa that was more smooth.  These were some seriously good chips; the kind that could ruin dinner because you can’t stop eating them.

Don Julio Margarita

As we were enjoying the chips, our waiter Todd brought out the margaritas we ordered made with Don Julio tequila and Grand Marnier.  He did a great job of making us feel welcome and he even shared some stories of a resident spirit said to haunt the place at night.  The more margaritas we drank, the more I believed him.  Then he brought us the three plates we ordered, but it easily looked as if it could have fed the family of 5 next to us.  Huge portions!  The Machaca chimchanga came out with a heap of guacamole, cheese, pico de gallo and chives on top served next to some interesting rice that had the length of noodles but tasted good.  My friends ordered The Dos, a combo of tostada and enchilada with rice and beans which looked good as well.  All the food was good and the machaca was some of the best I’ve had anywhere.  I still wasn’t sure about the rice, but it didn’t matter because I had 2 lbs of chimichanga to work with.

Machaca Chimichanga at Aunt Chilada's

Aunt Chilada’s had a pretty cool vibe going for themselves too.  I would definitely classify them as a local hangout more than a place for tourists, but I’m sure some tourists find their way since the Pointe Hilton Squaw Peak is across the street.  Outside they have a large patio and bar area with Bocce Ball courts.  Yes, I said Bocce Ball!  After a strong margarita, Bocce Ball seemed to be the only thing that could complete a great meal.  Every Tuesday they have a Bocce tournament with the winners scoring some decent prizes, and I could tell some locals came to play.  We were approached by a few that gave us some tips and even told us we were doing it all wrong.  Turned out we were!

Bocce Ball

This place has my vote for a solid happy hour spot because of the games and patio, but also for a pretty cool place to have dinner and break the mold.  Friendly staff and good food might have pushed this place into my rotation after all.

Tip: Tuesday nights are bocce ball nights and Friday/Saturday nights they have live music (which attracts the cougars I’m told).

http://auntchiladas.com

7330 North Dreamy Draw Drive
Phoenix, Arizona 85020

Tee Pee Mexican Food

Posted by Shawn | Posted in Mexican | Posted on 14-06-2010

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TeePee chimi

Tee Pee Mexican Food is one of those little gems in Arcadia that has stood the test of time because of its food and not because of dollars spent on PR or marketing.  I haven’t seen them advertised on TV, featured in magazines or really even pop up online.  As far as I can see it’s been word of mouth and that suits them just fine, because they’ve been around for nearly 40 years and patrons still love them.

Tee Pee is situated on Indian School road and about 42nd Street, amongst gas stations, apartment complexes and small offices.  Basically you can tell they’ve been around longer than anyone else on the block and to me that means they know their Mexican food.  Stepping inside you’ll first see pictures of celebrities and countless others who have dined there, including George W Bush.  You kind of get the impression that you’re about to eat the same food recipes used 40 years ago.  In fact some family friends who have lived in Arizona for a while told us that the food hasn’t changed a bit; it’s still just as good as before.  My friend’s dad still orders the daily special which he’s been getting since the ‘70’s.

TeePee Sign

We sit down in a booth in a very crowded room with lots of chatter going on.  You can see everyone is having a good time.  Every other table has a pitcher or glasses of margaritas and my eyes get a little wider (margaritas are my weakness).  The place has a great atmosphere and there’s a definite buzz in the room (probably the margaritas).  As I look around I search for inspiration to change my usual order because when I go places I like to see what the whole menu has to offer, not just what I know is in my comfort zone.

My friend Becky on the other hand sticks to her usual, the Presidential Special.  Two enchiladas with rice and beans which come out looking like almost every other dish as you can see in the pictures.  Tee Pee loves to serve their food with a level of cheese covering most items on the dish so you get this flat looking plate.  But don’t be fooled, the food is delicious.  From their chili relleno to the corn tamale, everything has got plenty of flavor and is served in generous proportions.  Becky’s challenge every visit is to decide if she wants to finish the meal and go home half asleep or if she wants to save some for lunch the next day.

TeePee taco salad

Other than the great, traditional Mexican food you can order some pretty good margaritas and their beer selection is decent.  If the crowded room isn’t your style, they have a bar with a few televisions that fits the ‘40 years in the business’ profile and feels comfortable.  In fact every visit feels like a family gathering.  So give Tee Pee a visit and make sure to spread the word because this place deserves it.

Tip: Go on Tuesdays to enjoy $2 margaritas, burros and cheese crisps

http://www.teepeemexicanfood.com/

4144 East Indian School Road
Phoenix, AZ 85018-5382