Flavors from Oaxaca, Cuba, and Yucatan add depth to Fuego Tacos' menu of gourmet Mexican fare, including croquettes, seafood dishes, and the eponymous tacos. Tasty fillings such as Dr. Pepper–braised short ribs and tilapia encrusted with panko breadcrumbs can be stuffed into two tacos or one burrito at customers' discretion, and entrees of roast-pork sandwiches, seafood, and pasta blend Caribbean and South American culinary sensibilities on singular platters. From stools beneath a brick archway, diners select their meals, their eyes drinking in the chocolate-hued wooden counter that reflects the glow of orange pendant lights and patrons covered in phosphorescent body paint.
At Fuego Cityscape—Fuego Tacos sassy sister restaurant—guests dine alfresco, shaded from the sun by the cloth umbrellas that tower over the front patio. They clink glasses of blackberry mojitos and jalapeno-infused margaritas over plates of inventive dishes from a Mexican and southwest-inspired menu, such as chipotle cream pasta and green-chile beef sliders.
Donna DiFiore's metaphorical journey into the restaurant business began with an actual journey. When her friend Elissa told her she was going on a road trip across the country from her hometown in chilly Massachusetts, Donna agreed to join—unaware that she was about discover her life's calling and a new home.
When the women stopped in Tucson, Donna didn't want to leave. As she explained to reporters from Tucson Weekly, "I arrived here—it was Halloween Eve in '76—and everybody was wearing shorts, and it was just gorgeous." Donna took a job at a local eatery, working the floor, serving customers, and eventually rising to the head of the restaurant.
Thirty-eight years later, Donna continues to captain Delectables, which has become a bit of an iconic gathering spot for old and young alike. Returning visitors linger over glasses of wine at the rustic wooden bar, reminiscing over the crème brûlée and live jazz they enjoyed from that very same spot years ago. University students bask beneath the lush foliage of the outdoor patio, awaiting meals of Mexican enchiladas, Italian pastas, and French bistro specialties. Chefs bustle about the kitchen seven days a week, beginning each day by whipping up hearty egg breakfasts before moving onto internationally inspired lunches and dinners. Late in the night on Friday and Saturday, they simmer up an after-dark menu of eclectic nibbles and entrees.
The restaurant is housed in a historical, renovated Harley-Davidson showroom and abounds with unusual knickknacks and antiques, from a cash register from an old hotel in Santa Cruz to a walk-in refrigerator from 1898. Many of the wares and coffee mugs were created by local artists, and the mesquite planks that serve as plates were carved by local craftsmen. The airy space plays hosts to special events throughout the week, including live music from local artists, poetry slams with local poets, and boxing matches between local librarians.
Hidden behind an unassuming A-frame exterior, The Original Blue Adobe Grille surprises guests with colorful decor and a variety of innovative twists on New Mexican cuisine. From appetizers such as green chile lobster dip to entrees such as the Blue Adobe burger cooked over a pecan-wood grill, the restaurant's surprising eats earned them a mention in Jane and Michael Stern's survey of American cuisine, 500 Things to Eat Before It's Too Late. Other menu favorites include shrimp enchiladas stuffed into blue corn tortillas and rims of salt served with margaritas to wash it down. Composed of a blue peaked roof and white stucco siding, The Original Blue Adobe Grille's outside belies its more exciting interior, where stained glass windows and colorful chandeliers illuminate a room filled with reds, oranges, and pinks—a spectrum reflected in the handwritten chalkboard menu announcing the daily specials.
Arizona shares more than a border with the Mexican state of Sonora. Though they belong to different countries, the two states share the same desert topography and, thus, many of the same culinary traditions. Valle Luna highlights and celebrates these traditions with a menu of Sonoran–style tacos, sopas, and pedazos inspired by the rare genius of its founder, Tia Rita. Surprisingly, Valle Luna’s story began not in Arizona but in upstate New York. Tia journeyed to Syracuse in the 1970s, bringing with her the recipes she gleaned from her childhood in the Sonoran Desert. After earning a number of awards and accolades in New York, Tia returned to warmer climes and founded the original Valle Luna on West Bell Road in Phoenix, where her food continued earn rave reviews until her passing in 2008. Today, Tia's family carries on her legacy at three locations spread across the Valley. They’ve even added to her original menu, crafting such genre-defying dishes as Mexican potato skins, choco tacos, and salsa-stuffed piñatas.
Following Baja Fresh’s ethos set in 1990 as a healthy take on fast food, never-frozen meats sizzle atop the grill before they're tucked into made-to-order tacos and burritos. Grilled corn and flour tortillas embrace fish, carnitas, chicken, and steak, and smoky queso fundido sidles onto nachos and into burritos. Between bites, chips scoop up salsa made from farm-fresh produce rather than poured out of a can or fabricated in a space-age replicator. A complimentary salsa bar ensures no mouthful goes unspiced, and guests can scoop up their favorites as they await their dine-in, takeout, or catering orders.
A 6.5-pound behemoth of a burrito can really only have one name: the Big Papi. At Papi Chulo's Mexican Grill & Cantina these giants of gastronomy, which were recently featured in Phoenix Magazine, are waiting to be conquered by challengers willing to dethrone current champion Stephanie Torres, a competitive eater who has appeared in the Nathan's Famous Women's Hot Dog Eating World Championship. On the regular menu, Papi Chulo's executive chef combines Mexican tradition with Sonoran familiarity to craft authentic Southwestern dishes with a down-home feel. The staff serves regular lunch specials, Mexican favorites such as chiles rellenos, and breakfast specialties including huevos rancheros and chorizo and eggs.
Inside the spacious dining room, imported Mexican furniture sits below exposed wooden beams bearing wrought-iron chandeliers ideal for illuminating a special meal or supporting the weight of a masked Zorro impersonator. Attended by a sunny wait staff, the bar slings specialty margaritas and happy-hour specials every day that patrons can enjoy indoors or on the outdoor patio in full view of Camelback Mountain. Papi Chulo's also hosts regular events including poker nights on Mondays and live comedy every Friday and Saturday night in the Speak Easy Lounge located inside the restaurant.