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.
El Hefe combines the best of two worlds—the rhythmic dance tracks and drinks of a lively nightclub, and the meaty, peppery cuisine of Mexico and the American Southwest. Quesadillas filled with shredded chicken tinga and prime steak tortas pair perfectly with sports on flatscreen TVs or icy chelada cocktails. Revelers lounge in wraparound booths covered with funky floral prints and gold lamé, helping themselves to pints of beer from the tableside taps, which eliminate the long waits and intricate hand signals required to order at a noisy bar. And as diners chat, servers carry out rustic wooden trays bearing treasures of angus beef burgers topped with jalapeno marmalade, tacos filled with duck carnitas or pork al pastor, and Sonoran-style hot dogs wrapped in bacon and smothered in tomatillo avocado salsa.
Nighttime finds DJs spinning club music as lights swirl above the dance floor, bathing revelers in rhythmic beats and streaks of neon. Party guests toast potent house tequila cocktails or fishbowl glasses of beergarita--garnished with a dusting of salt and an upside-down bottle of beer.
"Best Bartender," "Best Margarita," and "Best Bar Patio." These are just a few of the awards with which locals have decorated Loco Patron in recent years. Unsurprisingly, the combination of talented bartenders, outdoor seating, and signature drinks such as the Sweet Heat margarita with organic chili liqueur have made the spot a popular after-work hangout for groups of friends.
People don't only come for the booze, though. They also come for cuisine such as the crunchy pork taco with arbol sauce, which won first place at the Arizona Taco Festival in 2011. Diners can choose from other taco fillings, too, including New York strip steak or lobster. The menu also includes house specialty enchiladas and house salads, like the spicy steak and the chicken salad, both of which are considered hidden gems by Loco Patron regulars.
Named for a Spanish legend about the romance between a sailor and a mermaid, Salty Senorita encourages guests to fall in love with their over 50 hand crafted margaritas instead. Waiters carry deep bowls of guacamole with handmade tortilla chips, plates of shrimp and mango quesadillas, and 11 kinds of tacos, which can be accompanied by 130 kinds of tequila and various mixed drinks. Waitresses' tank tops and short-shorts continue the beachside vibe created by shark frescos that sometimes fling seaweed at passersby.
The authentic offerings hat-dancing across Blue Burrito's menu marinate expectations in garlic and grill them into delicious oblivion (menus vary slightly by location). Appetize yourself with the complex complexion of a Mexican fajita pizza (double-layered tortilla pizza with grilled chicken or steak, pico de gallo, grilled peppers and onions, and melted cheese, $9.95), before boldly moving on to a specialty such as the two flautas and a taco platter, which comes chained to sides of Mexican rice, black or pinto beans, guacamole, sour cream, cheese, and tomato ($7.25).