When we moved from Tucson to Chandler last year, the last thing I thought I would have trouble with would be finding a decent, authentic Mexican restaurant. I mean, it wasn’t like we were moving to Seattle, we were still in the southwest, and there are plenty of authentic people of Mexican heritage here. But it has been trouble.
Some background. Our first night in Tucson in 2003, we walked from the hotel about a block and into Casa Molina. It was Sonoran style Mexican food, and we loved it (they also made kick-ass house margaritas). We dined there all the time, and greatly enjoyed the cuisine. Not quite a hole in the wall, it was a family owned establishment, and had been a fixture on the east side of Tucson since 1947.
When we moved to Chandler, we started looking for our new Mexican restaurant. I tried Diegos (when I was commuting) in Mesa, and wasn’t impressed. There was a little place not far from our house called Cafe Posada, that was passable (but not great. Anyone who puts carrots and peas in their spanish rice is meh). But they went belly up, and we had do hunt.
There are some great places that sell “street taco” style food. Order and wait for it to come up, but that never really scratched the itch.
The problem isn’t that there aren’t Mexican restaurants, it is just that most of them are chains, and are too slick, too polished, and have so so food.
Last night, for our anniversary, we tried another place. Yelp! had it rated good (3.5 stars) and the reviews were good. It is a local franchise, called Nando’s. The food was good, tasty, well cooked, and almost authentic. They have great margaritas, and we really enjoyed the decor.
We will certainly go back, often. But I am still looking for my “hole in the wall” Mexican restaurant. My latest theory is that the part of the valley that we live in 20 years ago was pretty much all farmland. There aren’t many places that have been here 20+ years, to acquire that homey feel.
I am not giving up though.