If you visit the Southwest, enjoying a meal of top-notch Southwest fare should be high on your must-do list. Southwest fare differentiates itself by its use of several ingredients, including chiles. It also often utilizes the “three sisters”—corn (usually blue), beans and squash, which were staples of local agriculture. Think hearty fare with spicy edge. Throughout the state there are several standout restaurants.
Those in the mood for Tortilla Soup with rotisserie chicken, avocado and tortilla chips; Slow Roasted Pork Shoulder Carnitas with black beans and fresh hot buttered flour tortillas; or Grilled Fish Tacos served on corn tortillas with guacamole, corn pico, remoulade and salsa verde can stop by Roaring Fork in Scottsdale. Here, the wood-fired cooking captures the spirit of bold American cuisine—lamb, chicken, beef, pork and fish entrees are prepared by wood-fire rotisserie, open-flame grill or wood-oven roasting.
SIERRA BONITA GRILL
Named for (and inspired by) the oldest, continuous family-run ranch in Arizona, Phoenix’s Sierra Bonita Grill serves up the perfect dose of Southwestern charm and food. Find the flavors of the Southwest in choices such as the Smoked Red or Green Chile Pork Roast with charro beans, tomato rice, salsa fresca and a flour tortilla. The From the Ranch selections include a variety of meats, and the guacamole starter is made with a “molcajete” (mortar and pestle).
GHOST RANCH: MODERN SOUTHWEST CUISINE
At Ghost Ranch, they claim to bring “the untamed flavors of the Southwest to South Tempe”—and they do. The menu reflects the multicultural history of the region with a selection of hearty cowboy steaks, taco platters, and house specialties such as the Aztec Cake, with layered tortillas, pulled chicken, roasted green chile, sweet corn and cheese blend. Brunch options include the Ghost Ranch Breakfast, with a blue corn quesadilla, braised greens, beans, adobo pork, sunny-side-up eggs, pico de gallo, avocado, crispy parsley and Christmas sauce.
Old and New World culinary traditions are celebrated at Phoenix’s Taco Guild, which is housed in a historic church circa 1893 that still includes original stained-glass windows, a wood-beamed ceiling, original floor and other mementos. Traditional Mexican techniques meld the best of classic and modern flavors, with a menu that offers an extensive list of taco options, and special dishes such as The Guild Bowl with quinoa, beans, pico de gallo, cilantro, corn, plantains, tortillas and choice of protein. The weekend brunch menu includes options such as the Fried Tamale Cubano Egg Benedict (slow-roasted pork, ham, Swiss cheese, Dijon sauce over fried corn tamale with chile and cheese, topped with poached eggs and hollandaise sauce, and served with papas bravas).
OLD TOWN TORTILLA FACTORY
Set in a historic 75-year-old Scottsdale adobe home, with a large patio shaded by 100-year-old pecan trees, Old Town Tortilla Factory is known not only for its entrees such as Pasta Calabacitas (garlic-rubbed chicken with corn, squash, chiles, onions and chipotle sour cream sauce) and Achiote Ribs (pork ribs broiled then glazed with achiote BBQ sauce, served with Southwestern coleslaw and homemade shoestring fries), but also its margaritas filled with a variety citrusy flavors, and its homemade tortillas.
The mission at Canyon Cafe in Phoenix is to “skillfully prepare and creatively present food and beverages influenced by the American Southwest.” The food relies on Mexico’s heritage, influenced by Spanish Native American and Western U.S. cultures, with Bison Meatloaf (ground bison meatloaf with peppers, bacon and onions, served with roasted tomato BBQ sauce, chile mashed potatoes and chef ’s vegetables) and Pecan-Crusted Crab Cake (sweet potato, poblano peppers, charred corn and pecan-panko crust, tossed greens, fruit salsa, snakebite beans and Southwest remoulade sauce). There are also quesadillas, tacos and more.
RICHARDSON’S CUISINE OF NEW MEXICO
This Phoenix destination serves up Southwest fare among Southwest decor, including Saltillo tile and colorful woven rugs. Richardson's menu offers choices such as the New Mexican Surf & Turf, which features beef tenderloin, two bacon-wrapped jumbo shrimp, and three flat chorizo enchiladas with red or green chile; and the Roasted Pork Molé, with green mole, finished with pumpkin seeds and served with black beans, rice and a flour tortilla—not to mention the Green Chile Potato.
Up in Northern Arizona, find authentic fare at Elote Cafe in Sedona. Owned by best-selling cookbook author chef Jeff Smedstad, this restaurant features Southwestern and Mexican cuisine made from seasonal, locally grown ingredients. Menu options include Smoked Brisket Enchiladas (14-hour smoked Niman Ranch beef brisket with roasted tomato chipotle sauce and crema) and Sea Bass Asado (grilled adobo-seasoned wild corvina sea bass with salsa verde and lime aioli).