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Desserts are simple. Look for Ben & Jerry's ice cream, or the house-made flan--intriguingly sweetened with a prickly pear syrup.
Carlsbad Tavern works on several levels. It's a fine watering hole with interesting appetizer munchies. The food is good enough for aficionados, but it shouldn't frighten your out-of-town guests. You can get late-night eats, and the price is certainly right. If you keep track of the Valley's best Mexican restaurants, add this one to your list.
Restaurant Sinaloa, 45 West Broadway, Mesa, 464-0024. Hours: Lunch and Dinner, Monday through Thursday, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.; Friday and Saturday, 10 a.m. to 11 p.m.; Sunday, 10 a.m. to 9 p.m.
45 W. Broadway Road
Mesa, AZ 85210
From the outside, Restaurant Sinaloa looks like the kind of place that many folks would instinctively drive past. Set in a somewhat forlorn section of Mesa, next to a liquor store/deli, it presents a very modest face to the world.
Inside, the scene may throw some people off, too. Restaurant Sinaloa makes no concessions to gringo aesthetic sensibilities. (Sinaloa, incidentally, is a coastal state, south of Sonora, Mexico.) You will stand out a bit if Spanish isn't your first language. On both our visits, we were the only native English speakers here. But the sweet servers put the linguistically challenged at ease. It also helps to have a taste for south-of-the-border music, which is played nonstop at heavy-metal decibel levels from a CD jukebox. And if you're concerned about secondhand smoke, you should know that Restaurant Sinaloa's clientele appears to be divided between those who are smoking and those who are just about to light up. (This will change, however, when Mesa's new nonsmoking ordinance goes into effect in a few weeks.)
Restaurant Sinaloa makes no concessions to gringo culinary sensibilities, either. If you want your ethnic food straight-up with no frills, the way it's served in a neighborhood place in the home country, this place should suit you perfectly.
Check out the Mexican beers, which you swig right out of the bottle. (Why should the kitchen wash glasses?) Fresh chips and a cold Bohemia are two of life's inexpensive little pleasures.
The kitchen concentrates on seafood. Ocean fare, we all know, isn't cheap. But Restaurant Sinaloa isn't spending a fortune on rent, plants or equipment, so it can keep prices down. Just about everything on the menu goes for under ten bucks.
Start off with a seafood cocktail: shrimp or octopus. Better yet, make it a camarones-pulpo combination. You get a big glass crammed full of refreshing aquatic life. The tomato broth it sits in is not as bold as I've had elsewhere--there's no chile bite or onion zip. A squeeze of lime helps.
If you're a bit more adventurous, try the starter of camarones ahogados--"stewed" shrimp. And stewed they are: raw, butterflied crustaceans in a pool of mouth-puckering lime juice, perked up with cucumber, onion and tomato. It's not terribly filling, but it is highly diverting.
Mexican seafood veterans should consider making camarones a la Diabla their entree. It's devilish, all right, and definitely not for the faint of tongue. You get seven meaty, in-the-shell shrimp in a fiery tomato sauce that doesn't know when to quit. Tasty rice, sliced fried potatoes, a bit of iceberg lettuce with ranch dressing and slices of orange and lime take up the rest of the plate.
Pescado a la Veracruzana is another dish experienced diners will take to. The pescado is tilapia, an inexpensive, farm-raised, white-fleshed fish, with a considerable number of bones. It's covered with onions, green peppers and olives (with the pits still in them). A word of caution for the squeamish: While you're looking at the fish, it's looking back at you--it comes with the head on.
If that's more authenticity than you can handle, have a filleted pescado al ajo, a breaded and fried boneless slab seasoned with garlic.
What I'd come back for, however, is the Seven Seas stew: snow crab, clams, scallops, shrimp, octopus and hunks of fish, in a mild tomato broth stocked with carrots and celery, all swimming in a huge metal bowl.
A few landlubber dishes are available, although I can't imagine why anyone would make a special trip here for them. Steak picado features shredded beef, chile and onion in a mildly flavorful sauce. The chile verde is routinely agreeable.
Restaurant Sinaloa isn't a transformative culinary experience. But if you like affordable Mexican seafood fare in a genuine south-of-the-border setting, it is an undeniably pleasant experience.
a la Diabla
a la Veracruzana
Seven Seas stew 9.95