Heat Stroke of Genius

Mi Casita worthy of hole-in-the-wall hall of fame

Onions or no, the chimi is perfect, fried just to golden. It's slender with gentle green chile and cheese, capped with handcrafted guacamole and sour cream, and sided by smoky, deep-flavored refried beans and fluffy rice. We savor the obese red beef enchilada, gorged with cheese in a robust, deeply metallic sauce. For just $2.50, de la Fuente sends out a delightful, filling plate of red chile, rice and beans ladled on a homemade, just-off-the-griddle flour tortilla. Fluffy, tender masa makes for tasty red and green tamales, while a chorizo-egg burro is full-flavored but mild enough for my Hawaiian buddy.

And my island friend is able to experience a torta, a Mexican sandwich that can be difficult to find around the Valley. To discover one this good is a celebration -- the thick, grilled bread sprawling with beefy-rich carne asada, crema, tomato and iceberg.

Great gulps of ice-cold water, sips of soda, dips of crunchy tortilla chips in thin, medium-heat salsa -- he is smiling again, our first lunch without him leaving full lobster-red in the face.

Mi Casita owner Regina de la Fuente keeps her hands full making delicious Sonoran dishes.
Erik Guzowski
Mi Casita owner Regina de la Fuente keeps her hands full making delicious Sonoran dishes.

Details

Green chile chimichanga combo $4.95
Red beef enchilada combo $4.95
Carne asada torta $3.50

602-253-0458. Hours: Breakfast and lunch, 6 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday through Friday

1127 East Mohave

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Though we don't actually leave right away. This time, after at least 10 minutes of "pumping the brake," I realize I've finally done it. This car isn't moving. We're parked in the shade (another major bonus for Mi Casita), but my friend is in meltdown. A team of firefighters pulls up next to us, arriving for takeout. They try to help, but no luck. So I go back inside and plead with de La Fuente to borrow her phone.

Phone? She laughs. After my first visit, she already considers me family. She sends me next door, where her clan owns Homer's Christian Auto Care. Damien de la Fuente runs over and, without chastising me for ignoring my car's longtime pleas for help, fixes my "dealer part-only" gears enough to get me home. No charge, but he strongly suggests I get to my dealership soon.

And so we learn. My friend believes me when I say, in Arizona, summer is sizzling and should not be taunted by trying to eat without A/C. I believe my car when it sends polite distress signals, and I promise not to abuse it again. And I believe, yes I believe, that I am blessed to have another excellent little hole-in-the-wall Mexican restaurant to add to my list of haunts. This one, year-round.

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