Best Downtown Lunch (2001)

El Portal

The new El Portal hasn't been in business long, but this little house turned eatery has become a fast favorite among the downtown crowd, with some of the best Mexican food anywhere in metro Phoenix. Maricopa County Supervisor Mary Rose Wilcox and her politico husband Earl refurbished the old, long-shuttered facility last year with simple booths and tables, accented with terra cotta tile. Parking is plentiful, but the place does fill up, and beware -- it closes at 2 p.m.

An early arrival is well worth it. (The cafe opens at 7:30 a.m., and breakfast, by the way, is served all day.) Service is quick and the menu complete -- from complimentary chips and salsa, through à la carte regulars such as tacos, burros and tostadas and combination plates with treats such as beef machaca. Drink refills arrive before you even ask, and if you're lucky, Mary Rose herself will bring your meal to the table.

Now that's what we call a good public servant!


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