Best AZ-MEX Restaurant (2002)
We're in for standard tacos, tamales, enchiladas, burros, tostadas and such, minus too much spicing or surprises. But we're also in for honest, well-flavored dishes that rely on fresh ingredients instead of gussied-up presentation or overpowering heat to wake us up.
The meals start with a freebie ramekin of bean dip, all creamy and deep with a vibrant chile punch. Then we head to the specialties, like an appealingly offbeat shrimp quesadilla, folded and stuffed with healthy portions of shrimp, cheese, silky seafood sauce and the unexpected spark of fresh mango cubes. Rellenos are superb, too, the roasted chiles plump with crab and creamy white sauce or bloated with cheese under a mild-mannered green sauce. And we're smitten with the spinach enchiladas, two slender bundles tucked with juicy leaves and draped in a delightful jalapeo cream cheese sauce.
For soul-satisfying Sonoran-style comfort food, we just call the Gecko: "Here, lizard, lizard . . ."