Best Nueva Mexican (2002)

Richardson's

So owner Richardson Browne has a sign in his restaurant that reads, in Spanish, "Restaurant critics can kiss my ass." So he celebrated a former New Times Best of Phoenix designation by mounting the plaque on a toilet seat in his rest room. So he bluntly warns diners that his chile policy is: You Order It, You Own It. It's all fair warning that Richardson's isn't about pandering to fussy clientele. Here's a restaurant with food so good it stands on its own merits, take it or leave it.

We'll take it, and gladly, welcoming the foghorn blast of searing Hatch chiles that sounds through almost every dish. Such New Mexican cuisine is painful but addictive, from a glorious fiery green chile stew stocked with beef tenderloin, potatoes, carrots and Cheddar to a classy chimayo chicken, plump with spinach, sun-dried tomatoes, poblano chile and Asiago cheese.

Everything is so good that Browne has been known to get in fights with copycat restaurateurs over his trademark touches: green chiles stuffed with mashed potatoes, tomatillo toast with sautéed chicken and ham, and red chile primavera topped with artichoke hearts, portobello mushrooms, spinach and goat cheese in a white wine tomato broth.

There's no argument in our minds. Let others copy away. Our original is always Richardson's.

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