10 Best Places to Eat and Drink Cactus in Metro Phoenix

You drive by prickly pear cactus everyday in the Valley. But chances are you didn't know every part of the plant is edible, and chefs around the Valley are making use of the Arizona native in their restaurants.

We're not just talking about prickly pear margaritas, either. (Though there's a very good one on this list.)

Nopales are the flat pads of the cactus, and prickly pear, or tuna in Spanish, is the bright purple or red oval fruit that grow on the cactus. They can be found in pretty much all Mexican grocery stores. But if you'd rather leave the dirty work to someone else, we've got you covered. Here are our 10 favorite places to eat cactus in Phoenix.

See also: 10 Best Indian Restaurants in Metro Phoenix

Asi es la Vida Nopales and a plate of melted cheese, what can be better? The queso fundido from Asi es la Vida is a rich starter with Chihuahua cheese, which is similar to Monterey jack. Eat it with chips, or wrap it up in a hot tortilla.

Los Reyes de la Torta Don't think Los Reyes is only about tortas. Order the nopales con pollo plate, and make your own nopal tacos. The nopales are the best part of the dish with their chili seasoning and smoky flavor. We squeezed some lime on top and couldn't get enough. The preparation of this plate of nopales was one of our favorites.

Courtyard Café at Heard Museum There's something so classy about sitting outside on a beautiful Arizona day, sipping on prickly pear lemonade. It might look like pink lemonade, but the flavor is so much more fun. At first drink we were anticipating a tart flavor to hit, but it was only sweet going down. We've heard prickly pear described as a cross between watermelon and bubble gum, and we won't argue with that.

The Heard doesn't stop at the prickly pear lemonade. Their barbecue pulled pork torta with prickly pear barbecue sauce and cole slaw was delicious. The natural sweetness of the prickly pear fruit was so much better than the sugary, honey taste in most other sauces. Our bread was wet with the sauce, and soaked up all the sweet and savory flavors of the sandwich.

Barrio Queen Three different nopal tacos can be found on the menu at Barrio Queen, and all three left us wishing for bigger portion sizes. The salmon and nopal taco had a bit of sweetness mixed with the salmon flavor. Nopales, sautéed onions and peppers, and tomatoes with a bit of cheese filled our second taco. The nopales still had a bite to them, making a nice contrast between the soft peppers and onions. A fried egg topped the last nopal taco. That last taco is a modern version of the scrambled eggs and nopales we used to have for breakfast.

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Natalie Miranda

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