Call me a shameless arugula eater, but I still can't get over the Obama family's choice of dinner destination when they were in Phoenix this past Saturday night: Macayo's Mexican Kitchen on Central Avenue, the flagship among the Southwestern chain's 18 locations. Seriously?
Sure, Macayo's has been around long enough to be an "institution" -- a few years back, I learned that there's been a longtime rivalry between Macayo's and El Charro in Tucson over who invented the chimichanga.
But on Facebook, Twitter, and Yelp, local food fanatics are (rightly) freaking out over the President's decision to eat mediocre chain-restaurant Mexican food instead of something that locals are proud of. (Reminds me of the No Reservations episode where Tony Bourdain finally makes his way to Phoenix and ends up eating a hot dog at Cooperstown. Wah wah waaaaaah...)
President Obama eats at top restaurants in other cities. A few months ago, on a trip to New York City, he stopped by celebrated chef Dan Barber's Greenwich Village restaurant Blue Hill.
Just think of all the good spots he could hit up the next time he's in town. Here are a few that come to mind:
1.) Tradiciones. This Mexican spot attached to the Ranch Market at 16th Street and Roosevelt is always a sure hit for out-of-towners -- much more festive than Macayo's, and they even have mariachis.
2.) Or better yet, how about the classy Mexican cuisine at Barrio Cafe, where chef Silvana Salcido Esparza cooks up legendary cochinita pibil (slow-roasted pork)?
3.) Carolina's is a local institution, too. Yeah, the interior's shabby as all get-out, but who can resist those freshly griddled tortillas? There's a reason they have such a cult following.
4.) Gallo Blanco Cafe. Chef Doug Robson's new joint at the Clarendon just rocks. Nope, they don't serve burritos, but the street tacos, served on just-made tortillas, are out of this world. And the french fries here have got to be better than Macayo's (yep, the Obama girls ordered fries).
5.) Bush might've eaten at Tee Pee, and Clinton at Poncho's, but who says the Prez has to do Mexican food in Phoenix, anyway? If he'd asked his friend Oprah Winfrey, she would've insisted he try Pizzeria Bianco, the most famous restaurant in town.
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6.) President Obama likes Southern food, and he likes sports, so some killer fried chicken and red velvet cake at Lo-Lo's Chicken & Waffles -- a favorite among pro athletes -- would've hit the spot.
7.) NOCA. Not only do some of Phoenix's most enthusiastic foodies eat here regularly, many of them bring their kiddies along with them. No doubt the Obama girls would dig the cotton candy.
8.) Nobody at Macayo's (except the waitresses) caught a glimpse of the Obamas because they ate in a private upstairs dining room. If privacy is a concern, they could take up the whole basement level at the Rokerij, where a cool fireplace and copper bar make it feel like a private club.