The Guilty Pleasure: Sour Cream Enchiladas Where To Get It: Los Olivos, two Scottsdale locations (but you want the original one in Old Town) Price: $7.95-$13.95, depending on your combination plate of choice. What It Really Costs: A whole day's worth of calories on one convenient plate.
I have come to realize that old-school Sonoran food is much like another staple of growing up in Arizona, The Wallace and Ladmo Show. For those who grew up with it, it's mother's milk, a fond reminder of much simpler times in this town. Those who are introduced to it later in life usually indulge the wishes of their native friends, albeit a bit begrudgingly.
It's a scene that every native Arizonan has staged countless times. We natives order (as always) a cheese crisp for the appetizer (but that's another column), damn the staggering calories of the main dish. We reminisce (again) about when the hot salsa was really hot (it wasn't, our taste buds were just young and sensitive), and then we regale our friends (yet again) with the story of the time we were at the State Fair watching the Wallace and Ladmo live show and Ladmo was THIS close to handing us the Holy Grail of Phoenix childhood, the Ladmo Bag. Our non-native friends are left to smile and nod as politely as they can.
To those who have lived in Arizona long enough, old-school Sonoran food is a topic that brings up strong opinions. It's like New Yorkers fighting over which corner has the best pizza. Everyone swears that the one they grew up with is THE best one in town, and all others are but a pale imitation. Truth be told, most of the Mexican places in this town that have been open for decades are pretty darn good.
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While I can be found with some regularity at a good number of the old-school Mex joints across town, I have an especially soft spot for Los Olivos in downtown Scottsdale. Yes, there is the newer northern location, but the original has exponentially more charm (read: kitschy architecture). It's tucked away next to the parking garage for the Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts and SMoCA complex. Not only do they serve superlative cheese crisps (but that's another column), they have something unique: Sour cream enchiladas.
The sour cream enchilada is almost a Mexican version of macaroni and cheese. It's a typical enchilada preparation, but the filling is sour cream and cheese, the sauce is verde, and there's even more sour cream dolloped on top. It's creamy, it's rich, it's Southwestern comfort food par excellence. The quintessential accompanying trio of Spanish rice, lava-hot refried beans, and shredded iceberg lettuce with a lone olive completes a quintessential Arizona dinner.
So, all of you expatriates from around the country, please be understanding when we natives want to hit our favorite old-school Sonoran place that covers everything in a blanket of shredded yellow cheese. We find the traditions you grew up with to be equally bizarre.