What is it that makes a quesadilla so compelling? There's not much to it -- a flour tortilla smothered in cheese, maybe some meat, maybe some vegetables, folded and grilled. But when a chef gets creative with those fillings, a quesadilla can be a real creation.

And in the case of Tequila Grill, that chef is us. It's like building our own pizza, with a stunning list of custom ingredients. Start with the tortillas: spinach and herb, sun-dried tomato, Southwest chile pepper or flour. Then the meats: marinated beef or chicken, ancho pork or shrimp. Veggies are next: spinach, red onion, jalapeños, portobello mushroom, corn, roasted garlic, roasted peppers, green chiles or tomatoes. Finally, there's the cheese to bind it all together: Monterey Jack, smoked Gouda, Cheddar, or jalapeño havarti. Delicious work, if we do say so ourselves.

Old Town Gringos
We could do without the party crowd here, like the kids who drink tequila out of each other's belly buttons. But there's no discounting the quality of the tacos, served Rocky Point-style with seasoned cabbage and cilantro. The six-inch tortillas are cheap and hefty, $1.70 for marinated steak, charbroiled chicken or chorizo sausage. For just a few pennies more, we get fresh fish or ceviche. And if we're really hungry, we pony up a whopping $2.95 for a fajita taco, twice the portion of steak or chicken, paired with pico, sautéed pepper and onions. Even better, Dos Gringos serves until 1 a.m. every day. Just remember, it's BYOBB (bring your own belly button).
We could do without the party crowd here, like the kids who drink tequila out of each other's belly buttons. But there's no discounting the quality of the tacos, served Rocky Point-style with seasoned cabbage and cilantro. The six-inch tortillas are cheap and hefty, $1.70 for marinated steak, charbroiled chicken or chorizo sausage. For just a few pennies more, we get fresh fish or ceviche. And if we're really hungry, we pony up a whopping $2.95 for a fajita taco, twice the portion of steak or chicken, paired with pico, sautéed pepper and onions. Even better, Dos Gringos serves until 1 a.m. every day. Just remember, it's BYOBB (bring your own belly button).
Tilted Kilt Pub and Eatery
Coyote Grill's menu warns us that mescal is a "less smooth" tequila. We wonder if owner Chris Harter will step up and pay our dentist bill when we need to have the enamel on our teeth replaced after kicking back a shot of his Dos Gusanos. The liquor -- plumped up with two worms per bottle -- is a taste we haven't quite acquired. Likely the worms aren't too thrilled about it, either.

That's okay, though, because Harter gives us some 110 other tequila varieties from which to choose. And most of them are so smooth that we actually savor them, sipping them slowly to nourish their agave character. There's blanco and plata (silver and white, not aged), reposado (aged in oak for up to a year) and anejo (under the strictest scrutiny of the Mexican government to ensure its superior quality). For the big spenders, the Coyote also offers $145-a-shot super-premium José Cuervo 1800 Colección, of which Cuervo releases only a few hundred bottles a year.

Mescal usually is doctored with sugar, fruit, herbs and nuts to make it more pleasant to drink. When we're really wussy, we go for the less bitter dessert tequilas -- coquila (coffee, chocolate and cream), rose (strawberry and cream) and almendrado (almond). And hold the worm.

Coyote Grill's menu warns us that mescal is a "less smooth" tequila. We wonder if owner Chris Harter will step up and pay our dentist bill when we need to have the enamel on our teeth replaced after kicking back a shot of his Dos Gusanos. The liquor -- plumped up with two worms per bottle -- is a taste we haven't quite acquired. Likely the worms aren't too thrilled about it, either.

That's okay, though, because Harter gives us some 110 other tequila varieties from which to choose. And most of them are so smooth that we actually savor them, sipping them slowly to nourish their agave character. There's blanco and plata (silver and white, not aged), reposado (aged in oak for up to a year) and anejo (under the strictest scrutiny of the Mexican government to ensure its superior quality). For the big spenders, the Coyote also offers $145-a-shot super-premium José Cuervo 1800 Colección, of which Cuervo releases only a few hundred bottles a year.

Mescal usually is doctored with sugar, fruit, herbs and nuts to make it more pleasant to drink. When we're really wussy, we go for the less bitter dessert tequilas -- coquila (coffee, chocolate and cream), rose (strawberry and cream) and almendrado (almond). And hold the worm.

What makes a margarita so exquisite, paired with a basket of crisp, salty chips and an assortment of salsas? No doubt it's the bullish grip of lots of good tequila, tart and dusty to complement the earthy tones of our chips and dip. But most important, it's the add-ins that make or break a margarita.

We like a little character with our cocktail, which is why Cabo gets top billing for its oh-so-fine margs. We can build our own from the very best ingredients. First, we've got a choice of almost 20 tequilas. Then, we get a choice of flavors, depending on what's seasonal in fresh fruit. The fruit -- on display in great heaps atop the bar -- is hand-squeezed, including the limes. Best of all, these margs aren't too sweet (although you can get them that way if you want).

The traditional margarita is topnotch, served in a hefty, multicolored glass with a salted rim and a fresh lime wedge. We're partial to the mango, too, puréed like a slushy with a wicked back bite of alcohol. It comes rimmed in sugar, but we get it with salt (trust us, the contrasting flavors are out of this world).

Just two of these strong drinks, and we swear we can hear the waves crashing in our heads.

What makes a margarita so exquisite, paired with a basket of crisp, salty chips and an assortment of salsas? No doubt it's the bullish grip of lots of good tequila, tart and dusty to complement the earthy tones of our chips and dip. But most important, it's the add-ins that make or break a margarita.

We like a little character with our cocktail, which is why Cabo gets top billing for its oh-so-fine margs. We can build our own from the very best ingredients. First, we've got a choice of almost 20 tequilas. Then, we get a choice of flavors, depending on what's seasonal in fresh fruit. The fruit -- on display in great heaps atop the bar -- is hand-squeezed, including the limes. Best of all, these margs aren't too sweet (although you can get them that way if you want).

The traditional margarita is topnotch, served in a hefty, multicolored glass with a salted rim and a fresh lime wedge. We're partial to the mango, too, puréed like a slushy with a wicked back bite of alcohol. It comes rimmed in sugar, but we get it with salt (trust us, the contrasting flavors are out of this world).

Just two of these strong drinks, and we swear we can hear the waves crashing in our heads.

Rita's Mexican Food
We remember many years ago when Rubio's arrived in Phoenix. You'd think people had gone nuts. Food writers lauded the simple fish taco served by this California-based chain, swooning over the deep-fried, mayo-sauce-slathered, cheese-drenched fish bits. We just shook our heads. Hadn't these people ever made it over to Rita's, where chef-owner Rita Aramburo has been fashioning authentic fish tacos forever? It's no complicated recipe, but God, it's good. Fresh catfish takes a tumble in the sauté pan with tomato, onion and a dash of seasoning. Warm vegetables release their rich juices, melding with the firm fish and soaking into a grilled corn tortilla. The finishing touch comes from a squeeze of lemon and a dunking in Rita's homemade spicy salsa. No cheese, no mayo, no marriage in the deep fat fryer required.

Rita's fish tacos are the best. Of that, there's no de-bait.

We remember many years ago when Rubio's arrived in Phoenix. You'd think people had gone nuts. Food writers lauded the simple fish taco served by this California-based chain, swooning over the deep-fried, mayo-sauce-slathered, cheese-drenched fish bits. We just shook our heads. Hadn't these people ever made it over to Rita's, where chef-owner Rita Aramburo has been fashioning authentic fish tacos forever? It's no complicated recipe, but God, it's good. Fresh catfish takes a tumble in the sauté pan with tomato, onion and a dash of seasoning. Warm vegetables release their rich juices, melding with the firm fish and soaking into a grilled corn tortilla. The finishing touch comes from a squeeze of lemon and a dunking in Rita's homemade spicy salsa. No cheese, no mayo, no marriage in the deep fat fryer required.

Rita's fish tacos are the best. Of that, there's no de-bait.

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