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Sarah Whitmire

Carolina's Mexican Food

Lauren Cusimano
This south Phoenix staple is a true come-as-you-are restaurant. It is almost shockingly bare bones. There's no decor on the paint-chipped walls, no music. The stark white building's entrance leads straight to the ordering counter just above a scuffed wall. But those shoe-marked baseboards speak to the many over-eager diners running up to place their order. That's because the food here — catalogued on the wall above the register — is exceptional. It's nothing a Mexican food fan hasn't seen before — burros, tacos, enchiladas, tostadas — but all those specimens are basically perfect. Need proof? The parking lot is usually full, and the booths of the cafeteria-style dining area are almost always occupied. More proof? Order the red chile burro, the super-soft beef wrapped with precision in a handmade flour tortilla. Get a tamale, even if it isn't Christmas. Go for the machaca enchilada. Arrive on Saturday for the menudo. And order a bag of tortilla chips just to try the famous, bright-red hot sauce. Carolina's has been around since 1968, when it was opened by Carolina Valenzuela, and it has held on at this location since 1986. There are several Carolina's locations around the Valley, but the Mohave Street spot will always be a Phoenix favorite. New Normal: The O.G. Carolina's is open for dine-in and takeout. The Avondale location offers an online order form.

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