Budget Beat

Lunch Under $10 at Gadzooks Enchiladas and Soups in Phoenix

If you've ever spent a long, lonely night wishing that Chipotle made enchiladas (and soup), your wildest dreams have come true. Gadzooks has a create-it-yourself vibe with options like tacos, chopped salads and "ladas." Or you can just go for the housemade tortilla soup. If you're following the process thus far, just wait because things are about to take a turn for the complicated.

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After you choose what form of food you want, you then choose your tortilla -- hand-pressed in house corn or half flour and half corn tortillas. Then you choose your filling. There are eight, so we'll spare you all of the details, but one highlight is Modelo-braised bison. We picked guajillo-braised short ribs and smashed jack potatoes to accompany our all corn tortillas this time, which was $6.75 for the pair of enchiladas.

Then we added our sauce (there's a choice of green or red) and our cheese (there's a choice of asadero or chihuahua), and then it went in the oven to cook for a few minutes. Then we added more toppings, such as salsas, guac, crema, pickled onions and more, and a $1 additional fried egg. Finally, after about 10 minutes of counter diliberations and explanations, we got to eat.

$7.75 is a pretty good deal for the quality and quantity of enchiladas you get from Gadzooks. Everything is clearly made fresh in-house and with care. While the service was admittedly "obnoxious" (their words and mine), we're more concerned with how that line would look and how long it would take to get through it during a rush. Even if you know exactly what you want, it still takes a couple of minutes to assemble and a couple more to cook -- imagine that times a line of 20 people.

While everything tasted great in our lada, despite the corn tortillas being thick and chewy, all of the add-ons made it more like Gadzooks' soup than anything. We're not blaming anyone for that but our own toppings greed, but we are warning you to keep it simple or it'll get soupy.

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