Arizona’s affinity for spice was on full display Saturday, October 1, as restaurants from all across Phoenix lined Roosevelt Row to celebrate the 5th annual Chili Pepper Festival. The festival appeared to be a big hit with attendees, offering plenty of live entertainment, cool drinks, and, of course, all the spicy grub you could ask for.
Just as the sun began to set on RoRo, crowds began to gather, indulging in a variety of chili-infused treats, including everything from habanero pineapple margaritas and chili flavored sorbetto to more straightforward classics like green chili beef and green chili chicken street tacos. We sampled as many dishes as our guts would allow, and came away impressed with the amount of flavorful heat on display. So without further adieu, here are five of our favorite spicy dishes from this year’s Chili Pepper Festival.
The Vig’s Chipotle Tater Tots
If our waistlines would’ve allowed, we would’ve indulged in a few more of The Vig’s Chipotle Tater Tots. About the size of a marshmallow, these fried potato morsels featured warm cheddar cheese just about bursting through the crunchy, golden exterior. The tots were served with a dollop of jalapeno crema for dipping, adding extra spice and flavor.
Beef Chili From Carly’s Bistro
You really can’t go wrong with a good bowl of chili. And Carly’s Bistro served up one very good bowl of chili. The restaurant offered both vegetarian and beef chili options at the festival. We opted for the beef, which housed classic chili ingredients such as black beans, onions, corn, three colors of peppers, and minced jalapeno, all slow-cooked and spiced to perfection. The heat wasn’t over-powering, but it certainly packed enough of a kick to make us track down a maragarita.
Green Chili Bruschetta From Be Coffee + Food + Stuff
The folks from Be Coffee + Food + Stuff had the luxury of setting up shop just across Roosevelt from monOrchid Gallery, which is their base of operations. While Be specializes in coffee, the group did their part by offering up something a bit more unique, but still plenty "picante" nonetheless. Be’s green chili bruschetta bites were thoughtfully arranged, piled high with chimichurri cheese spread, green chili peppers, cut-up cherry tomatoes, a dab of salsa, and a fried jalapeno coin, all sprinkled with cotija cheese. The final product was a crunchy, flavorful snack that was more fun than spicy, but still plenty tasty.
Pozole From Phoenix Public Market
Phoenix Public Market offered their take on pozole, a traditional Mexican soup that is often served at celebratory functions. And since this was a celebration, we figured we’d give it a shot. The soup was served with pork and was tastefully garnished with white onion, radish slices, oregano, and a fresh squeeze of lime. We added a spoonful of salsa that was referred to as “grandmother’s secret recipe,” and were surprised at how much heat it packed. To smother some of the spice, we paired with a vegan chili-cheddar scone from Volstead Public House.
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Otro Cafe’s Al Pastor Tacos
What would a street festival be without street tacos? Otro Café’s al pastor tacos weren’t the most unique item on the menu, but they were delicious. Using a familiar formula – cilantro, onion, and juicy pork on a flour tortilla – the restaurant proved that you don’t have to reinvent the wheel when it comes to kick-ass tacos. We topped ours with a splash of Otro’s red and green grilled tomatillo salsa for extra kick and flavor, but because of how tender and juicy the meat was, these guys hardly needed it. Otro Café serves their tacos on the regular at their 7th Street location.