A Cut Above

The "T" on the Bisteces Taqueria sign resembles a longhorn, an odd symbol for a humble taco shop. But there's nothing humble about the steak-house-quality beef at this place.

The cook, Randy Rodriguez, looks like a Hawaiian Buddha and won't tell you about his six-year stint at Ruth's Chris Steak House unless you prod the meaty Mexican. The famed beefery is where he learned to cut and prep some of the finest meats, learned of freshness, juiciness and proper temperatures -- traits he's brought to the aptly named Bisteces (bistec is steak or beef in Spanish), where he is setting out to make his own culinary mark in the Valley.

Rodriguez talks of meat the way some men talk of women. "You have to treat meat good, con cariño," he says.

Bisteces is a long way from the Biltmore neighborhood where Rodriguez trained. Unless you're a state worker or a regular at the neighboring Bikini Lounge, you likely have never seen the taco shop on 15th Avenue, just south of where Roosevelt and Grand Avenue meet.

But if you can brave the inner city, you're in for a treat. Just ask Robbie Robertson, a regular at the tiny, stark 12-seater. "It's hard to find that authentic place that won't tear up a gringo," says the Scottsdale businessman who favors the chile verde.

Robertson knows the restaurant business from his early days as an executive with the Pointe resorts. "It's hard to find a guy as disciplined as him," he says of Rodriguez. "Have you seen the kitchen? It's spotless."

The menu is typical but extensive. Besides carne asada, carne molida, machaca, and green and red chile, there is pastor (marinated pork), carnitas and chicken. Rodriguez even makes his own chorizo.

He says he isn't concerned about mad cow disease because he gets his certified Angus beef along with other cuts from City Meats, the same place that supplies Ruth's Chris with beef from its own stockyards. (City Meats uses cows raised for beef production, rather than dairy cattle.)

Rodriguez should worry about advertising, however, because every beef eater in town deserves to know about this joint. At the very least, the cook should grab a bullhorn and stand at the steps of the capital shouting, "Aquí esta la carne!"

Come and get it.

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Dan Cortez