Eat This Now

Best Thing I Ate This Week: A Legendary Phoenix Burro

I never understood the appeal of Mexican food. For a guy who grew up outside Philly and has lived in Boston, D.C., and outside New York, Mexican seemed a blunt cuisine with lots of fat and little finesse — consisting of tacos, burritos, quesadillas, and all those narrow cliche staples.

But as my 20s unspooled, I got to some of the real Mexican in the northeast: grasshopper tacos at Tequilas in Philly, tortillas from Tortilleria Nixtamal in Queens.

I slowly realized that my vision of Mexican food was completely off. Here was a vibrant cuisine just like Italian or French — a patchwork foodscape reaching both high and to the streets, a cuisine as varied from region to region, and just as good ... or maybe even better.

So, that said, I am enjoying the hell out of all the Mexican food here in Phoenix.

The best thing I ate all week was a burro from Rito's Mexican Food. I had no real choice but to go for green chile beef inside that burro. This time of year, Rito's uses Hatch peppers in its green chile. Being a seeker of heat and potent spice, I chose to enchilada-ify my burro. For me, more burn is always a good idea.

Soulful enchilada sauce drowns the burro, radiating an incendiary red. The sauce melds into the latticework of melted cheese clinging to the burro's curves. Bites of lettuce are unsmothered. They're good for breaking things up with crispness, cooling off the tongue. Attacking this burro outside on a hot day, tearing into the green chile beef with a plastic fork and knife, you half-expect the crimson sauce to sear holes in the tin.

But no! The heat rolls along at a nice mellow burn. Although the enchilada sauce overpowers the green chile, the burro pleasantly inundates your senses with wave after wave of deep pepper-fueled flavor and soft, melting textures. A burro from Rito's rocks.

And shows that, in the arena of comfort food, Mexican can hang with the best.
KEEP PHOENIX NEW TIMES FREE... Since we started Phoenix New Times, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Phoenix, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Chris Malloy, former food editor and current food critic at Phoenix New Times, has written for various local and national outlets. He has scrubbed pots in a restaurant kitchen, earned graduate credit for a class about cheese, harvested garlic in Le Marche, and rolled pastas like cappellacci stuffed with chicken liver. He writes reviews but also narrative stories on the food world's margins.
Contact: Chris Malloy