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.