The Guilty Pleasure: Oaxaca Special Burro, enchilada style. Where to Get It: Carolina's Mexican Food Price: About five bucks. What It Really Costs: No more damage than your average Mexican meal in this town. Which is to say, your cardiologist will make his boat payment this month.
One of the dangers about writing for food is that I'm always looking for the next big thing, some new delight I can't wait to spill the beans about to everyone I know. But after a while, the constant rush of delights starts to blend together. Those are the times that I need to stop for a bit, and revisit an old flame. Somewhere that, at first bite, I fall in love with the place all over again and wonder what took me so long to return.
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My favorite of these in the Phoenix area has to be Carolina's. That unassuming little place on 12th Street and Mohave has been serving no-frills Mexican food for decades. I adore the place so much that I should be there several times weekly, but I end up there only once every few months. Why do I always forget they're there? I feel like I take them for granted, and end up neglecting them as a result.
While the menu at Carolina's is solid across the board (with a noteworthy nod to their green corn tamales), the Oaxaca Special burro stands head and shoulders over everything else on the menu. Since they have excellent beans and chorizo in addition to the tortillas, it stands to reason that they all come together beautifully, with cheese for richness (like it needs more) and potatoes to give a little textural contrast.
At most places, I'm staunchly against the enchilada-style burro. Don't get me wrong; it always sounds like a good idea. The problem is, too many places have crummy tortillas, light, fluffy disks that instantly absorb the influx of red sauce and turn into a soggy mess. It's tripped up more places than I can count, from quick-service chains to upscale places that really should have known better. Carolina's tortillas are properly resilient, and can handle a thorough dousing. And, the enchilada sauce itself at Carolina's is pretty nice too. I'd be a happy camper with just a buttered tortilla fresh of the griddle and a side of red sauce.