$10 Lunch: Juicy Chicken Tacos at Lightning Speed

A chopped chicken salad is Cobb via Sinaloa.EXPAND
A chopped chicken salad is Cobb via Sinaloa.
Chris Malloy
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Kiss Pollos Estilo Sinaloa, a nook of a Mexican restaurant on Third Avenue just south of Buckeye Road, gives new speed to "fast food." You get insane flavor for the brief time you spend in the shop.

Smoke fogs the room. Step up to the counter, and the source becomes clear. Dozens of thick chicken segments line a kitchen grill. They steam and hiss. Some of the chicken, already done, has been chopped to bits.

Kiss' no-frills exterior.EXPAND
Kiss' no-frills exterior.
Chris Malloy

If it's your first time in, the staff may offer you a complimentary Kiss signature taco. Two small, soft corn tortillas come loaded with chopped chicken and a little pork.

During my visit, the compimentary taco arrived right as I finished paying.

A chilled salsa bar awaits. Deep spoons protrude from tubs of green (hot and mild) and red (just hot). You can also top that chicken — the restaurant's meat of choice, rare for a Mexican spot — with pickled red onions, white onions, scallions, shredded cabbage, cucumbers, or lime juice. I loaded up and sat down to eat. The chicken was nicely grilled, and juicy for meat so finely chopped. Red salsa made from a blend of peppers (habanero, jalapeno, serrano, and chile de arbol) brought brightness and blunt heat. As soon as I finished that taco, the other three landed on my table. All right.

The hole-in-the-wall is run by Jose Leon and his family. They come from Sinaloa, Mexico. After a stop in Los Angeles, the Leons settled in Phoenix. They opened Kiss two years ago.

Kiss offers basic, highly limited takes on the taco, burrito, and quesadilla. A salad blanketed with chopped chicken is the most expensive menu item, hitting the wallet at a mere $7.99. That salad comes with a plastic container spilling mint-green dressing. The dressing is a mellow ranch spiked with cilantro. It's ranch if ranch could take Xanax, ranch minus the weird tang. The 10-item menu is tiny, especially for a Mexican spot of this nature. At so many places, the number of burros alone will often eclipse 10.

A chopped chicken taco with red salsa.EXPAND
A chopped chicken taco with red salsa.
Chris Malloy

Potatoes come in 30 percent of menu items. They are spiced, buttered, and sizzled on the flattop. I had a taco with chicken, pork, and potatoes. I also had a "flip" taco, a quirky Kiss creation that is a tostada with a soft tortilla blanketing the top. The soft and crackly tortillas are surprisingly nice together; the buttered potato bits make everything all the more wanton. Having little morsels of potato, some with the skin on, brings a comforting dimension to the taco that makes improbable sense.

Finally, the vampiro. The vampiro is closely related to the taco or tostada, the difference being the tortilla (hard) is slicked with melted cheese. The vampiro at Kiss was nice, the trademark chicken the heart of the coaster-sized bite once again. For $7.06 and 15 minutes, Kiss cooks a simple, solid lunch.

Kiss Pollos Estilo Sinaloa. 306 West Yavapai Street; 602-900-7371
Monday 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.; Tuesday to Thursday 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.; Friday 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.; Saturday 11 a.m. to 8 p.m.; closed Sunday.

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