When a new spot opens in town, we can't wait to check it out -- and let you know our initial impressions, share a few photos, and dish about some menu items. First Taste, as the name implies, is not a full-blown review, but instead a peek inside restaurants that have just opened, sampling a few items, and satisfying curiosities (yours and ours).
Restaurant: Diego Pops Location: 4338 N. Scottsdale Rd Open: About a month Eats: Mexican Price: $10-$15/person
It's been about a month since Diego Pops opened quietly in the former home of Mexican pottery store off Scottsdale Road. The new dining spot is the second concept to come from the folk behind the popular health food restaurant mini-chain, Original ChopShop Co., and offers a modern Mexican-inspired menu of tacos, salads, appetizers, and sides.
You won't head here for the truest representation of Mexican cuisine, but between the late-night hours and retro-chic design Diego Pops should appeal perfectly to the Old Town Scottsdale dining crowd.
A tight but dedicated parking lot makes Diego Pops easily accessible for diners, a definite plus in the Old Town scene. And inside, it's hard not to be charmed by the bright, quirky design. The combination of hot pink neon signs, lime green retro refrigerator, and colorful pineapple wallpaper gives the spacious dining room and covered patio a "Miami and in the 1980s" vibe.
For dinner and lunch Diego Pops gives diners a wide variety of entrees and appetizers that's centered around a selection of seven proteins. Meats such as charred skirt steak, adobo bbq chicken, and grilled shrimp can be delivered via taco, bowl, or plate, as well as added to one of four different salads.
On the recommendation of our server we started with the giant Brussels Sprout Nachos ($10), a heaping pile of chips topped with roasted brussles sprouts, street corn queso, queso oaxaca, fresno chilis, pickled onion, roasted garlic beet crema, and crowned with a fried egg. Though messy (best to just use a fork), the combination of sweet corn, salty cheese, and nutty roasted brussels sprouts makes a pleasing blend.
We tried four of the seven tacos, which come a la carte and cost about $4.50 each. With each you'll have the option to choose between a flour, corn, or crispy tortilla, though the menu makes suggestions if you don't know which you'd prefer.
On a crispy (read: "fried") tortilla the Braised Green Chili Chicken taco ($3.50) was our favorite selection. With crema, cotija cheese, and a crunchy house slaw, the accoutrements accentuated but didn't overpower the flavor of the moist green chili chicken.
The Charred Skirt Steak taco ($4.50) also offered simple enough flavors, though the guacamole, crispy leek, and house slaw didn't prevent the dish from being a little dry. Luckily Diego Pops gives each table a cart of seven sauces to apply to the food, with options ranging from Serrano Ranch and Chipotle Creama to Habanero Oil and Salsa Verde. A dash of smoky red Guajillo sauce was enough to save the dry steak taco.
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Of the two seafood tacos we tried during our visit the Grilled Shrimp ($4.50) impressed us the least. The cloying combination of sweet corn salsa, red onion, queso oaxaca, crispy leek, and salsa verde overwhelmed our taste buds with a barrage of flavors. The Crispy Cod taco ($4) offered an acceptable balance of flavors, but with guacamole, grilled onion, chipotle aioli, and house slaw we would have appreciated a better mix of textures.
If tacos aren't your thing you can also opt to have any of the meats in a bowl, a option that means your choice of meat served over rice or quinoa with beans and house slaw. The Braised Pineapple Pork bowl ($9) will satisfy your protein fix and sweet tooth all in one; the rice, beans, and slaw make a bland backdrop for the sugary-sweet meat.
We weren't blown away by everything at this shiny new spot, but as evidence shows, the handsome space and friendly servers should carry it along anyway. And if nothing else, Diego Pops is sure to become an affordable and fun late night dining spot in Scottsdale. On Friday and Saturday the kitchen will serve tacos, appetizers, and sides until midnight.