With the popularity of adding French fries into Mexican food (i.e. the California Burrito), it's no surprise that carne asada fries have grown in popularity in recent years. The combination of French fries, cheese, sour cream, guacamole, and carne asada can be found at any number of greasy Mexican drive-through spots, so we picked two local chains/Phoenix staples to compare.
In This Corner: Filiberto's Mexican Food
The Setting: Filiberto's is the standard when it comes to late-night greasy Mexican food. With locations all over the Valley, the interior at each one is pretty much guaranteed to be small, tan and vaguely discomforting. For the most part, Filiberto's is used as a drive-through at 3 a.m. though, so the interior really doesn't matter.
The Good: The true wonder behind Filiberto's carne asada fries is how they prevent them from getting soggy despite all of the grease and density of the toppings. Texturally, this mountain of food provides a nice variety, as the creamy guacamole offsets the chewiness of the meat. We found that these fries were best eaten by mixing all of the ingredients together to get a full range of the Mexican textures and flavor.
The Bad: In our opinion, almost all of the food at Filiberto's tastes more or less the same. The carne asada fries are slightly tastier than the average Filiberto's dish, but that might just be due to the large combination of foods served in a single Styrofoam container. Also, while it's to be expected, the level of greasiness of the cheese, sour cream and meat was about as high as a human could possibly tolerate.
In The Other Corner: Rivas Mexican Food
The Setting: Much like Filiberto's, Rivas isn't much to look at from the inside. Every location that we've been to contains the same handful of tables and beige walls with a walk-up counter to order from. The only difference is that Rivas seems a little bit newer and cleaner, but that could just be the locations we visited on either one. We don't recommend going to either of these places for the ambiance.
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The Good: The flavors of the carne asada, guacamole and other ingredients were substantially better than we expected. Instead of just tasting like a carton full of grease, it seemed like we were eating actual Mexican food. Each item in the dish had its own discernible flavor, though it was lacking a little spiciness that really would've set it apart from others. Not that it means much when discussing carne asada fries, but we also found the order from Rivas to be much more appropriately sized for an average (sober) person to comfortably eat.
The Bad: The only knock against the fries from Rivas (other than the lack of spice) was that it became a soggy mess rather quickly. We only had the order for about 10 minutes when the cheese, guacamole and sour cream began seeping into the fries and wax paper underneath. On one hand, it made all of the flavors blend together, but personally, we prefer our fries to have a little crisp to balance out the other ingredients.
The Winner: What it really came down to in this battle was the question of flavor vs. texture. Ultimately, we decided that flavor was more important and thus that Rivas stole the win away from Filiberto's. In all likelihood, we'll just go to whichever one is closer the next time we need some carne asada fries after a long night out.