Finding decent Mexican food on the cheap in Central Phoenix isn't difficult, but finding amazing service from a staff that makes you feel like family is a little bit more of a challenge. Good thing we found Juan's Authentic Mexican Food.
Located on Thomas Road just west of 16th Street, Juan's sits in an unassuming little white building with a couple newly installed windows and a sign that looks far older than the place itself. The family owned restaurant has called this spot home since 1994 and by the looks of the almost always packed parking lot, we're pretty sure they're not going anywhere anytime soon.
We hope not, anyway.
The interior of Juan's is far from fancy. Booths line the sparsely decorated walls, a few neatly organized tables and chairs occupy the middle of the room, and if you find yourself on a solo mission, you can grab a stool at the three-person lunch counter. The space is always clean, bright, homey, and a bit noisy during peak hours -- just like a good Mexican food place should be.
Enough about the building -- what you're really going for is the food. Juan's churns out traditional Mexican food with a nice kick of spice. Thick cut tortilla chips and never ending bowls of spicy salsa are always free -- but don't fill up on chips. The portions at Juan's are huge. Huge!
Combo plates of tacos, enchiladas, tamales, tostadas, and flautas come with big portions of spicy Spanish rice and creamy re-fried beans topped with melty cheddar cheese; burritos are stuffed with flavorful grilled chicken, tender machaca, spicy green chili, and bright veggies; Quesadillas can be ordered "open" for a giant tasty cheese crisp; and tortas are piled high with meat, a steal for $3.50.
Everything on the menu is under $9 bucks. Even the shrimp plate (which is also super good and super huge).
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On our last visit, we ate our way into a day long food coma with a giant bean and cheese burrito enchilada style with a side of rice and crispy beef taco. Our dining companion gorged himself on a giant grilled chicken burrito filled with rice, beans, onions, and jalapenos and a side of their delicious creamy refried beans. We also manged to suck down more soda than anyone should ever drink and indulged in one of their giant cheese crisps.
Our tab was a whopping $24 and we had plenty of leftovers for dinner. We went overboard, but you could easily get out of here for well under $10. (Bean and cheese burritos are just $3, tacos are $2, tortas are $3.50, giant sodas are just $1.59.)
The best part of Juan's is the service. The whole operation is a family affair with mom in the kitchen, dad at the register, and the kids helping out behind the scene or taking your order. Everyone is extra friendly and it's always nice to see a smiling face during a lunch hour rush.