Hey, readers, get ready. We're putting new meaning into the term "street food." For Chow Bella's latest mission -- "Eating 16th Street" -- we've employed a young woman who's literally eaten her way around the world. Alex Rodriguez has eaten borscht in Moscow, steak in Buenos Aires and a "life-changing panna cotta" in Bra, a small town in the Piemonte region of Italy. Now we've set her palate loose on Central Phoenix's 16th Street. Rodriguez will try it all, from Jefferson Street north to Thomas Road -- and report back, place by place.
The Place: La Cocina Economica The Food: Traditional Sonoran The Backstory: Family-owned for the past seven years. The Price: Just under $8 for a full lunch.
Victor Becerra stands behind the counter of La Cocina Economica, ready and waiting for hungry customers to walk in. With a polite smile, the 18-year-old son of La Cocina's owners waits on customers -- doing everything from taking orders to busing tables and carrying out food.
"It's my dad's restaurant," he says. So, naturally, he chips in and does his part for the family business.
His father, whom Victor is named after, opened the 16th Street Mexican restaurant seven years ago, and they've been going strong since. "My uncle owns a restaurant in San Diego -- so my dad starting learning about the business and, eventually, my mom convinced him he should open one up for himself."
Along came La Cocina Economica -- a 40-seat restaurant with so much on the menu, it's hard not to go every day. Even better than that, though, is that it's cheap. I'm not done yet. Ready? It's actually delicious. Loads of variety. Easy on your wallet. And delicious. Life couldn't be sweeter.
While it was impossible to try the whole menu (give us a month, though, and then get back to us), I did try to hard rolled tacos (flautas) and cheese enchiladas in salsa roja.
I'm not typically a fan of fried tortillas -- anything fried bothers me. But on this day, I figured it couldn't hurt to try the flautas -- more especially because there were three in an order with rice and beans for a little under eight bucks. They. Were. Delicious. Tender shredded chicken inside. Fresh (and simple!) guacamole, crema, and crumbled queso on the outside. The meal really couldn't be beat, but to top everything off, my agua de jamaica tasted like it didn't come from a powder. Victory.
A friend's enchiladas (under $6, and also came with rice and beans) were also delicious. When I go back, I may have to order both and decide which to eat there, and which to take home. The salsa roja tasted like they put a few splashes of Valentin hot sauce, with a very rustic spice to them.
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The restaurant itself is vibrant and colorful -- it's obvious someone put some thought in the decor. The interior lies somewhere between a colorful piñata and my grandfather's old living room in Mexico. It's homey inside.
When I asked Becerra why his parents decided to name the restaurant "La Cocina," he told me that they wanted to create a family environment. "Family is always in the kitchen," he said. "Always en la cocina."
Eating 16th Street So Far: Eating 16th Street: Let's Begin at Pollo Sabroso La Frontera Taco Truck: A Hit and a Run Asadero Norte de Sonora: Family Friendly and Fit for a King Mariscos Playa Hermosa: From the Shores of Mexico to a Colorful Central Phoenix Restaurant Salsitas: Blame it on the Alcohol Pro's Ranch Market: Contents of a Fiesta Under One Roof Filiberto's: My Burrito of Sorrow