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).
Location: 3154 East Camelback Road, Phoenix
Open: About a month
Eats: Modern Mexican
When it comes to late-night eats in Phoenix, it's fair to say your options are limited. Even on weekends it's difficult to find a place where you can have a bite to eat and maybe just one more drink after the clock strikes midnight. There certainly are places where you can do both, but they tend to be few and far between.
Enter, Mexx32. The newest restaurant to come from Lenny Rosenberg (Delux, Revo Burrito, Zen 32) takes over the space formerly occupied by Revo Burrito, though the restaurant's been expanded and now includes an outdoor patio. It carries over some of the fare you may have eaten at Revo, and more important, it stays open until 2 a.m., bringing a new late-night option to the Biltmore neighborhood.
Instead of the health-focused Mexican fare of Revo Burtio, the Mexx32 menu highlights a selection of Signature 32nd St. tacos. It also includes starters, salads, enchiladas, tamales, rice bowls, and burritos. Not all of the fare is available on the late-night menu (available from midnight to 2 a.m.), which instead gives diners about five food options all priced less than $10.
The guacamole does appear at both dinner and late-night, as well as during happy hour, when the $7 price is cut to $5. The serving seems more fair at the lower price point — but in either case, this dip is likely to leave little impression. It's acceptable — enjoyable even — but far from ranking on a list of top guacs in town.
The tacos, in general, fare better. And there are certainly a lot of options. Meat lovers will find four tacos from which to choose, in addition to four seafood tacos and one vegetarian option.
The best of the three we tried (tacos can be ordered three to a platter for $12) was the Arizona Taco Festival award-winning smoked pork, which came dressed with pickled cabbage, chipotle aioli, and queso fresco. Moist and seriously smoky, this taco played it safe and simple.
The same cannot be said for the shrimp tinga taco, which combined shrimp, bacon, chorizo, cilantro, crema, pico de gallo for a bite that overwhelmed the tastebuds — and not in a good way. On the other end of the spectrum, there's the chipotle mushroom taco. Despite being loaded with caramelized mushrooms, onions, mozzarella cheese, queso fresco, tomatillo salsa, and cilantro, this taco tasted pretty much exclusively like mushroom.
A mahi mahi rice bowl ($8.95), however, was a surprise hit. Diners can choose from a base of white rice, brown rice, or creamy white rice — and the last option is a good one. It's white rice blended with cheese and corn and makes a nice, savory base for toppings including chunks of grilled fish, serrano cream, sour mayo crema, cabbage, pico de gallo, and lime juice.
We also tried the smoked brisket burrito ($7.75) Christmas-style, meaning half covered in green sauce and half covered in red sauce. The combination of smoked brisket (which was much less smoky than the smoked pork), chipotle aioli, cheese, and pico de gallo was fine, and the sauces added a nice additional flavor dimension.
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All said and done, in a town with bountiful Mexican dining options, Mexx32 definitely falls in the middle of the pack. But the late-night menu and reverse happy hour deals on drinks make this an obvious choice for a restaurant booty call. Post-midnight diners looking for a night-cap and an affordable taco (that doesn't come from a drive-thru) will undoubtedly be happy to see the light on at this Biltmore restaurant.