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: Phoenix Burrito House Location: 4140 North 7th Avenue Open: About three months Eats: Mexican Price: Less than $10 a person
Those familiar with the former home of the James Beard Award-winning The Fry Bread House will recognize The Phoenix Burrito House. Since the new restaurant moved in about three months ago, the building has gotten a new coat of white paint that does a surprisingly good job of making things feel bright and almost new. The restaurant comes courtesy of the De la Cruz family, which also owns El Zócalo Mexican Grille and El Sol Mexican Cafe & Bakery in Chandler, Mangos Mexican Cafe and Bakery in Mesa, and Méjico in Central Phoenix.
Inside, you'll notice things have gotten a nice makeover, too. There's more fresh white paint and a new chalkboard wall that lists some of the restaurant's menu. Along the walls hang oversize Mexican lotería cards, used in a game similar to bingo. Though the décor is simple, the restaurant's bright, clean atmosphere makes Phoenix Burrito House a place to stop in for lunch.
They're not the only things on the menu, but the burritos are definitely the stars here. You can have them filled with grilled chicken, green chile pork, carnitas, or carne asada for $6.99 or go with the shrimp burrito for $8. All the meats also can be served in a trio of tacos for $6.45 with fish taco's available for $7.50.
On the recommendation of our server (the restaurant offers counter service, so you order there and they bring the food to you), we went with a carne asada burrito. All the meat burritos come with Mexican rice, either black or pinto beans, cheese, and sour cream. You can add guacamole if you want for an extra 50 cents.
The most important thing you need to know about the burritos here are that they're wrapped in seriously awesome tortillas. They're clearly made from scratch and are soft, chewy, and offer just a little bit of stretch. If you like the famous tortillas at Carolina's, you're probably going to appreciate these, too -- though for comparison, the tortillas at Phoenix Burrito House were slightly thicker.
As for the carne asada, it was flavorful, slightly smoky, and well-cooked. We liked that the burritos all come packed with fillings besides just meat, onions, and cilantro, like at some other spots. Maybe that's more authentic, but sometimes we just want the extra starch.
We also tried a shrimp burrito, which comes with shrimp, avocado, lemon juice, cabbage, pice de gallo, and hot sauce. There was a lot of cabbage and a decent amount of shrimp but mostly what we got was a whole lot of spice. Between the pico de gallo and hot sauce, this dish makes for a hot meal.
Your meal doesn't include chips and salsa, but you can add them for $2, as well as a bowl of creamy guacamole for another couple bucks. We did and you should too. The chips were freshly made, thick, and perfectly salted. And though the salsa might not knock you out, the guacamole makes for a nice starter or good addition to your burrito lunch.
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It's worth mentioning that the restaurant also serves a menu of affordable (as is, under $5) breakfast burritos all day long. You can have your choice of bacon, chorizo, ham, or sausage with eggs and potatoes or a veggie version with eggs, calabacitas, onions, and peppers. Our server highly recommended them. We're a little confused why a third of the menu is dedicated to breakfast even though the restaurant doesn't open until 10 a.m., but at least you can get your fix well into the evening.
You can probably get cheaper Mexican fare elsewhere, but at this price, quality, and thanks to the friendly atmosphere, we'd be happy to come back to Phoenix Burrito House.
The restaurant is open from Tuesday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. and until 2 p.m. on Saturday. Closed Monday.