Phoenix Phoodies: Carolina's

There are a few things that are certain in Phoenix: Summers will be hot, politics will be messy, and Carolina's tortillas are delicious. For 40 years, this family restaurant has been making enchilada sauce so luscious you can drink it, machacha so silky it melts in your mouth, and tortillas so fresh it seems like a team of nana's nanas is in the kitchen making them just for you, breakfast, lunch and dinner, six days a week. In a sense, they are. The third generation of this family now runs this South Phoenix institution, and Angela Hernandez, Josephine Quinonez, along with sister Jennifer Hernandez, still use their grandmothers super secret recipe to delight the hundreds of people who line up every day for her handmade tortillas.

Chow Bella: How did Carolina's start?
Josephine Quinonez: Well, our grandma started making tortillas and things and selling them at different places around town, and at offices, and people loved it and they told her 'you should have a restaurant.'

CB: Your tortillas are amazing. Is it your grandmother's recipe?
Angela HHernandez: Yes, it is. And it's a secret. (Laughter)

CB: Really? How many people know the recipe?
AH: Maybe four? Barely a handful.

CB: Wow! That is secret! Can you tell me how you make them?
AH: One at a time? 
JQ: By hand (laughter)

CB: Tough crowd! (laughter) How many do you make a day? 
AH: 350 to 400 dozen a day, on average.
JQ: That's just an average day -- Christmas, Easter, holidays we'll make a lot more than that. 

CB: Hold on, let me do the math, that is over a million, right? 
AH: Yes, we make over a million and a half a year right here in our kitchen.

CB: You have to make them in huge batches! You can tell me that much, right? 
JQ: (laughter) Yes, we do. We actually have a team, and a masador, which means masa man. He's in charge of making them. He has two assistants, and they start very early in the morning. Each batch is made by hand. They are mixed, rolled into a ball, patted down, put through a sheeter (which rapidly flattens the tortilla), it's hand stretched again, and then grilled on our grill, one tortilla at a time.

CB: That's a lot of work! When I buy them, I always break into the bag and eat one in the car on the way home.
JQ: (laughter) We hear that a lot.

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Sloane Burwell
Contact: Sloane Burwell