31: Tacos Jalisco
Taquería: Tacos Jalisco
Open Since: 1996
Style: Influence comes from the foods of Guadalajara, the capital city of Jalisco, Mexico.
Signature Taco(s): Carne asada with everything (including the amazing red salsa)
There are a few secret dining gems in Old Town Scottsdale about which people are pretty tight-lipped. One of the most cherished is Tacos Jalisco.
Drive south down 68th Street from Indian School Road, just a minute or two, and your surroundings will rapidly change from spendy-looking modern apartment buildings to neighborhoods with older homes and significantly less landscaping.
Jalisco itself is situated next to an alleyway that leads into a section of the neighborhood. Next to it are a Circle K, a laundromat, and sports bar called the Closing Soon Saloon.
Despite a big menu, the clear favorite is the carne asada. Reyes Jr. says the little shop cranks out more than 1,000 carne asada burritos every week, and the go-to order for most of their customers is a toss-up between the carne asada burrito and the carne asada tacos.
There is something special about the way this juicy, coarsely-chopped asada sings when bitten into.
That's because the Jalisco carne asada recipe calls for marinating and simmering the beef in the same spices the restaurant uses for their famous red adobo salsa.
See, even though the burritos are epic (just listen to New York chef Adam Schop wax poetic about them in First We Feast's ’16 Bucket List Burrito Shops to Try Before You Die,’ article from 2015), according to the owner, Patricia Alvarez, the real draw is the salsa bar.
Reyes Jr. says that you can go anywhere and find carne asada tacos and burritos in Phoenix.
“But I was discussing this with father yesterday, and he said that the salsa that goes on the meat is what truly sets us apart from everyone else," Reyes Jr. explains. Which is why it was the first thing he learned how to make from his parents when he returned from Colorado to learn the family business.
The salsa, which they make fresh every day, is smokey, tangy, and complex. It's a closely guarded family secret, made with 11 ingredients, only two of which Alvarez would give up.
When asked about the distinctive flavor, she's vague.
“It’s from chiles de arbol and tomatillos,” she says.
When the shop was first opened by Reyes Jr.'s uncle, just before his family immigrated to the U.S. in 1996, the now ubiquitous combination of meat, beans, and rice in burritos didn’t exist. Jalisco started serving their burritos that way in order to stand out, layering them with steak, pico de gallo, guacamole, and cabbage.
“It was weird,” Reyes Jr. says. In his parents' minds, “It wasn’t really the way it should have been.”
After the Reyes arrived, they made some adjustments to the burritos.
The carne asada and salsa, Reyes Jr. says, “are like twins.” Better together.
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