Welcome to The Essentials, our catalog of indispensable and quintessential Phoenix food and drink. From now until May, we'll be sharing 50 dishes, drinks, and food experiences that make up the culinary backbone (and personality) of metro Phoenix. This list is highly eclectic, mixing classics with newer and lesser-known favorites. But all The Essentials have one thing in common: We think they're required eating (and drinking) in metro Phoenix.
15: Margarita + Guacamole del Barrio at Barrio Café
If you like colorful food and buildings, the next few minutes are going to be enjoyable. We’re grabbing a table inside the elegant yet folksy Barrio Café, set amid the street-art-heavy walls of Calle 16 in Phoenix.
Be sure to start your order here with a serving of the Guacamole del Barrio, paired perhaps with the Flor de Jamaica Margarita. Now, pairing margaritas with chips and guacamole is not an unfamiliar concept in the Valley, or the Southwest for that matter, but what will soon arrive is bound to make an impression.
The Flor de Jamaica Margarita is a shade of purple in color, a pleasant surprise if you’re unfamiliar or ordering this for the first time. It consists of Tesoro Silver Tequila blended with hibiscus flower reduction and Grand Marnier orange liqueur. The drink is $13, and goes down easy by straw, so know what you’re doing here.
Next is a taste of the Guacamole del Barrio. This Botanas menu item is served all day – even prepared tableside during dinner hours – and will run you $11.75.
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Consider a light entrée if you have a second course in mind, as the basket of thick, shiny, and lightly salted tortilla chips makes it a little too easy to revisit the bowl of fresh guacamole for yet another scoop. The Guacamole del Barrio is heavily textured. Large chunks of bright green avocado are blended with diced tomatoes, onion, jalapeño, and cilantro, and of course, generous sprinklings of pomegranate seeds.
Try to visit Barrio Café – whose menu has been overseen by the Valley’s beloved chef Silvana Salcido Esparza since the restaurant's inception in 2002 – during happy hour, if you can. It goes from 2 to 5 p.m., Tuesday through Saturday, during which all drinks are half price. So, here’s to a guilt-free second round of your new favorite margarita – just don't try to make a toast with a mouthful of guacamole.
The Essentials so far:
50: Tequila Sunrise at the Arizona Biltmore.
49: "Dragon" Dumpling Burger at Bitter & Twisted Cocktail Parlour.
48: Dizzy Fig Empanada at Republica Empanada.
47: Linguine Carbonara at Avanti.
46: The Food Court at Mercado de los Cielos.
45: Chicken Feta Salad at George’s Kitchen.
44: Spinach & Cheese Chimi Burro at Mi Patio Mexican Restaurant.
43: Dinner at Rustler's Rooste.
42: Gyro Omelet at Mel's Diner.
41: Zipps Wings at Zipps Sports Grill.
40: Organ Stop Pizza in Mesa.
39: Asian Nachos at Moto.
38: Olive Oil Tasting at Queen Creek Olive Oil Mill.
37: Baby Back Ribs at Don & Charlie's.
36: Limoncello at Cibo.
35: Chili Salt Chicken Wings at Asian Café Express.
34: Smoked Prime Rib at Texaz.
33: Steak Salad at Feeney's.
32: Tasting Menu at Kai Restaurant.
31: Toffee Banofi Sundae at Sweet Republic.
30: Big Jim at Welcome Diner.
29: Sonoran Hot Dog at El Caprichoso.
28: Sashimi at Nobuo at Teeter House.
27: Oysters at Casey Moore's Oyster House.
26: Spring rolls at Da Vang.
25: Bruschetta and wine at Postino.
24: Hot green chili fry bread at Fry Bread House.
23: The Big One at The Chuckbox.
22: Cahuamanta Stew at Cahuamanta El Yaqui.
21: Dim Sum at Great Wall Cuisine.
20: Fried chicken at The Horny Toad.
19: George & Dragon’s Famous Fish & Chips.
18: Macaron Ice Cream Sandwiches at Pho 43rd Express.
17: Cerreta Candy Co. Factory Tour & Candy Sampling in Downtown Glendale.
16: Steak Dinner at The Stockyards.