Guilty Pleasures

Tosti Elotes Are a Modern Mexican Update on the Classic Frito Pie

The Guilty Pleasure:
Tosti Elotes
Where to Get It: La Carreta de Lily
Price: $7.58 (large)
What it Really Costs: A slight dip in your self-esteem because eating salty, gloppy food out of plastic bag is pretty much the opposite of sexy.

Tosti Elotes probably won't be the most elegant snack food you'll ever eat, but it might be the most memorable. The snack is essentially a Mexican street food version of the classic Frito pie, the humble comfort food dish popular throughout the South and Midwest. And if you thought Frito pies were indulgent, wait until you get your hands on a bag of Tosti Elotes (the name is a portmanteau of the snack's two star ingredients: Tostito corn chips and elote, a.k.a. fresh corn). It's the kind of snack food that seems hell-bent on pushing your sodium and cholesterol levels into the danger zone. 

You'll find it at La Carreta de Lily, the local Mexican snack chain known for fresh eloteescamochas (milky fruit cocktails), chamoyadas (chamoy-spiked shaved ice desserts), ice cream, and various other sweet and salty treats with slightly goofy-sounding names. 

The snack is made using Mexican-brand Tostitos (salsa verde-flavored, for an extra layer of salty spice), mayonnaise, melted butter, chili powder, lime, granulated queso cotija,  fresh-off-the-cob elote, and, to top it off, a hit of Mexican hot sauce.

Making Tosti Elotes is dead simple; calling it "cooking" would be a considerable stretch. The process involves slicing open a bag of Tostitos, dumping a bunch ingredients over the chips, and finally, planting a plastic spoon into the stiff muddle of chips and creamy goop. In some circles, this type of single-serving, eat-it straight-out-of-the-bag preparation is known as the "walking taco." Lazy, yes, but utterly convenient. And kind of fun, too. 

So, what does it taste like? As it turns out, savoring a bag of Tosti Elotes is all about proportion. The only way to fully appreciate the appeal of Tosti Elotes is by biting into a corn chip with just the right balance of mayonnaise, chili powder, cheese, butter, lime, and corn. When you find those perfect chips, you'll be treated to a bold mosaic of flavors: salty, rich, tangy, spicy, creamy, with a tickle of vinegar from the hot sauce. There's even a hint of sweetness in there from the fresh nubs of corn. It's unsophisticated, sure, but satisfying in the way that only salty, fat-laden junk food can satisfy. 

But if the many ingredients have not been properly layered, or you let the bag sit for even just a few minutes, your Tosti Elotes will quickly devolve into a bag of drippy, soft chips and indistinguishable goop. Our bag of Tosti Elotes was, sadly, a victim of death by mayonnaise. Most of the chip were drowned out by swirls of melted butter and too many globs of heavy mayonnaise, making it hard to appreciate the bold medley of flavors. 

You can judge for yourself with a bag of Tosti Elotes from La Carreta de Lily, which has 12 locations around the Valley, including food stalls at Desert Sky Mall and Fiesta Mall. Just make sure you have a tall glass of water on hand to wash down the huge amounts of sodium. And, it should go without saying, if you don't like mayonnaise, this guilty pleasure is not for you. 

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Patricia Escárcega was Phoenix New Times' food critic.