Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Guy Fieri Ate Here

. . . (sort of).

When Guy Fieri (of the Food Network's Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives) ate at Roberto’s Authentic Mexican Food, the café was located in a gas station in Phoenix. Since then, Roberto has moved up in the world and has relocated to a shopping center in Anthem, AZ, just one short exit off of I-17 north of our campground.

Unfortunately, none of the reviews of the restaurant mentioned this fact, so as we pulled into the center’s parking lot, we were not at all sure if this was the place. But the minute we walked in the door and saw Roberto behind the cash register, all uncertainty was gone. It appears that Roberto was offered the opportunity to move his operation, and since he and most of his staff live in the Anthem area anyway, the decision was easy. We were sorry that we didn’t get the chance to savor the gas station ambience, but these new “digs” are larger and more convenient.

Roberto has decorated his new space with colorful tiles, photos of his food,

the obligatory autographed Guy Fieri poster (on the far right in the photo, right),

and snapshots of Guy taken during his visit including one with Guy and a red convertible.

Roberto’s is an “order at the counter and then find a seat; someone will bring your food to you “ type of place, and the menu hangs over the yellow tile counter.

The menu doesn’t break any new ground and contains the de rigueur combination plates with beans and rice and an assortment of a la carte enchiladas, tacos, tortas, burritos, tostadas, and quesadillas. Most can be made with shredded beef, chicken, carne asada (thin sliced grilled beef), carnitas (braised and then roasted pork), al pastor (marinated pork chopped or shredded and mixed with pineapple), or fish.

We both decided to order a la carte and to forgo the rice and beans. Chuck planned to order one shredded beef taco, one shredded beef torta, and a bean and cheese tostada. My choice was the carne asada taco and an order of two chili rellenos. To this we added an order of chips and pico de gallo. When Chuck went to the counter to order, Roberto remarked that we were ordering a lot of food and that normally the torta was a meal by itself. The torta was scratched from the order. When our order came it was apparent that Roberto was right. That would have been too much food.

Our chips (nicely warmed) and pico de gallo came first. The pico was the only real disappointment of the meal and was three quarters chopped onion to one quarter tomato. Fortunately, we also received two small containers of a thin but flavorful red salsa that had medium heat and plenty of cilantro.

I didn’t taste Chuck’s bean and cheese tostada (Is a tostada just a flat taco?), but the beans were mostly pureed (as he prefers) with just a few whole or partial beans. He reports that: “It was good.” I did get a small bite of the shredded beef taco and that was delicious. The meat was moist and tender and tasted lightly of seasoning.

My carne asada taco came topped with a generous dollop of very good guacamole. The beef tasted of a fajita-like seasoning, and the small pieces of meat were also tender and juicy. The chili rellenos were first rate. The peppers were midway on a continuum between medium hot and very hot, the batter coating was thin and light, and the cheese filling was a stringy white cheese rather that the processed American cheese that too many restaurants substitute for the real Mexican cheese. The red chili was spicy but not overpowering and tasted slightly of cinnamon. Since I judge a Mexican restaurant by their chili relleno, Roberto’s passed with flying colors. When I complimented Roberto on the chilies, he suggested that next time I try them with his hot green chili. This is a recommendation that I intend to follow.

Very good food served by a congenial host earns a 4.0 Addie score. But Roberto, the pico de gallo needs work.

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