There's a Reason Why La Tolteca Remains a Phoenix Dining Landmark
Papel picado at La Tolteca along with colorful murels.
Located at 12th street on Van Buren, La Tolteca is one of those places the natives always seem to bring up along with Comedor and Oaxaca. There's a reason for that kind of loyalty; the food is good and the establishment is timeless.
Painted ceiling tiles at La Tolteca
While there are those hipster establishments that try to replicate the authentic nature of La Tolteca, La Toleca itself simply is. The old building blends into the surrounding neighborhood and the interior exemplifies the basic nature of the menu and products sold there.
Chicharrones with rice, beans and tortillas.
An important thing to consider with La Tolteca, as with many Mexican restaurants in the U.S., is the food is not totally authentic Mexican. This is one of those areas where "foodies" go into frenzies ripping apart Mexican joints that use the dreaded yellow cheese. Well, here's my take as seen from a third generation halfer who holds on to her culture like a "foodie" to their Anthony Bourdain code of rules. When people come to a new country most of the ingredients to which they were accustomed are not available so substitution is required. It's only been in the past decades that more Mexican food items, and other Latino items, have found their way into grocery stores. There was a time when we made yearly treks to the Food City in South Phoenix to get our tamale and menudo makings during the holidays. Now, if we forget the ojas we can usually run to the nearest Frys. I have nothing against the Americanesque versions of these food items because it represents the strength of my culture to assimilate but never give up entirely on itself. Off the soap box and on to my review.
I had the chicharrones because it's not something I'd usually eat. Usually I prefer a more crispy chicharrone but La Tolteca's is in a delicious sauce that made it worth stepping away from the perfect crispy texture they are known for. I have to admit my husband ate more of the chicharrones than I did because I could only tolerate so much of the fatty goodness. My God, it was pure flavorful goodness though. Their tortillas alone were enough to keep me salivating for days. The beans and rice are pretty typical of most Mexican food joints and good enough to take home for snacking on later.
La Tolteca fish taco
This fish taco was one of the good ones out there. Lots of flavor along with freshness in my finned friend makes for a tasty taco. The batter is light and tasty and mixes well with the shredded cabbage. Of course the queso fresco added the perfect topping. Now on to the salsas.
Tolteca's green salsa
This was my salsa-of-choice and it was delicious. We went right before the restaurant closed but this stuff tasted freshly made. The perfect mix of spicy and flavorful for my tender tongue, but good enough that my habenero-loving husband even enjoyed it.
Tolteca's Habanero salsa
This was my hubby's chip-dippin' poison. It smelled marvelous and a little taste proved delicious but only the stronger can deal with the spiciness. So, I can't personally give a thumbs up, but my husband did. It looked and smelled heavenly.
For Mexican-Americans, like me, La Tolteca may remind you of Sunday cenas at your tia's house. It's good food at great prices. For the rest of the population, it's good Mexican food that you are probably use to and will surely come back for. The market is a great place to buy the ingredients to make your own Mexican favorites at home. Purchase some masa and try your hand at corn tortillas. Of course you have to stop in the bakery before you leave. Try some pan dulce for the next morning with some cafecito.
Here's a link to their site with all the goods on their restaurant, market, catering and bakery. Enjoy and tell them Phoenix Blogger sent you.