Hidden Gems – Carolina’s Mexican Food

26 08 2010

Today marked the kickoff of my quest to find the best local Mexican food restaurants that the greater Phoenix area has to offer. Through my first two years living in Phoenix and Tempe, I really hadn’t found a Mexican food joint that could throw together some good, authentic meals. I knew that this year, that had to change. This past summer back home in California, me and a handful of friends scavenged the local streets to find the best authentic Mexican food and came across an abundance of great places to eat. I figured I might as well take that mentality with me back to ASU and see what Arizona’s Mexican food was all about. My first stop on the tour: Carolina’s Mexican Food in Phoenix. Having read plenty of positive reviews about the place, I thought I might as well hit up a good lunch spot with some friends between classes.

Carolina’s is located right on the corner of 12th Street and Mohave in Phoenix, and is most definitely the place to be in the neighborhood.

Right as I stepped out of my car, the ever-so-enticing smell of an authentic Mexican food cuisine took over my senses. My taste buds were already watering and I hadn’t even set a foot inside yet!

Once I did make my way over to the door and walk inside, the first thing that stood out to me (besides the crazy lunch line) was the ENORMOUS selection of items and combinations to choose from.

Tacos! Burros! Tostadas! Enchiladas! Tamales! Chorizos! Even breakfast items! Wow! This place has it all!

And the best part may have not even been the selection, the prices were dirt cheap!

Tacos are $1.75 each, burros are around $3.00 on average depending on what you get and tamales are a buck and a half each.

I was drawn to the soft shell machaca tacos (seasoned shredded beef), and since I hadn’t eaten in about 5 hours, I had to grab three of those bad boys. Additionally, I got a small side of rice to top me off. For three tacos and a side of rice, my total ran to $7.21. Not bad, huh? Now the real test, is there a reason that the items are so cheap or is this place really a hidden gem?

Judging by the amount of people I saw inside, I thought to myself that the latter seemed more accurate than the former.

My food was ready about 10-12 minutes after ordering (and during prime lunch hours with the place packed, that’s pretty darn good), and it was now time to dive into those tacos! I’m starving!

I unwrap the hot tin foil and can’t wait to see the buried treasure inside. The first thing I notice is: WHOA! That’s a whole lotta lettuce we got going on up in here. Underneath that sea of green is some cheese as well as the shredded beef. The tacos were absolutely delicious, exactly what I envisioned Carolina’s would have to offer. The meat was cooked well and not dry and the tortilla was a heavenly taco casing (there’s a reason that the Phoenix New Times listed Carolina’s as having Phoenix’s best tortillas of 2009). My only complaint was that they went way too hard on the lettuce and kind of short-changed me on the shredded beef. Let’s not get it twisted, there was still plenty of beef, but not as much as I think there could have been. Complaints or not, I mowed through those three tacos in a good five minutes flat. A fantastic trio of tacos.

The side of rice was very small for the $1.35 I paid for it, but every bite of it had a taste of authenticity that you just can’t replicate.

Other items that my friends had and their reviews:

  • Cheese & chicken quesadilla – I quote my buddy as saying the quesadilla was “absolutely amazing” and was the “best quesadilla [he’s] had in Arizona.” So hey, if you’re a quesadilla person, give it a try! Sounds like this place has your name on it!
  • Beef enchiladas – my friend was a big fan of the sauce, said it was “really good” but thought the meat could have been a little bit better. He said he enjoyed his meal and would certainly try to come back again.
  • Chicken enchiladas – my buddy described his chicken enchiladas as the chicken being good and the sauce being great. So far that’s two-for-two on enjoying the sauce. If you’re a sauce person, it seems like you’re in luck with what Carolina’s puts on your meal.
  • Chips and salsa – I got to snack on a couple of the chips and I enjoyed the few bites I had. The chips were nice and crunchy and the salsa had a good kick to it. Overall, I’d say the chips and salsa could be described as being “good.” They were better than average and but they weren’t quite great at the same time, so I think calling the chips and salsa “good” would be a fair assessment.

All-in-all, if you’re looking for a good, cheap lunchtime meal, then boy do I have the place for you! Do yourself a favor and head to Carolina’s the next time you’re in need of an authentic and cheap Mexican food meal right around lunchtime.

What’s my review for Carolina’s Mexican Food?

Two thumbs up from me! A fantastic lunch spot and I can assure you I will be back at Carolina’s in the near future.

Overall rating: 9.25 out of 10

Information on Carolina’s

  • Carolina’s Mexican Food
  • 1202 E Mohave Street, Phoenix, AZ 85034
  • Phone number is (602) 252-1503 (call your order in before you leave so it’ll be ready when you get there!)
  • Hours: Monday-Friday 7:00 am – 7:30 pm; Saturday 7:00 am – 6 pm; Sunday – closed

If you found this review to be helpful or if you know of any Mexican food places that you’d recommend me going to, let me know in the comments or on Facebook!

This is only the first of many stops, and more to come soon!

* All photos were taken by me using my iPhone 4

Carolina’s Mexican Food on Urbanspoon

Carolina's Mexican Food on Urbanspoon

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20 09 2010
Hidden Gems – Taquitos Jalisco « dub on the reg

[…] three reviews on yelp.com of Taquitos Jalisco (compared to 114 reviews of my first Hidden Gems stop at Carolina’s Mexican Food), I was going in pretty much blindly in regards to previous reviews of the place. However, I was in […]

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