Round two of my Hidden Gems tour around the Valley takes me to the city of Phoenix and a little Mexican food joint called El Nopalito… and man am I glad I went here.
It was right around noon on a hot Thursday in downtown Phoenix when me and my buddy AJ were starving and looking for a good Mexican food spot nearby. Thankfully, we came across a little place called El Nopalito, located right on the corner of 24th Street and Thomas in Phoenix.
Having hardly eaten anything for breakfast and fresh off of sitting through a 75-minute class with my stomach growling, we both were starving and in need of a good meal on the cheap. It’s safe to say that El Nopalito provided both.
Upon pulling up, you can tell that there’s a hint of authenticity in the air around El Nopalito.
Once we stepped inside, we were instantly greeted by a nice lady named Guadalupe, sat down and had our drink orders taken. Thankfully there wasn’t much of a lunchtime rush as there were only a few people seated inside. It was nicely air conditioned inside as well… a definite plus when the temperature was up around 107 today.
Next came the menu. Plenty to choose from while all are listed at low prices… I can already tell this is my kind of joint!
(Click on the picture to enlarge)
Tacos for a buck each? That’s what’s up! I was instantly sold on what I was going to get… tacos… but which kind?
I had read plenty of good reviews about the carne asada tacos, and saw that the carnitas (pork) tacos were definitely worth getting as well, so I figured I’d split it down the middle and go with two carne asada tacos and two carnitas tacos. Sounds good to me!
But right before we ordered, out came the necessary and delicious-looking chips and salsa. Oh baby now we’re talkin’!
There’s nothing quite like a good batch of chips and salsa to start off your devouring of a Mexican food smorgasbord.
The golden glow of the freshly made chips immediately made my mouth start to water. Once I could finally take my eye off the alluring chips, I made my way over to the two guacamole bowls filled with two types of salsa: the red salsa and the salsa verde.
I started off by testing out the salsa verde (the less intimidating of the two spice-wise) and fell in love with the first bite. A liquidy texture with tiny, tiny chunks, the salsa verde was to die for. I then found myself chippin’ and dippin’ with the salsa verde like crazy. Then to be fair I thought I’d try the red salsa… I’m here so why not at least test it out, right? Not as liquidy as the salsa verde but with some more kick to it, the red salsa was equally as impressive as the salsa verde (on a side note, somebody alert the Guinness Book of World Records, I think I just set a record for most times saying “salsa verde” in a 5-sentence span).
I was hoping that the chips and salsa would be a good indicator of what to expect from the tacos: each bite gets better than the last.
I had to wait and see, but didn’t have to wait for long.
And here come those tacos! Two carne asada and two carnitas tacos topped with onions and cilantro were on my plate as well as a side of rice… time to dig in!
The meat was cooked perfectly and the pork was to die for. To put it simply, these tacos were absolutely delicious, and I can see why the Phoenix New Times voted El Nopalito as having the best tacos in the Phoenix area two years running. They were fantastic! These are tacos that you can down in about 2-3 bites but they’re packed with the meat you ordered and are even better if you sprinkle some salsa verde and red salsa on each like I did. Just as I had hoped: each bite got better than the last!
The rice was good too, but the tacos (as they should) rightfully overshadowed the rice.
After filling up on a much-needed lunchtime Mexican cuisine, out came the check. Between AJ and I, we ordered 7 tacos and 2 sides of rice… the total cost you may ask?
Can I get a hell yeah?
What an absolute steal of a meal! A quality meal for around five bucks? Sure, I’ll come back anytime!
Between the good and friendly service (every time I hit the bottom of my drink, Guadalupe was right there with a new glass of water for me), the great chips and salsa and the fantastic tacos, I know I’ll certainly try to make it back to El Nopalito again in the near future.
It is a place I certainly recommend going to if you’re looking for a fast (we were in and out of there in 25 minutes) Mexican lunchtime meal in the Phoenix area. If you’re on a lunch break, between classes, or just want to explore the city, do yourself a favor and check out El Nopalito, I can vouch by saying it’s definitely worth a look!
Overall rating: 8.75 out of 10
Information on El Nopalito
- El Nopalito
- 2831 N 24th Street, Phoenix, AZ, 85008
- Phone: (602) 522-2043
- Hours: Monday-Thursday 9 am-8 pm; Friday 9 am-9 pm, Saturday-Sunday 8:30 am-9 pm
* All photos were taken by me using my iPhone 4
El Nopalito on Urbanspoon