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Restaurant Reviews (by Kim Gentes)

Over the years I have eaten at a lot of different resaurants.  Many are local to the Phoenix area, since I have lived there for 21 years.  Some are in various cities that I have visited or travelled to with work.

Entries in Mexican (2)

El Zocalo Mexican Grille (Chandler, AZ)

Mexican food has morphed into a myriad of forms and subtleties. Some of them are successful renditions of local nuance onto time-honored basic dishes. Some are new forms of typical mexican food ingredients made into new dishes completely.  What I love is finding a Mexican food restaurant that capably handles its mission of creating great food whether it is traditional or variant. 

I eat out a lot. So my expectations for good Mexican food are high.  I went to a wonderful restaurant today in Chandler, AZ that has exceptional Mexican food. That restaurant is called "El Zocalo Mexican Grille". My friend, Kevin Lott, told me about this restaurant. He highly recommended it. He was right on.

The first thing you notice when going to El Zocalo Mexican Grille is the great atmosphere.  The inside of the restaurant is nicely done, but don't settle for sitting inside. The key for the ambiance of this eatery is the great patio.  The patio is a perfect balance of beautiful iron frame tables and chairs, stone and brick walls, and professionally designed and arranged flora in an open air atrium. Sitting there in the middle of the afternoon was great, and I imagine the evening setting would be even more stunning.

The second thing to impress me was the chips and salsa.  Warm chips (deep fried, not baked) were excellent, and the zesty salsa was hearty and the ingredients were ground small so that it spread very well. I love good chips and salsa, and "El Zocalo" did not disappoint.

Service at the restaurant started off a little slow, but once the waiter came to our table, top notch attention and timeliness was the modus operandi of our server.  My drink never got too low and the food came in a very reasonable time. One thing I was very glad of- the plates on which the food was served were not used as heating plates for the food.  The food itself was piping hot, but the plate was not heated in the process. I hate nothing more than food served on a hot plate that burns you as you try to eat the food on it.  This has become an increasing trend in some mexican food restaurants, and it is a poor way to build in efficiency and speed into the food preparation process. Better Mexican food restaurants know this is a poor method and do not use it. Thank God that the "El Zocalo" actually prepares the food, then sets it on nice clean, cool plates.  The waiter was courteous and very helpful.

OK, let's talk about the main dish. I had a carne asada burrito with enchilada sauce, and a shredded beef crispy taco.  This was served with beans and rice as well. The food was perfect!  The crispy taco was eaten first, or perhaps I should say devoured. It was excellent. Perfect crispiness on the shell, excellent spiced and shredded beef and served hot!  Next I tackled the burrito, while doing round robin attacks on the excellent beans, with the occasional mouthful of rice.  It was great. I found myself spreading the enchilada sauce on everything and trying to get every last bite from each component of the meal. I literally have no complaints on the food at all.

As we left a sirene fountain centered the courtyard entrance to the patio and reminded me that architecture, landscape, service and great food can all come together to make a great eatery. That great lunch experience is what I would encourage you to encounter by taking a trip to "El Zocalo Mexican Grille" in Chandler, AZ. The food pricing was moderate, and though I have been to plenty of mexican food restaurants for less money, none of those bargain basement priced places had this quality. 

If you are looking for a great mexican food experience, try the El Zocalo Mexican Grille, you won't be disappointed.


El Zocalo Mexican Grille
28 South San Marcos Pl.
Chandler AZ


Good eating!

Kim Gentes

Pueblo Real Restaurant (Franklin, Tennessee)

Finding great food is always a task. But finding great food that is not native to the area is even harder. The last 22 years my family and I have lived in Arizona. Moving to Tennessee just 6 months ago, we didn't realize that we would essentially be leaving a cultural and culinary oasis for great Mexican food.  Hundreds of mom & pop Taco stands and grills that ranged from authentic to American neo-Sonoran dishes local to the southwest are left back in the Valley of the Sun.

In our search for strong Mexican food establishments here in the Nashville area, we tried the standards such as Pancho's and other local chains. Not much luck there. We also tried some off-the-path locations like Taco Lopez in Franklin, and La Hacienda in Nashville (on Nolensville Pike) and others. Taco Lopez is a very authentic small town eatery, but not very clean or comfortable to eat at. La Hacienda is good, large room atmosphere and relatively good food. Neither were stellar, but decent. 

One distinct change from the Sonoran southwest is that Mexican food here in the South relies much more on white, cheeze sauces than red /pepper sauces. Folks from the Southwest will find this odd, as the food will seem drier with less tomato and pepper laden dishes.

That said, this last week I have done twice with my sons to a restaurant in Franklin called "Pueblo Real".  We have finally found a taste of exceptional Mexican food!  

It starts off with two hits in our family- great chips and salsa and large sized cups of well-prepared Horchata. The salsa is the strong tomato ingredient on the menu, and it is done very well. Thin, but with a good amount of ingredients of dipping. The chips were warm on arrival, plentiful, and refilled regularly.  The horchata is huge and overall quite nice (it could use a touch more cinnamon in my mind, but it was still very smooth as is).

My son Jared enjoyed the Carne Asada plate and ate up every bite. I had a Pollo Verde dish which was exception in its use of various silantro and other green spice/peppers. The absolutely fresh avocado and nice white cheeze melted across the chicken braise was perfect. Included where 3 tortillas that were good and fresh. This all came with rice and beans as well, both of which were done nicely. My dish was 8.75 and worth every penny. Jordan, my oldest son, enjoyed the Chori Pollo and allowed me to taste it as well. Amazing! Of the five dishes I have sampled from this restaurant, it was easily the best. If you like pefect spicing, have a penchant for onions and enjoy chicken- this dish is a must try!

Cody, our youngest son, had a 3 item combination for just 6.75 - a burrito, taco and tamale. They were not the tiny sized editions you'd expect for a small priced combo special. They were large, full and tasty. I tried the ground beef and seasoning he had left from the burrito and it was very good.

If you have been trying to a good Mexican food experience in the Nashville area, I encourage you to try out Pueblo Real.  It is a step up from the decor of the mom & pop store/eateries, and the food is top notch. Finally, the service was excellent! Both times I was there, the waiters were fast, attentive and warm to us. Two of my sons are learning Spanish and the waiters were encouraging and patient to accommodate them trying to order in their learning.

Finally, when it was time to leave, I asked for a box. By the time I loaded up all the food that was left over from my meal (and put it into a box), it looked like I had ordered a take-out meal! They even threw in 2 orders of tortillas to complete the take-home portions we had yet to eat! Beautiful!

The best Mexican food place I have found yet in Tennessee!

Pueblo Real Restaurant
1340 West Main Street
Franklin, TN 37064
Ph: (615) 794-3232

Good eating!

Kim Gentes