Carolina’s in Arizona, The Quintessential Taco Dive.
Welcome worldly readers, to the Pot & Pan Handler’s obscure blog Carolina’s edition. Carolina’s is Phoenix Arizona’s quintessential taco dive or taco divine, at least from our point of view. Handmade tortillas put this restaurant on Phoenix’s map, but only for locals in the know, because Carolina’s is off the beaten path. We not only found Carolina’s but we ate the shit out of it, and can’t wait to do it again. Here’s how we got there…
Since my parents knew we would be in Phoenix for a few days, they asked their neighbor Louis. Oops, excuse me for a minute. (Hey, Louis, sorry if I’m spelling your name wrong, the subject never came up yo). Louis, is a Phoenix native, my parents rightly figured he would have a finger on the pulse of Arizona cuisine. He told us to go to Lolo’s, it was good. He also told us to go to Carolina’s, it was great. http://www.carolinasmex.com/
The intersection of out of and the way
Out of the way, or in an industrial area, are pretty polite ways of saying, Carolina’s is in the hood. There’s a reason there are bars on the windows, right? But, don’t let that stop you from going, if there is anyplace worth putting away your Purell sanitized, pristine, touristy sensibilities, Carolina’s is it.
Some say the religion of BBQ (in the south, BBQ is a religion, often contentiously so) was the first to integrate. Carolina’s is like that. Everybody eats there; you’ll see custom tailored, Wall Street power suits, construction dudes, cops, doctors, rappers, men, women, gay, straight, white, black, brown, taco bell employees, super heroes, and Manuel while there. Yeah, that’s right, Manuel… Everybody.
House paint and cinderblocks
Inside and out Carolina’s is minimalist. Not minimalist in a hipster, linear, modern, Danish, juxtaposition of form and function approach. Instead Carolina’s minimalist manner is a means to an end, just enough to get the job done. There is nothing fancy here. The staff is minimally aware of your existence. They are a humming machine of industry. You are just another cog in the wheel of efficiency and you are expected to order as such. Order the Machaca tacos, quickly and get the fuck out of the way, serve yourself from the fountain soda machine and grab a bunch of napkins you’re going to need them. Don’t forget the hot sauce either; it’s as delicious as the tacos themselves.
What’s that fickle reader? Reconstituted, dried, Mexican spiced meats aren’t your thing? Fortunately Carolina’s serves chicken tacos too, on the same banging, handmade tortillas. What’s that, dear reader? Are the chicken tacos on banging house made tortillas as good? We’ll possibly never know. The machaca tacos are the pinnacle of taco supremacy. I would vote for them as president if possible. Especially this year. If you go, don’t even ask; Carolina’s doesn’t have a cruelty free, organic, free range, locally sourced soy, tofu, vegan, faux meat equivalent. Try to order something like this and they’ll look at you like you are a stupid dick and rightfully so.
Meanwhile at Carolina’s
They call my name and with resolute indifference I’m handed hinged foam containers. We retire to a table in the sparsely decorated dining room. The screamingly yellow walls wail, one of the few times I can remember hearing a color. We open our containers and find perplexingly perspiring machaca tacos. When you lift these tacos, they drip, drip, drip a continuous rivulet. At first I find this unsettling, it continues to drip and laughs at my discomfort.
Once picked up Carolina’s tacos are an exercise in commitment, as putting it back down would result in it getting all wet again. The incessant dripping continues and there is now a pool in the hinged foam container. No worries, reader. Once you’ve tried the machaca taco, you don’t want to put it down anyway. The tortillas are light, airy and put the grocery store equivalent to shame. The slightly spicy beef, is juicy with reconstituted beef juice and various terrifying Mexican spices, and the crisp lettuce brings a fresh crunch to the lunch equation. Well worth the out of the way drive.
We devoured 1, 2, 3… 4 machaca tacos, each one dripping a full flavored broth and their delicious house made hot sauce. When the tacos were gone, I held the hinged container by the corner, let the delicious machaca perspiration pool in the opposite corner, and ate the shit out of it with a spoon. Yum. Served with better than average industry standard, unmemorable sides of rice and refried beans. Carolina’s is a machaca mecca, nothing fancy, but it don’t have to be fancy to taste good and Carolina’s drippy flavor perspiration tacos on banging house made tortillas taste pretty fricking good.
Coming soon: we’re back home and we get not quite Asian at Chapel Hill’s Jujube, Asian food with southern ingredients, we’ll see ya’ there. May the odds be ever in your flavor- The Pot and Pan Handler