Laurie Notaro Loves Restaurant Mexico, has a Bone to Pick with Chow Bella

Categories: Chow Bella
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Typically when we make a list around here, we share our favorites. But once in a while, a Chow Bella contributor feels compelled to warn you away from a spot (or 10) and so was born our list of the 10 Worst Mexican Restaurants in Metro Phoenix.

Check out the comments on the post. Not a one is without its defenders -- we even heard someone say this weekend that they love Pancho's. Sure, taste is subjective. But we did put an expert on the case: Erica O'Neil, who pens our weekly Taco the Town column and has eaten her way through every Mexican joint in this city. (Or damn close.)

We knew a couple of our choices -- like Tee Pee in Arcadia -- would inspire rage. And we knew we'd hear from Laurie Notaro. She's here today to defend her personal fave, Restaurant Mexico.

Here's the thing: A long, long time ago, in a land that many bloggers don't remember because they weren't born yet, Mill Avenue was the heart of Tempe. It was a feisty, bustling center in a college town, and if you were lucky enough to be of age during the golden age of Mill Avenue -- a time when the paint on its buildings was still allowed to peel -- you'll tell stories about it until the day you die.

You also ate at Restaurant Mexico, a family-run joint with Mexico City style food and a place I could eat for lunch for $3.25 (including drink) when I was a much thinner journalism student working at the State Press.

I've spent the last 30 years eating Mexican food around the Valley, and I've eaten at all of the old places, the standard places, the places that people have been shot in front of an hour after I left, and sure, the gringo places. Restaurant Mexico stands alone. There are an undefined number of genres of Mexican food, but to put Restaurant Mexico on a "worst of" list is akin to calling the Virgin Mary "homely." You just don't do it. It's an institution of not only Mill Avenue but also Tempe itself -- an icon of the old, a survivor of the new, and a legacy for the times ahead.

Aside from that, Restaurant Mexico rocks. And it has for 25 years. You'll know it as soon as you have your first Clare burro, chicken mole, or the sopes that got knocked around unnecessarily. RM has never strayed from its dependable menu of queso fresco-topped dishes, homemade tortillas, fresh beans, honest salsa and just-out-of the fryer chips that have always come in the same size in the same bowl for the last 25 years. Guess what? If you ask the girls nicely, they'll bring you more.

And really, if you're hell bent on staying away from RM, a little mom and pop place still surviving on Mill Avenue despite the knocks-down, repaving, corporate invasions and the sagging business of everything else down there--which says to me that a place simply can't suck to live through that and has a loyal following that loves it every bit as much as I do--but it also means that there's one less person I have to wait behind.

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Restaurant Mexico

423 S. Mill Ave., Tempe, AZ

Category: Restaurant

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