Carne Asada Fries: A Southern California Classic Available Right Here in Tempe
The Guilty Pleasure: Carne Asada Fries
Lauren Saria Carne asada fries at Taco Nazo in Tempe.
Where to Get It: Taco Nazo in Tempe
Price: About $6
What It Really Costs: At least an extra hour at the gym
If you're from southern California then you're probably already familiar with carne asada fries. According to reliable sources (read: Wikipedia), this Mexican-American dish originates from San Diego and becomes increasingly difficult to find as you travel farther from the city.
Luckily for us, there's at least a few places in town doing their own versions of this finger food -- though, realistically you're going to want a fork. The version at Taco Nazo in Tempe is a pretty solid rendition, delivering on the necessary greasy fries and abundance of shredded cheese. Is it authentic Mexican cuisine? Nope. But it is a near-perfect blend of two favorite dishes: nachos and fries.
A friend (who used to live in San Diego) tells me "proper" carne asada fries should be like "a geological dig, exhuming layers of toppings." And those toppings should always include shredded cheese, guacamole, sour cream, salsa, and of course, carne asada.
At Taco Nazo you get a plate of fries -- you know, the greasy, fat kind that are best enjoyed with toppings or some sort of dipping sauce anyway -- covered in a layer of shredded cheese and pieces of steak. On the side you get a generous scoop of sour cream and another of guacamole with tomatoes and onions mixed in. It sort of covers the bases of guacamole and salsa in one, though if you want more you can always ask for a side of salsa to add some serious kick.
The standout part of the whole shebang is definitely the carne asada, which comes diced up into easy -o-scoop pieces. They're each little flavor bombs of peppery, moist meat that you're going to be more than eager to enjoy with a cheese-soaked french fry. It's a pretty epic combination of starch, cheese, grease, and meat.
And when you put all the layers together, you get what amounts to hybrid of nachos, french fries, and a Mexican casserole with layers of each ingredient making for mouthfuls of goodness. You can just imagine eating them by the ocean in San Diego, with a cool sea breeze in your hair.
By the way, at $7 these fries are clearly meant to be enjoyed a la carte. But good luck resisting one of the other entrees off the gigantic Taco Nazo menu. The restaurant offers a dizzying selection of tacos, burritos, quesadillas, and more. A word to the wise: Split the fries with a friend.