One great indicator of a successful restaurant is the amount of people keep returning year after year. But I find another fantastic way to tell is by how many generations of the same family are involved in the restaurant. With three generations currently involved and a fourth generation of the family in training, you can be sure that the same standards and attention to detail is being maintained. Putting all that aside it becomes clear how great a place may be when you take your first bite of food and wonder aloud, where has this place been all my life. The freshness and flavor of the tortillas are astounding. When you look around and notice the austere dining room you aren’t concerned, because you will then understand that everyone is there not for the ambience but for the great food.
The place that started in downtown Phoenix in 1968 with just Wife, Husband, Son and Mom has continued to flourish and expand. Due to city expansions this much-loved restaurant had to continue to relocate. Always trying to stay close to their core area, Carolina’s just kept growing. Now with three locations spread out across the Valley, they are keeping to the same principles from the day of opening, good food at a fair price. They are open Monday through Saturday for Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner and you will be sure to find something on this menu that will keep you coming back time after time. After all they are known to have the “Best Tortillas in Town”, not to mention all the different accolades they have received from numerous publications.
Our first item we ordered was an order of Tortilla Chips ($2.50). This comes in a bag, which is so genius, so that any chips you are unable to finish you can reseal the bag and take them with you. It is a generous amount of chips in the bag, so it is easy to share with one other person. If you are a party larger you may want to order two bags. They also have a Party Size bag ($14.95) but I am not sure how large that may be. When you order the chips, you get your choice of Hot Sauce, Pico, or Green Salsa for dipping. There is also a salsa bar (at this location at least) that allows you to add more sauces for dipping. The chips had a great crunch and just the perfect amount of salt. The homemade and fresh flavor is very evident from your first bite.
We then decided on some items from the A La Carte section of the menu. The first items were a Hard Beef Taco ($2.75) and the Green Corn Tamale ($2.80). The taco is topped off with lettuce and cheese. It has an insane crunch and the flavor was phenomenal. The tamale is steamed to perfect temperature and once you unwrap the paper, the aroma fills your nose and puts you mouth into overdrive to get a forkful of food. The not too sweet Masa steamed dough and the green chili that it is wrapped around may be one of the better tamales in town as well.
The next item we ordered was one of the Special Burros. We ordered a Bean, Cheese, and Sour Cream Burrito ($4.40). The beans have great flavor and you can tell that care is taken to all the ingredients that they serve. The melted cheese and the creaminess of the sour cream all bring another element to each bite. The flour tortilla is barely able to contain all the stuffing. It is available to be double wrapped and I would recommend it.
The final item that we ordered on this visit was from the Original Combos section of the menu. We ordered the #13, which is three mini Chimis ($8.75). The mini Chimichanga combo comes with your choice of chicken or beef chimis. But you can ask to do a combination of the combo plate. So we had two beef and one chicken. It comes with a side of Sour Cream and Guacamole. Every combo plate option also comes with rice and refried beans with cheese. The chimis were a perfect two-bite size and were very easy to share. The beef had great deep flavor while the chicken had a semi-sweet and lighter flavor. You can also pick any three items off of their A La Carte menu and make it a combo for an additional charge ($2) to get the rice and beans.
I love the low-key atmosphere and the quick walk up and order style counter. I especially love the true and authentic flavors that you can taste with every bite. It feels like the original Carolina is still back in the kitchen pouring over her recipes and keeping standards. This restaurant will continue to be a welcome stop for me, as long as the family is keeping it the way it is. So while there are a lot of options in the Valley to choose from, it may be wise to stop and try some of the Best Tortillas in Town.
Location and Website – 2126 East Cactus Rd Phoenix, AZ 85022, http://www.carolinasmexicanfood.com