Tacos in Rainy Arizona

It rains in Arizona. I have proof that it was damp and dreary until the day we went to the airport to fly home to snowy Colorado. In fact, it was raining so hard when we landed, that traffic was a mess on the way to the car rental company.

My friends buy me taco shirts.

By the way, don’t rent a car from Nu Car Rental. They may be cheap but the front desk person blatantly lied to us about insurance. Anyway, just don’t.

We were in Arizona so that Ryan could meet with his Arizona representation, Alexander Sinclair Design Showroom in Scottsdale. It was a quick, two night excursion over Valentine’s Day.

The view from our room at 3 Palms Hotel in Scottsdale.

The 3 Palms Hotel was our home base, and I’d definitely stay there again. It is affordable, updated and clean. Across from a large park popular with disc golfers, it’s a stones throw from Tempe and from Old Town Scottsdale, and minutes from Fate Brewing and Goldwater Brewing. But this is not a blog about beer, although you should totally go to those breweries.

Doing a very touristy thing.

Starving when we got to town, we ended up at Alma. It was entirely because they had tacos on happy hour. Turns out, I’d been to the strip mall before, which is kinda nutty since I’ve only been to Scottsdale a couple of times. I had not been, however, to Alma.

At that moment there was a little bit of blue sky. In the Pacific Northwest we call that a “cloud break.” Meaning a break in the clouds, not a moment of cloudiness.

The garage-style doors were up and it was a bit chilly at the bar, where we sat. I never thought I’d be chilly in Arizona on this trip, or any other trip, actually.

On happy hour we ordered the chips, which come with three salsas ($4), an order of al pastor tacos (3 for $10), and an order of barbacoa tacos (3 for $10). Not too bad, and the tacos were pretty darn delicious.

The pineapple salsa gave the al pastor tacos a freshness and the barbacoa wasn’t too sweet for me. Sometimes the meats a little sugary. Happy hour wines were $7 and beer was $2 off.

Although it feels a little like a chain restaurant (although I don’t think it is), Alma in Scottsdale was pretty solid. If the sun had been shining and we’d been on the expansive patio, I am sure those tacos would have been the best ever. Alas.

We got a hot tip from a staff member at the showroom that Cocina Madrigral was a top 100 taco restaurant according to Yelp, or something like that. Turns out it was listed as the number one taco joint on Yelp.

#1 on Yelp

A little out of the way, and in Phoenix, we decided to go there for lunch on Valentine’s Day. Some people do steak, we do tacos. Apparently, everyone decided to get tacos for Valentine’s Day because the place was packed (or perhaps it’s because of the #1 thing). I don’t know why, but for a restaurant in a sort of rundown warehouse district, there was a wait.

We loaded up on an order of queso fundido, pork chile, al pastor tacos and a couple of beers. It was a lot of food. A a lot.

Honestly, the al pastor tacos were good, but we weren’t blown away. The queso fundido had mushrooms, which was odd, but the pork chile served with corn tortillas was absolutely delicious. It was basically green chile with huge pieces of slow-cooked pork served in a sizzling hot cast iron skillet and covered with cheese. This is what I’d get if I went back and I’d forgo ordering the tacos.

Cocina Madrigral is kind of pricey. I think this is a reflection of the accolades that come with being the #1 taco place on Yelp. I am super glad we made this little field trip into Phoenix and while I wasn’t floored by taco greatness, it was a yummy stop along the way during our rainy 2023 Valentine’s Day in Arizona.

Things I would recommend doing in Scottsdale besides finding tacos is going to the Desert Botanical Garden. This was my third time. Yes, third, and despite the gloomy weather, it was still a magical place. Plus, every second Tuesday of the month admission is free. I got in free, but it does get busy, so go as soon as they open.

I’d also go to Alo Cafe for breakfast in Scottsdale and get their special red sauce. You won’t be disappointed.

And now I’ll go back to eating and writing about tacos in Colorado.


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