El Indio

Review by: Michael Stern

We were tipped off to El Indio by Arizona food expert Randy Spalding, who recommended the green chili. It is magnificent – a swirl of flavor that is hot with a sour twist that teases taste buds, nothing like chili that is cloddish and hammering. We didn’t know what exactly gave it such a distinctive flavor, but Randy wrote that he and his partner, Jim, “discussed the El Indio green chile mystery and decided to investigate. Jim nailed the ‘sour’ taste’s source right away, but we later had it confirmed with our friendly waiter. Tomatillos are what gives the chile verde it’s distinct taste. Tomatillos, green chile, some jalapeño, garlic, and onion, are combined in a liquadora (blender) and processed for the sauce. I’m imagining the pork is cooked separately and then mixed on the stove. Heaven!” Amen to that.

Randy also suggested we try the Aztec quesadilla, which is a broad flour tortilla sandwich that encases melted white cheese and shreds of carne asada, with tomatoes, onions, and cilantro. Another wonderful dish.

Meals start with tortilla chips and a ramekin of purplish Botana bean dip that is porky and flowery-spiced. Rich as it is, it is easy to keep eating until the meal arrives. Cool horchata is thin and refreshing, generously spiked with cinnamon.

All sorts of topopos are available. They are not the more typical tower of food, but rather a meaty salad presented in a tortilla bowl. The main ingredient can be shredded beef, red chili beef, green chili pork, grilled steak, or chicken; it is accompanied by beans, lettuce, tomato, cheese, and sour cream. The tortilla bowl is thick but frail, freshly fried, and breaks easily into pieces for shoveling up all the goodies it holds.

For dessert, house-made flan is a good bet. Cheesecake and arroz con leche are less impressive.

El Indio is a big, airy place decorated in Incan kitsch: stormy, bodice-ripping pictures of Indian musclemen and maidens along with handsome crockery and green plants. At the door, a wooden Indian stands with a sign around its neck inviting customers to seat themselves.

What To Eat

Flour Tortilla Azteca Quesadilla

Green Chile Topopo


Botana Bean Dip

Huevos Rancheros


El Indio Recipes


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