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BULLETDining Archive
Featured Dining LocationGallo Blanco is located at 401 W. Clarendon Avenue in Phoenix. For more information, call 602-237-0880 or visit www.galloblancocafe.com.

© Craig Smith

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Street Food
Although it's located on an avenue in uptown Phoenix, Gallo Blanco is creating a buzz with its traditional Mexican street food. But don't let the hipster chic digs fool you. The food is down-home and delicious.

By Kathy Ritchie

Phoenix Gallo Blanco Café & Bar doesn't look like the kind of restaurant that would serve up traditional Mexican street food. Located inside the refurbished Clarendon Hotel in uptown Phoenix, the place is decidedly more hipster chic — with its stained concrete floors, brightly colored walls, recycled furnishings and exposed ducts — than it is food cart. Even the crowd, a mix of business professionals, young families, older couples and skinny-jean types, add to Gallo Blanco's eclectic vibe.

This isn't your typical Mexican-food joint.

But once you taste the food that comes out of chef/owner Doug Robson's kitchen, you'll understand why people keep coming back — often for seconds and thirds. Growing up in Mexico City, Robson lived off street food, so it makes sense that he'd model his own menu after the food he loved.

But it's not just Robson's cook-what-you-love philosophy that has made Gallo Blanco a hit. It's the fact that his food is made with the freshest ingredients possible and sourced from local vendors and farms. Nothing is frozen. Everything is made to order — like the guacamole, for instance. As soon as an order is placed, the avocados are cracked open and mixed with Roma tomatoes, navel orange segments, fresh jalapeños, onions and cilantro. The whole thing is topped off with cotija cheese.

After noshing on the guacamole, be sure to try Robson's street tacos. They fit perfectly in one hand, but sustain diners with a sampling of all four food groups. In fact, the tacos are so good, they've secured Gallo Blanco's place as a destination for street taco connoisseurs — for better or for worse.

"Gallo Blanco wasn't intended to be a taco shop," says Susan Burgos, Gallo Blanco's general manager. "We wanted to offer fine dining — quality food — at street vendor prices."

With five different kinds of tacos to choose from — pork, carne asada, fish, shrimp and veggie — each ranging in price from $2 to $3.50, it's easy to suffer from eyes-bigger-than-stomach syndrome. That's OK. It's worth sampling all five tacos.

The savory carne asada features a marinated slab of mesquite-grilled ribeye, topped with a fire-roasted tomato salsa. The cochinita, or pork, taco has a salty-sweetness to it, probably because it's slow-braised in a curious concoction made from beer, Coca-Cola, chiles, onions and pineapple for four hours, all while wrapped in a banana leaf. The veggie tacos are stuffed with seasonal vegetables, pico de gallo and a dash of guacamole. The fish selection varies, but just like the shrimp taco, there's no skimping on quality or quantity here.

Gallo Blanco also dishes out some other very good eats, including tortas (sandwiches) and elote callejero (grilled corn on the cob), as well as house specialty items like their half pollo asado and posole. You can also order breakfast all day.

As for beverages, expect some popular Mexican brands, including Coke "Hecho in Mexico." And, yes, margaritas. The fresh-squeezed juices probably have something to do with their deliciousness. "Pretty much all we do is prep," says Burgos. "I have a bartender who preps for like three or four hours just to make the mixes for the entire day — we make everything."

Since opening its doors in 2009, Gallo Blanco (which is Mexican slang for "white guy" and happens to refer to Robson) is doing rather well, especially among people living in the area. But, then again, that was the point. "We want to be a neighborhood place that happens to serve really good Mexican food," Burgos says. "We want to be approachable and we want the food to be simple."

Mission accomplished.

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