Kelly Vaughn

In 2020, Lawrence Smith and Aseret Arroyo took their grill, their tortilla press and a 10-by-10-foot tent to farmers markets all across the Valley of the Sun. They called their business Chilte, and their authentic, undiminishable commitment to locally sourced, heart-centered cuisine made them wildly popular within the Phoenix food scene. 

So, it was no surprise when Smith (pictured) and Arroyo took down the tent early last year and moved into a vibrantly decorated brick-and-mortar restaurant at the Egyptian Motor Hotel on Grand Avenue. A few months later, Bon Appétit named Chilte one of its “24 Best New Restaurants of 2023.” 

For Smith and Arroyo, the accolades are meaningful. More importantly, they’re a testament to the power of community and to finding inspiration through the lens of global cuisine. 

“Chilte has grown from street food offerings to more elevated plating that offers a glimpse into Mexican food reimagined, finding inspiration all over the world and finding the common thread in food that connects cultures and history,” Arroyo says. “We want to break the notion that Mexican food is cheap and un-laborious, because it’s actually quite the opposite.”

The restaurant’s menu changes seasonally, but guest favorites include savory dishes such as the green chorizo vampiro, a small plate that features chorizo, asadero cheese and salsa macha — a Veracruz-style sauce made from dried peppers, nuts and seeds, all fried in oil, then chopped — piled on a hand-pressed corn tortilla.

Another crowd-pleaser: the birria tacos. Made with beef or hibiscus, they’re served in squid-ink or flour tortillas made by Arizona favorite Benny Blanco. They’re topped with asadero cheese, cabbage, onion and salsa, and served with a miso consommé.

Chilte’s cocktail menu, too, pulls inspiration from unconventional ingredients. “We have unique, chef-created cocktails, and we have some classic cocktails on the menu with our own Chilte twist,” Arroyo says. You’ll find local and imported beers on the bar menu, along with house sangria and a margarita, but there are wildly inventive offerings, too. Take, for example, the Hadra Madrina, made with absinthe, gin, pineapple, egg white, cincho cheese and chiltepin peppers. 

Chilte — which is open for dinner Tuesdays through Saturdays — also offers bar snacks, along with a to-go window in case customers can’t sit, stay and savor. 

“We want people to know that Chilte offers a unique culinary experience that doesn’t quite fit the mold or idea of what ‘traditional’ Mexican food is considered to be,” Arroyo says. “In order to enjoy Chilte in its authentic form, you must come without any preconceived notions and with an open heart.”

Business Information

765 Grand Avenue
Phoenix, AZ
United States