History in the Making

Oct 7, 2013, 7:31 PM | Updated: 7:32 pm

Did you know that Manuel’s Mexican Restaurant & Cantina has been around since 1964? You can imagine that with a history stretching that far back, and a current mini-empire of seven locations, the company holds fast to tradition. Started by Manuel and Alice Salazar, Manuel’s is integral to any conversation about the history of Mexican food in the Valley.

Well, enter 34-year-old Michael Salazar. Salazar is part of the big family that owns Manuel’s. He’s respectful of tradition, but excited about new ideas. He loves the longstanding menu but yearns for an update. He’s a Certified Judge at our Taco Festival and a student of Arizona Culinary Institute. This guy knows food and he really knows Mexican food.

So last week, Salazar held a special taco night at the Manuel’s on Mountain View in Scottsdale. He introduced a menu of street tacos available only during October at all Manuel’s:

Sweet Chili BBQ Beef Taco
sweet chili BBQ beef sauteed with tomatoes, onions, and chilies; topped with diced onions, cilantro, and cotija cheese

Chicken Pibil Taco
chicken marinated in Yucatan style achiote salsa; topped with pickled red onions, cilantro, and cotija cheese

Pork Carnitas Taco
slow-roasted pork lightly fried and topped with tomatillo salsa, avocado, cabbage, and cotija cheese

Mexican Ratatouille Taco
a Spanish twist on a classic French vegetable dish with eggplant and yellow squash, zucchini, green chilies, corn, red onion, cheese, and authentic Mexican hot salsa

Yep, rata-freakin-touille. Everyone was absolutely blown away. “This is Manuel’s?!” seemed to be the common overheard phrase. It was nearly impossible to pick a favorite (which the comment cards asked us for) so most just opted for what was definitely the most surprising of the bunch: Mexican Ratatouille. Soft stewed veggies amped up with spice all surrounded by a crispy shell, this creation delivered everything you want in a taco — texture, flavor, heat… it was all there. Even the servers would admit, “I never eat veggie tacos and this one’s my fave.” We couldn’t agree more. But to get achiote flavor on chicken, sweet BBQ flavor on shredded beef, and fully gourmet flavor from carnitas had truly everyone debating favorites.

These tacos are available through October and come four to a plate with rice and beans for $10.50. Manuel’s is sponsoring a shaded lounge at the Taco Fest, so we’re expecting a few of these tacos to be offered for only $2 each. This restaurant was THE top seller last year, and it looks like they’ll beat that record this year.

If you head into Manuel’s now, snap a picture of these October-only tacos and hashtag #aztacofestival on Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram to try and win VIP tix to the Fest! Chef Salazar, congrats on a great promotion and even bigger congrats on making killer tacos here in AZ!

Find a location near you: www.manuelsstore.com

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History in the Making