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Go Guadalajaran

By Orli Ben-Dor
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Thursday, September 25, 2003
MONTINE RUMMEL/Arizona Daily Wildcat
Maria Sanches serves up a tray of salsa. Guadalajara's is known for its tableside do-it-yourself salsa service.

South of the Safeway and west of the gas station lies a bright and delicious asset to an otherwise stale-looking intersection. At the southwest corner of Prince and Campbell is the place that bans canned anything and embraces authenticity.

Bienvenidos a Guadalajara Grill.

I arrived at 4 p.m. to a restaurant empty of customers but still full with a small but attentive staff and lots of character. The original "Table-Side Salsa," where one of the "salsa girls" comes around and prepares a made-to-order salsa, where patrons can choose green tomatillos, smoked chipotles, cilantro, jalapenos, garlic and the like isn't available until 5 p.m. nightly. But before I had a chance to kick myself for skipping lunch so requiring a late afternoon feast, the server announced happy hour.

Every day Guadalajara Grill offers half-price margaritas and appetizers from 3 p.m. -6 p.m. Sounds like a familiar happy hour, but don't mistake this place's daily specials for any run-of-the-mill quesadilla or puny limeade with a splash of tequila.

The house margarita came in a large, traditional margarita glass. The drink, only $2.50 after the happy hour discount, came salted and with fresh pieces of lime floating in it. Not too thick and sweet, it didn't fill me up the way some cocktails do. Good thing, because I needed to save room for the interesting and flavorful foods I was about to sample.


The guacamole (originally $4.95) arrived on a large plate and had visible evidence of hand-chopped avocados. The crispy corn chips and smoky and spicy salsa went great with the green glory. If you found the salsa a bit spicy, don't count on water waiting for you. Guadalajara Grill serves water upon request and notifies patrons of the policy with a small table tent written in both Spanish and English.

The chorizo con queso fundido (originally $5.95) was unlike anything I've ever tried ÷ and boy was I missing out. The thick, hot jack cheese mixed with savory pork chorizo arrived in a mini-caldron. The only problem was restraining myself from filling up on the dish. I also tried the sopecitos. The grill's sopecitos are fried corn cakes topped with beans, lettuce, salsa, cheese sour cream, guacamole and your choice of meat ÷ I got shredded beef. While the sopecitos were tasty for sure, the chorizo queso was hands down the appetizer of choice.

Guadalajara Grill

1730 E. Prince Rd.
Table-Side Salsa after 5 p.m. daily
Happy Hour 3-6 p.m. daily
Lunch Specials 11-3 p.m. M-F

For the meal ÷ and yes, I did have leftovers ÷ I tried one of Guadalajara Grill's specialties, Mole Poblano de Pollo ($11.95). Small pieces of chicken swam in a thick "mole dulce" sauce ÷ a Mexican sauce made with ground pumpkin or sesame seeds, chiles, spices and even Mexican Chocolate, its signature ingredient ÷ and sprinkled with sesame seeds. The dish came with two warm flour tortillas, shredded lettuce, rice and beans. Though the menu offers other interesting dishes like the Chipotle Halibut Fillet ($14.95) and spinach and cheese enchiladas ($8.95) under headings for seafood and vegetarian dishes, after tasting the Mole Poblano dish, I remained confident in my choice.

Of course the meal would not be complete without something dulce. The choices for postres, or desserts, include flan, sopapillas, deep fried ice cream and plain vanilla ice cream for those unadventurous diners. I tried the flan ($4.95). The creamy egg custard came with fried cinnamon flour sticks, caramel, whipped cream and even some chocolate syrup. The flan was a little creamier and thicker than most flan I've tried, but it only made it easier to savor each bite.

All in all, the meal pleased me from start to finish. The colorful building with archways leading to the bar and kitchen spiced up the small dining area. If you're worried the view of Prince Rd. from the window booths will kill your Guadalajara buzz, try eating outside on the cozy, inviting patio. And if you're wondering what time to go, my suggestion is 5 p.m. Table-side salsa and half-priced appetizers and margaritas until 6 p.m. Sounds like one happy hour to me.

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