If you grew up in the Valley or have lived here for awhile, chances are you’ve been to or at least passed by a Macayo’s restaurant, you may even have one of their iconic Señorita margarita glasses. Macayo’s is an Arizona Institution, but if I am going to be 100 percent honest — I never loved it. The food was always passable, but never my favorite and I only ever went grudgingly – when it was someone else’s pick for Mexican food. Nothing stood out as great.
All of that has changed over the years. I repeat, ALL OF THAT HAS CHANGED!
Macayo’s recently opened up Woody’s Macayo on Central Ave in midtown and I gave it a whirl. Every bite of all that was ordered had me swooning. Although it bears the name Macayo’s this was not the Mexican food restaurant I remembered. This is now one of my favorite places to get amazing Mexican food and I’m told the other locations are equally fabulous.
The ambiance is relaxed, making it a perfect spot for a power lunch or dinner with the family. The decor is sleek with a more modern vibe, a dramatic mural is emblazoned on one wall and the stocked bar occupies another. Servers are knowledgeable and friendly, ready to give suggestions from the menu.
And what a menu it is! The culinary team scaled back the old menu, which used to read like a book and could be overwhelming. They left the most popular items and adding a few fresh and modern takes on authentic Mexican food.
My lunch date and I ordered several things and shared. We started with the Queso Fundio with chorizo and discovered it to be one of the best cheese dips we’ve ever had. It was super creamy and extra spicy with the addition of chile de arbol, poblano and ancho peppers. The chorizo added even more spice and savory decadence. It’s served with crisp tortilla chips and both of us had to muster all of our self control to avoid licking the cast iron pan it came in.
Next up was the Mexican Corn. This stuff was addicting and I regretted my decision to share what we ordered. Whole roasted corn kernels are topped with a luscious blend of cream and queso fresco and topped with spicy salsa. It was so rich, and luxurious and meant to be eaten as a dip with the tortilla chips but I was eating it by the spoonfuls. I didn’t even bother to show decorum as I fought my date for the last delectable bites. The pan was scraped clean. ORDER THE MEXICAN CORN!
I’m not one to order salads when dining out but the Mercado salad at Macayo’s is not to be missed. It’s hearty and huge; a bed of romaine, cabbage and kale is loaded up with black beans, calabacitas (squash), avocado pico de gallo, queso fresco and carmelized pepitas (pumpkin seeds), lightly tossed in a zesty tomatillo vinaigrette and topped with crispy tortilla strips. It’s veggie perfection for anyone looking for something a bit on the lighter side. What it lacks in meat, this salad makes up for with texture and flavor!
For our entrees I chose from the Platos Especiales which allows you to choose a protein and have it served in street tacos, enchiladas, a burro or a bowl. I opted for the latter with short ribs, cilantro lime rice and black beans. And my friend chose a Macayo’s Classic, the Woody’s Original Chimichanga, stuffed with chicken and and covered in red sauce and jack cheese.
My bowl was fantastic, the short ribs were perfectly cooked and spiced, falling apart with the gentlest prodding with my fork. The rice was fluffy and the black beans were tasty. This made for a fabulous lunch and somehow felt light.
The chimichanga was everything a good chimi should be, crispy tortilla over stuffed with flavorful shredded chicken. It is a true classic and no wonder it’s a menu favorite.
You’ll want to save room for dessert. Heck, even though the food is outstanding you may want to skip the entree and order two desserts because Macayo’s has knocked it out of the ballpark with their Margarita Cheesecake. Oh. My. Goodness.
Hands down one of the best cheesecakes…or desserts, I have ever had at a Mexican restaurant…or anywhere. No joke I have been thinking about this dessert since my visit two weeks ago.
It’s served “deconstructed” in a mason jar with layers of cookie crumbs, sweet cheesecake cream and a sweet and sour topping that is out-of-this-world delicious. My friend and I ate dessert in complete silence, in awe of how delightful it was. We scraped the jar, licked our spoons and then ordered one each to go.
Woody’s Macayo has earned a place in my heart (and tummy) as a fantastic dining destination. One you should recommend to friends and take out-of-towners to, so they can experience a local gem and true taste of Arizona.
So much has changed with Macayo’s since the last time I visited years and years ago and I am so glad I gave them another chance.
And, in case you were wondering – this iconic restaurant still has those iconic margarita glasses.
The new Woody’s Macayo is located at 3815 N. Central Ave in midtown Phoenix but there are a few other Macayo’s locations throughout the valley. The menus vary slightly but you can count on a great dining experience at any of them.
Disclaimer: I enjoyed this meal at Macayo’s free of charge to help facilitate this write-up. As usual all opinions stated are entirely my own.