Paz Cantina y Taqueria

Written by Marilyn Hawkes Category: Food Reviews Issue: March 2015
Group Mid-Level
Character count 2500
Pin It

New Downtown taqueria offers subtle variations on the tried and true upscale taco theme.

When The Local on trendy Roosevelt Row closed in October after a short six-month run, the word on the street was the restaurant’s contemporary menu and steep prices just weren’t a good fit for the neighborhood.

But the space wasn’t empty for long. In November, two Valley restaurant pros, Michael Reyes and Brian Webb – who cooked together at Compound Grill and Pure Sushi – opened Paz Cantina y Taqueria, a chef-driven Mexican restaurant that offers a simple menu of appetizers, tacos, tortas, salads and a couple of desserts. Webb also founded Hey Joe! Filipino Street Food truck.

I know what you’re thinking: Another taco-focused eatery in central Phoenix? We have a glut, but each taqueria has its own flair: Urban Taco hangs its hat on an array of salsas and exotic condiments; Taco Guild serves new-school tacos in a spectacular old church; and Joyride Taco House goes organic in a slick mid-century space. Paz Cantina’s appeal resides in its sturdy virtues. Everything is made from scratch, and the chefs use local produce when available. While hardly fancy, the digs – painted concrete floors, a splash of local art and minimalist tables and chairs – match the art-district aesthetic nicely.

It’s hard to resist the fresh tortilla chips and peppery salsa delivered gratis to the table, but don’t bypass the house-made guacamole ($7). Add an agave bramble margarita ($8) fashioned from silver tequila, blackberry-ginger syrup and fresh citrus juice, and you’ll be well on your way to a good time.

Tinga and Taco del Mar tacos

A la carte tacos are served on corn tortillas and you’ll need about three to be satisfied. Try the pork belly ($4), a sinful helping of swine braised for 15 hours and then deep-fried, accompanied by pickled serrano and green papaya; or the fish taco ($4.75), a heap of fried mahi mahi, crisp shredded cabbage and a creamy jalapeño tartar sauce. Another good bet: the nopales taco ($5), a succulent mix of marinated and grilled Arizona cactus sprinkled with queso fresco and salsa. Other solid options include Taco del Mar ($3.75) featuring fried calamari; and carne asada ($3.50) with grilled skirt steak.

Cafe Flan

If you’re in the market for a sandwich, Paz offers several tortas. Sink your teeth into the tinga ($8), layers of tender slow-cooked chipotle chicken, buttery avocado slices and shredded cabbage wrapped in a soft bun made by local La Sonorense Bakery. On the dessert side, the café flan ($4) is a light custard made with locally roasted Nom de Plume coffee. It’s creamy and smoky, but the portion was skimpy.

Reyes and Webb have a handle on what their Roosevelt ‘hood needs: fresh fare at reasonable prices in a relaxed atmosphere – in essence, a more southerly Gallo Blanco. Hopefully, they’ll stick around for a while.

Paz Cantina y Taqueria
Cuisine: Mexican
Contact: 1011 N. Third St., Phoenix, 602-368-2487, pazcantina.com
Hours: 11 a.m.-midnight M-F; 9 a.m.-2 a.m. Sa; 9 a.m.-midnight Su
Highlights: Pork belly taco ($4); fish taco ($4.75); nopales taco ($5); tinga torta ($8); street corn ($3); café flan ($4); agave bramble margarita ($8)

Search Restaurants

Search our directory from over
400 restaurants in over
20 culinary categories!