A few months ago, I asked my colleagues which local restaurants they’d always wanted to try but never got around to visiting. Our answers were varied, interesting and at times a little embarrassing (I don’t want to “out” anyone, but some were jaw-droppers).
One of many on my long list was Los Sombreros, which I’d read about years ago as a budding foodie hanging on every word Howard Seftel wrote in The Arizona Republic. That was back when Jeff Smedstad (pre-Elote Café fame) and Azucena Tovar, married at the time, owned and ran the restaurant (and, later, restaurants) together. The two split up, and Tovar ran the show for a while, but in 2017 Kurt and Colleen Riske and Geoff Schumann bought Los Sombreros. Kurt Riske and Schumann had worked at the restaurant in college and remained devotees. In 2018, Adam and Bobi Rivera invested, and the modern incarnation of the Los Sombreros familia was complete. There are now locations in Scottsdale and Uptown Phoenix, and a Mesa outpost is coming soon.
Serendipitously for me and this little happy hour blog, Los Sombreros just debuted a new happy hour menu, and Bobi Rivera was kind enough to deliver a spread to me since I’m still not comfortable dining in restaurants. So, while I still haven’t technically “been to” Los Sombreros, I’ve at least tried its food. And when things feel normal again, I’ll be adding the Scottsdale location to my lunch rotation.
Almost all of Smedstad’s original menu – focused primarily on the cuisine of Central Mexico and Oaxaca – remains, and that’s a good thing. The food is fresh and delicious, and during happy hour, seven dishes are just $6 each. The thin, crispy chips accompanying smoky salsa and spicy guacamole ($6) and queso fundido ($6) are a salty and compulsively snackable first bite. I loved dipping them into sides of ultra-creamy beans and rice and piling a happy hour dish of creamy esquites ($6), aka street corn off the cob, onto them. You could make a meal out of chips and these tasty accoutrements, but don’t overdo it – you’ll want room for tacos.
Soft tacos come three to an order and include two small (but not tiny) corn tortillas each, piled with tender, luscious pork ($6): carnitas, topped with finely diced pico de gallo, or al pastor, topped with sweetly acidic pineapple chunks and scattered with cilantro. I loved both, and even started eating my partner’s when he claimed he was “taco-ed out.” (I know, I don’t understand him, either.) As much as I adore soft tacos, my crunch-loving heart will always be keener on crispy. Los Sombreros offers chicken or potato crispy tacos ($6 for an order of two), and both were 100 percent my jam – intensely crunchy corn tortillas stuffed with moist, flavorful filling (fall-apart chicken in one and creamy mashed potatoes in another) and drizzled with crema, tomatoes, onions and, in the case of the potato tacos, cubes of cooked potato and carrots. Yummmm.
Cleanse your palate with a jicama and orange salad ($6), a sweet, tangy and refreshing mélange that is as beautiful as it is delicious, or double down on the indulgence with a huitlacoche quesadilla ($6). They were out of huitlachoche (corn smut, a fungus that is a treasured treat in Mexican cuisine), but the chicken quesadilla we tasted was a fine substitution – silky, cheesy and bursting with flavor.
Draft beers are $3 during happy hour, but I’m more of a bebidas (drinks/cocktails, $6 each) gal. Each one I tried was light and refreshing, erring on the tart and citrusy side rather than the sweet side. They will not be your cup of tea if you like super sugary drinks (my fella), but if you like a bright and bracing tipple that relies on fruit’s natural sweetness (me), you’ll love them.
Los Sombreros’ signature margarita is the Steve-a-Rita, named for a longtime bartender. Each marg starts with Patrón Silver, Patrón Citronage, a house lime mix and a Grand Marnier float. You can further customize with strawberry, prickly pear, mango, peach, pomegranate or jalapeño.
Other happy hour cocktails include Agua de Flora (Casamigos Blanco Tequila, house-made hibiscus syrup, Topo Chico mineral water and fresh lime), Mango Mezcarita (mango, dry Spanish sherry, Los Vecinos mezcal and lime juice), Paloma (my favorite; Jose Cuervo Tradicional tequila, grapefruit soda, orange, lime and tajín-spiced salt) and Tijuana Donkey (Jose Cuervo Tradicional tequila, tamarind, lime and ginger beer). I’d drink a pitcher of any of them by the pool this summer. And when I finally make it to Los Sombreros to dine in, I’ll definitely order a round or two.
Happy hour runs Monday-Friday from 3-6 p.m.