Since it was Cinco de Mayo, we decided it was a good time to visit Z’Tejas Southwestern Grill. I’ve had a gift card burning a hole in my wallet for months now, and since I’ve never been to Z’Tejas, we figured Cinco de Mayo made the most sense. I didn’t realize this, but Cinco de Mayo is observed to commemorate the Mexican Army’s unlikely victory over French forces at the Battle of Puebla on May 5, 1862. Or… It’s an excuse to take shots of tequila, drink Mexican beers and eat mass quantities of chips and salsa.
There are several Z’Tejas locations around the Valley, but the one on Tatum and Shea is close to home. I kept telling Sheryl, “Let’s go to the best one!” Well, having never been to one, it was hard to pick the best one… So, for all intents and purposes, this is the best one!
Before dinner I went to the gym and met Sheryl and Michelle for dinner at 8:00 p.m. Sheryl made a reservation, and I was excited to see the breadth of their menu, try some of their signature margaritas, and try some of their authentic Mexican cuisine. Now… Speaking of Mexican cuisine, Z’Tejas is known for their tacos. But tonight, and tonight only, they are doing a “habanero inferno taco challenge.” For only $12, they serve you 4 specially made street tacos. 3 of those tacos are “normal,” but 1 has the hottest sauce in the world. Right?! If you finish all 4 tacos, they take $5 off your bill. If not, you pay full price. More on that soon.
In addition to the taco challenge, they were also doing $5 Dulce Vida’ritas and $3 Corona beers. I mean… It IS Cinco de Mayo, after all! Don’t you just love holidays that give you an excuse to eat Mexican food and to drink?
When I was walking in, I noticed they have an impressive happy hour menu. Check it out:
Signature Margaritas: $5
- 6th Street rocks or frozen
- Skinny Margarita
- The Liah
- Hard Day
- Tejas Mule
- $3.50 domestic
- $4.50 craft and import
House Wines: $5
Trademark Appetizers: $3 off
- Grilled shrimp & guacamole
- Tostado bites
- Chile pork verde
- Smoked chicken quesadilla
- Spinach & mushroom quesadilla
- Street tacos
- Chile con queso
- Blackened catfish tacos
- Catfish beignets
- Tableside guacamole
- Tejas trip
Ancho Fudge Pie: $5.50
chocolate, walnuts, pecans, ancho chile, whipped cream
Cast-iron Skillet Cobbler: $6.50
seasonal fruit, brown sugar cinnamon crumb, bourbon ginger caramel, vanilla ice cream
Daily Cheesecake: $6.50
always rich and creamy
Their happy hour is Monday through Friday from 3-7 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday from 3-5 p.m. You don’t see many places offering a happy hour on the weekends… I will have to remember that.
For dessert we ordered the cast-iron skillet cobbler. It was huge, and we couldn’t finish it all. I did feel there were too many apples and not enough ice cream, but the crumb was delicious. A nice way to end our meal.
Are you thirsty? Tequila Drinks
A few months ago I did a review of Taco Guild, another Mexican restaurant in Phoenix. They have quite a list of tequila. Z’Tejas doesn’t have as many, but they do have an impressive list of tequila drinks. I didn’t order any, but their 6th Street, Hard Day, Millionaire Margarita and the Jalapeño Cucumber Margarita sounded good. Drink descriptions for these are listed below:
6th Street – Blanco Tequila, Triple Sec
Hard Day – 1800 Reposado, Grand Marnier, Cointreau
Millionaire Margarita – Cuervo Tradicional, Grand Marnier
Jalapeño Cucumber Margarita – el Jimador Blanco, jalapeño, cucumber
In addition to these tequila drinks, they have several frozen margaritas, rocks drinks, beers, and wine. For a Mexican restaurant, they have an impressive list of wines. I am curious… Are there any wineries in Mexico? I know there are several in Spain, but I am not familiar with any in Mexico.
*For the record, I didn’t look it up. I should!
For the Love of Food
Most Mexican restaurants include chips and salsa, but not Z’Tejas. That’s okay… We ordered some chile con queso. It came with a side of chips, and he threw in a side of salsa. The queso is white American cheese, cream, salsa fresca and chipotle. For less than $9, it is a great appetizer to share. Other apps also looked good, like the Green Chile Pork Nachos, Tejas Trio and the Street Tacos. Good thing I am craving tacos…
After we finished our appetizer, we looked at the soups, side salads, and entrée salads. I am a sucker for a good wedge salad, and they have an Iceberg Wedge and a Texas Wedge. Since everything is bigger in Texas, chances are the Texas Wedge is a bigger entrée salad. But I didn’t come here for salad. I came for tacos!
Before we go on, I need to mention their cornbread. Z’Tejas bakes it fresh every 30 minutes. It is served with honey butter, and for only $3, you can enjoy a skillet full of cornbread. Proceeds from each skillet are donated to a local charity. So you can eat some delicious cornbread and know you are helping support a good cause. Little things like this go a long way and make a big difference for my overall enjoyment of restaurants.
HOLD THE PHONE… While I was writing about the cornbread, I ordered a shot of Dulce Vida neat. That is new tequila for me, and I was excited to try it. It was on sale, too. I ordered it, and the server came back and said it was gone! They sold out!!! I know it’s Cinco de Mayo, but if you are going to promote a tequila and have table tents advertising this 100 proof spirit, then make sure you order enough for the night. But the experience has been spotless thus far, and our server rocks… I will allow it!
Since they were out of the Dulce Vida, our server offered me a shot of Espolón Tequila. It was good, and I decided to write a quick review of the tequila.
In the Glass: It has a nice color to it. The table is brown, so that might be affecting my vision here, but the color on this is like a nice scotch. He didn’t say what age was on it, but I know it isn’t a blanco. I am excited to smell/taste this spirit.
Tequilas from agave grown in the highlands north of Guadalajara are fruitier and floral; whereas those from the valleys are earthier, maybe a bit of spice to the flavor.
Nose: The nose is nice… It smells boozy, but has a nice charcoal note to it. I bet this is going to taste delicious! I don’t plan to shoot this, either. This is a sipping tequila, so skip the salt and the lime.
It takes 8-12 years for the Blue Agave plant to mature enough to make Tequila. Tequila is made from the heart of the Blue Agave plant, called piña. The piña may weigh up to 200 pounds when harvested.
Flavor: The flavor is nice. It is hot around the edges, but has a nice balanced flavor that leaves those similar charcoal notes on the palate. For not knowing what to expect, I am very impressed with it.
Much of the work in making Tequila is done by hand. Agave is hand selected for harvest and harvested by hand. In premium Tequilas, the pulp is extracted from the fiber in large stone bowls by humans after being ground down in the tahona.
Mouthfeel: The mouthfeel is thin, but I don’t expect a lot of body from tequila. What I am looking for is a linger finish that leaves me wanting more. I’ve not spent a lot of time in Mexico, but would love to be a fly on the wall on a Friday night in the home of a seasoned tequila drinker.
In Mexico, Tequila is drunk neat: without lime and salt When it comes to lime and salt with their Tequila, Mexicans go for margaritas. Shots of tequila are drank without the extras.
Finish: The finish is nice. It lingers and pairs nicely with food. A bottle of this retails for $21.99 at Total Wine & More, so it is affordable.
Handcrafted with 100% Blue agave, Espolón tequila celebrates real Mexico and its storied culture through classic 19th century artistry and the iconic rooster, a symbol of national pride.
Regional fare at its finest
The menu goes on. On the back they have several Southwestern classics that include five-cheese macaroni, habanero chicken pasta, chorizo-stuffed pork tenderloin and cilantro pesto-rubbed ruby trout. Since I am doing the habanero taco challenge, we didn’t order anything much, but we did order the pasta. Sheryl asked if it was hot… It wasn’t. Maybe that is a sign of things to come for my taco challenge. I doubt it!
In addition to these classics they have several burgers to choose from, as well as a couple seared steaks. The final section of the menu was titled “Inspired by Mexico, flavors with roots south of the border.” Some of these sound good, too. I love fajitas, and they have a smothered chicken burrito. Matt, you would be proud! (Matt is a sucker for a good burrito… I bet he eats Chipotle 3 days a week!)
They don’t have a dessert menu but it says you can ask your server for more details on what they currently have available.
It’s time for the taco challenge. They are street tacos, so they are small. But 1 of them has the hottest sauce in the world on it… Yeah, I am scared! When the tacos hit the table, they wished me luck, and I smelled each one trying to find the one that smelled hottest. The last one did have more sauce on it, so I started on the other end!
The first one was fine. Not hot at all. The second, the same. The third was a little bit hotter, but nothing crazy. That means the last taco is the winner. Since I knew it was going to be hot, we decided to live stream it to Periscope. Over 150 people were watching me take on the challenge, and while the taco was only 2 bites, I was still nervous. Here goes nothing!
The first bite was good, and the sauce, at first, was a bit spicier than I anticipated. But nothing crazy. Wait. Here it comes… About 5 minutes after my first bite, I started to perspire. A few minutes later I was literally crying. I couldn’t help it! I was laughing about it, and trying to decide if I wanted to drink to help the cause… But water would have made it worse!
I finished the taco, and for thirty minutes or more sat there pretty much miserable. The heat wasn’t hot sauce heat, though. It was an earthy flavor that did pair well with the food. But it was SO hot. I just can’t get over how long the heat stayed on my palate. It was a good 45 minutes after I finished when the flavors were finally gone.
But I did it. I finished a taco with the hottest sauce in the world. Neat!!!
After that, we had dessert and our server brought me a margarita he called “The Fusion.” When he sat it on the table, he said, “This has 5 shots of alcohol in it. I had them add a little more. You can handle it!” It was a nice “prize” for finishing the taco challenge, and had me leaving the restaurant with a smile on my face.
Before I forget, our server, Edgar, was awesome. He was attentive, did whatever he could to make our experience unforgettable, and did just that providing us a great meal start to finish. Oh, and he was wearing a sombrero. But not an authentic sombrero… But a tiny one that he said he stole from one of the cooks. It was adorable. Edgar, thank you for showing us what the Z’Tejas experience is all about.
We had a blast, the food was great, the drinks were delicious and I can’t wait to come back. To Edgar and the entire team at Z’Tejas, salud!