After confusion, connections, and an overall bad travel day, I finally arrived in Phoenix, where thermometers boasted a bright and dry 60 degrees. It was one in the afternoon, Arizona time, which translated to three on my body's clock. Also, I'd been up since 5:30. Translation: I needed something to eat.
We ended up at a nearby Tempe restaurant called Z Tejas, where we could enjoy the sunshine. Food, as to be expected, fell into the category of Tex-Mex (my friends have promised to show me the best AZ has to offer while I'm here, which, in their estimation, comes down to beef and burritos), fine by me.
Cornbread arrived in its own small cast-iron skillet and full of actual pieces of corn. Fresh corn tortilla chips came with three salsas, a salsa verde and two red salsas, one of which hit high notes on the heat scale.
As for my meal, I ate a small salad with tomatoes, red peppers, lettuce, and a fiery mango dressing. Tomatoes were the kind of red easterners only see in August and September. I also had a small piece of pepper-crusted rare tuna, served in a wasabi sauce. The sauce was grand and sinus-clearing, though the tuna itself was just okay. It occurred to me later that only idiots order fish in landlocked states.
The meal's highlight, the true western experience, came in the form of tried and true tequila. My margarita arrived on the rocks and adorned with a rim of kosher salt. There was no Rose's Lime Juice in this cocktail, and it wasn't weighed down by any sugary sweet margarita mix, either. What I got, instead, was the vegetal hot tequila, interrupted only by the clean kick of citrus. Outside, in the sun, I couldn't have asked for anything better.
20 West 6th Street
Tempe, AZ 85281