Rodeo, New Mexico
April 9, 2005
The first time we drove by Macayo’s on Central, we knew we had to give this restaurant a try, if for nothing else than its intriguing exterior, dramatic in angularity and color, windowless, and resembling a fortress. When we pulled around back to park and were face-to-face with an elaborate mosaic Quetzal serpent stretched out imbedded into the back wall, we couldn’t wait to see what we’d find inside.
This is a very festive place. From the tiled entryway with painted tropical plants lining the walls to the greeting station backed with BIENVENIDOS in red on the wall to cheerful dining rooms buzzing with people under a passionate magenta-pink ceiling, your senses are assaulted with color and good smells. Even the carpeting is a riot of color and design, and if you look closely, you’ll spot the macaw for which Macayo’s is named in the trapezoids and circles of reds, blues, and greens.
Macayo’s is listed in an Arizona Food & Folklore brochure as a locally owned and operated restaurant with true western character. High-school sweethearts Woody and Victoria Johnson’s story has become a Phoenix legend. Married and with three young children, they opened tiny six-table Woody’s El Nido (the nest) in post-war downtown Phoenix in 1946. Over the years, the restaurants grew, expanded, and multiplied along with their growing family. Now with their seventeenth Macayo’s opened in 2004, the operations remain family-owned and operated. Their Fiesta Farm and Cannery produces their own locally grown chiles, sauces, and margarita mix.
Macayo’s changes with the times, and like a vintage wine, keeps getting better. A recent addition to their menu is a Lite-Minded section, including chicken enchiladas with honey-citrus grilled veggies and black beans, grilled salmon tacos, and delicious-sounding low-calorie salads. Detailed nutritional information is available for the many sauce and dressing choices.
Our dinner choice this time was one of our favorites, Fajitas de Macayo, with combined beef and chicken ($13). With bottomless bowls of crispy chips and salsa, along with our margaritas before, and refried beans, guacamole, pico de gallo, sour cream, flour tortillas, and sizzling hot fajitas, the generous portions were enough to fill us up and then some. We took home enough for another dinner later that week.
Macayo’s extensive menu of Sonoran-style specialties makes selection challenging. It’s said that Woody Johnson invented the chimichanga; there are various kinds on the menu. You’ll also find traditional and unique versions of enchiladas, tacos, burros, quesadillas, and carnitas, and many combinaciones. The most decadent dessert is cheesecake-stuffed sopapilla (you can stop counting calories here); the puffy cheesecake-filled sopapilla is drizzled with chocolate sauce and Mexican caramel. My favorite, though, is their flan.
From journal Phoenix Delicioso