Phoenix seems to be experiencing a restaurant renaissance. Loads of new establishments are opening in adaptive reuse projects, saving old spaces from ruin (which is almost an antidote to the Phoenix curse, where we tear down anything over 10 years old), or developing mini-outposts of culture and cuisine. No area is more true to this dynamic than 7th Street, just north of Camelback. Tucked into The Colony, a sweet suite of local businesses, is Casa Añejo, whose name is a nod to finer aged tequilas (which you’ll find in abundant supply). While you might swing by for some tequila, you’ll stay for the food and style.
The first impression at Casa Añejo comes from the hostess stand—a giant half avocado, the pit obscuring the laptop used for reservations. Charming hostesses wearing matching necklaces and similarly designed outfits greet you with smiles. This is a theme at Casa Añejo—employees wear similar shirts, their functions distinguished by color (bussers one color, bartenders and servers another), which makes finding help easy. Not that we needed to ask—a dizzying array of well-trained staff swooped in unsummoned to cater to our every whim.
Their website describes the space as indoor-outdoor dining, which is true. Sliding glass walls disappear to bring the outside in. Ample fans, misters and outdoor A/C help you forget it’s summertime. Designed by HGTV star Alison Victoria, the space is gorgeous. Saltillo tile looks as if it was repurposed from an old hacienda. Beautiful colored tiles adorn the walls and carry into the open kitchen. Charming hand lights found in the kitchen reappear in the restroom as hangers. Wood tables and chairs echo the mid-century elements of the neighborhood. Simply put—it’s well done and quite lovely.
The guacamole options here are endless. Order with a guacamole bingo card and stamper—just mark your choices and leave your slip on the table. We went for the crab upgrade ($1.50), which was remarkable: silky, slightly smoky flavor with loads of lime, so tasty we eventually ditched the chips for forkfuls of the stuff. See the menu for rotating guac options. Upgrades range from 50 cents to $1.50 for crab, shrimp or bacon. Thick, perfectly salty house-made chips round out the selection.
I’ve never skipped the street corn anywhere, and Casa Añejo’s is no exception ($6). It’s served carefully cut off the cob (thank you!). You’ll notice the kicky smoke from the grill and love the dusting of crushed Chili Cheese Fritos on top. The ceviche is top notch ($14). Divine nuggets of scallops, calamari and shrimp swim in tart, freshly squeezed lime juice, served with freshly made plantain and tortilla chips. These were all so tasty we made our own little nachos with chips, guac and ceviche. Please consider putting this on the menu—just call it the Sloane.
Tacos, in my opinion, are where Casa Añejo really shines. Each order comes three to a plate. Served on enormous house-made tortillas (sensing a theme yet?), these aren’t the tacos you’d expect. First—size. They are no shrinking violets. We were quite surprised when a massive plate of Crispy Octopus tacos appeared ($11). I’m certain there was a whole cephalopod on that plate. The warm, crispy, succulent octopus comes with excellent pickled slaw and jalapeno crema perched atop. One of my guests had not tried octopus before. Not gonna lie, she was nervous. However, these were so accessible and tasty, I had to fight for the last one. I would also consider buying their jalapeno crema in bulk if they would bottle it (pretty please).
I have a soft spot for ground beef tacos, and if you’re like me you’ll gravitate toward the Doble ($12), a double-decker taco with both a cruncy and soft shell, with a frijole smear. Somehow the ground beef here manages to be both delicate and melt in your mouth. I’ll confess my palate was a little confused—double-decker taco screams Taco Bell, but that is strictly where the comparison ends. These slightly salty (in the best way) tacos feel like a steal at this price. While I loved them, I did wonder if there could be a bit of hot sauce for a quick dash. They didn’t really need the heat, but I did feel they could have used a titch of something wet.
I loved the Sonoran Dog ($11), a giant plate of house-made bollio roll with a perfectly cooked frank wrapped in crisp, smoky bacon. Somehow the frank managed to maintain the “snap” from the casing, which is no small feat considering the beans, bread, avocado and crema drizzles on top. I shared this with another person, and there were still leftovers.
Don’t skip dessert. If you do, you’ll miss the warm, slightly sticky, fresh-out-of-the-fryer plate of churros ($9). Served with three excellent sauces (chocolate, pineapple and strawberry, which tasted like Strawberry Quick in the best nostalgic way possible), the half a dozen half-sized churros will be consumed in a flash.
As for drinks—I am still thinking about the Watermelon Margarita ($12). To be fair, I didn’t think “marg” when I drank this. I was mesmerized by the smoky feel the reposado tequila gave it. Paired with ground black pepper to cut the cloying sweetness of fresh watermelon juice, this is a perfect, slightly savory, not-so-sweet summer cocktail.
Casa Añejo is gorgeous. It’s a beautiful addition to a neighborhood that is exploding with restaurants and choices. I would happily choose this place again.