Last weekend I drove from San Diego to Phoenix to visit my oldest and best friend in the whole wide world (yes Colleen, that would be you!). Over the years we have developed a tradition of visiting a nearby town called Cave Creek for some of the best Mexican food (and world-class margaritas) you can imagine. So here is a tribute to the little town of Cave Creek, and our favorite Mexican restaurant -- El Encanto!
About Cave Creek:
Cave Creek is about a 45 minute drive from downtown Phoenix and 30 minutes from Scottsdale. You can head north on the Carefree Highway into the foothills and discover this quaint little sanctuary. The town is reminiscent of an old fashioned "western" town and you shouldn't be surprised to come across a real cowboy at some point during your visit. The town is a great shopping destination (especially for antiques or vintage items!) and is known for its arts & crafts festivals throughout the year. There are also a ton of great restaurants and bars around town, but my heart belongs to El Encanto (see below). One very unique and interesting shop to visit is called The Town Dump -- you really will never know what to expect when you walk around the corner! It is fun to snoop around in, even if you don't end up buying anything...
And drum roll please... now on to El Encanto!
As I mentioned earlier, visiting this restaurant has become a tradition when I come and visit Colleen. Reason #1: Colleen and Darren had their rehearsal dinner there so it has special personal meaning to all of us (I was Colleen's maid of honor). Reason #2: Prickly Pear Margaritas. Reason #3: Queso Guillermo. Need I say more?
El Encanto is, in the style of the town itself, a very quaint and fun restaurant. Inside you will find a great outdoor seating area which overlooks a duck pond (with lots of real ducks!), and an area to buy bread and feed the ducks if you so wish (a great feature for kids). During the summer season, the outdoor patio has misters to keep you cool, but it also has an indoor seating area and a small-ish bar.
So moving on to the margaritas... The Prickly Pear margarita is arguably the most delicious thing I have ever tasted, and happens to be wickedly strong as well! Originated from the cute, bunny-eared Prickly Pear cactus -- the margarita is sugary sweet, blended and the glasses are dipped in sugar instead of salt. For all those people thinking this looks TOO sweet, have faith -- you can easily drink more than one and not feel like you have just eaten a pound of Jolly Ranchers. Just make sure you have a designated driver if you decide to have more than one and a half!
And now reason #3 -- the Queso Guillermo. Per the menu... "Hot bubbling cheeses blended with yellow chiles, onions and tomatoes. Served sizzling at your table, with pico de gallo, limes and fresh corn tortillas." Really -- need I say more?!?