Casa Amigos blends Mexican flair with Scottsdale style

You know how the eyes of some portrait paintings seem to follow you around? At Casa Amigos Taco + Tequila, they actually do. The half-dozen or so paintings of iconic Mexican figures like Frida Kahlo and Cesar Chavez hanging on the red brick walls throughout the 9,000-square-foot restaurant feature electronic eyes that slowly move from side to side. It’s just one of many stylish design features that sets Casa Amigos apart from most of the other culinary concepts in downtown Scottsdale.

Designed by Alison Victoria, star of HGTV’s Kitchen Crashers and Windy City Flip, Casa Amigos exudes a mix of modern Scottsdale touches and Southwestern Mexican flair. The expansive patio – separated from the main dining room by painted garage doors – transforms into a club scene at night, pulsing with colorful lights and bumping with Top 40 beats. There’s a boutique bowling alley upstairs called Skylanes, which adds to the after-dark action and flashing lights aesthetic. Both the bowling club and Casa Amigos are owned by Evening Entertainment Group, which also owns neighboring Bottled Blonde, Bevvy and Hi Fi Kitchen Kitchen + Cocktails.

The island bar at Casa Amigos stays busy pouring a plethora of tasty margaritas that can be made with any of Casa Amigos’ 52 tequilas. The house margarita is made with Sauza silver tequila and a from-scratch sweet and sour blend. Casa Amigos also offers half a dozen mezcals, distilled alcoholic beverages made from any type of agave that are similar to tequila, but which exude much smokier flavors.

Craft cocktails put a Southwestern twist on traditional tipples. To wit: the Jalisco Mule made with Patron Silver tequila in lieu of vodka and the Sangaria Rojo, which adds a dash of Mexican vanilla to a blend of red wine, brandy, peach schnapps, triple sec and muddled strawberries and raspberries. The beer menu also skews south of the border, with Dos XX Lager, Pacifico, Modelo Especial and Tecate Light topping the list. Don’t expect much in the way of Arizona craft beer – a handful of Four Peaks brews is as close as Casa Amigos gets.

The food menu is everything most people would expect at a Mexican restaurant in Old Town Scottsdale – nachos, tacos, burritos, fajitas and enchiladas, with some salads and sandwiches thrown in for good measure.

Chips with salsa and guacamole are always a good start (salsa and guacamole are ordered separately). The salsa trio consists of house tomato (mild and zesty), roasted tomatillo (mild and tangy) and chile de árbol (spicy and garlicky). The Casa Guac can be ordered mild, medium or hot and is made with avocado, tomato, onion and cilantro, with the option to add pomegranate, queso fresco, roasted corn or even Pop Rocks for an additional $1 each.

Another worthy appetizer is Casa Amigos’ street corn – charred, slathered in tajín chili aioli and queso fresco, and served with grilled lime for zest. It’s not the best street corn in the Valley, but it’s pretty darn good and makes a great side with any of Casa Amigos’ entrees.

Nachos are listed on the menu with the starters, but the portion is meal-sized, with a plate that feels like it weighs about three pounds piled with chips, house queso, tomatoes, jalapeños, salsa, guacamole, a cheese blend and sour cream. Ground beef, chicken tinga or beef tinga can be added for $4 (“tinga” refers to a sauce made from tomatoes, chipotle chilis in adobo, and sliced onions).

Entrees are hearty and filling. All tacos are served with Spanish rice and refried or ranchero black beans, and two of the most popular options are the Doble Taco and grilled mahi tacos. The Doble Taco is like a traditional seasoned beef taco, but bulkier. Packed with meat, refried beans, cheddar cheese lettuce, pico de gallo and sour cream, the taco’s heft makes the two-tortilla arrangement (there’s a flour tortilla wrapped around a hard corn tortilla) necessary. The mahi tacos make a nice summer nosh, with the grilled fish made slightly spicy and super sprightly by an ancho-chile lime marinade, tomato, cucumber, shredded cabbage and a tasty tequila aioli.

Enchiladas are all cheesy propositions, whether you get the cheese enchiladas or not. Beef enchiladas also drip with a gooey cheese blend, and the shredded chicken enchiladas are similarly cheese-covered.

Dessert options are a fudge brownie or churros. Both are equally sweet, and indulging in either should feel uniquely creepy beneath the watchful moving eyes of Casa Amigos’ paintings.

Casa Amigos

7320 E. Indian Plaza, Scottsdale, 623-900-4353,