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Faithful readers of this blog (thank you!) know that Speedy and I don’t go out to eat very often. Speedy’s skill at stove and oven makes almost everything else seem pedestrian at best and second-rate at worst. A visit from a dear Swiss friend was the impetus for us to break our usual practice and venture forth for a meal, in this case lunch.

Our friend needed to be at the airport at 3, so we decided to look for a place near Sky Harbor (I love that name for an airport – don’t you? So friendly, but somehow exciting too). Speedy did his research and came up with La Santisima on 16th Street in Phoenix. It is well-reviewed on Yelp, somewhere north of four stars. Not many places do that well, so we felt pretty optimistic.

santisima-restaurant-exteriorIsn’t that a beautiful door? And a mighty fine bench, too. My purse fits right in with the color scheme. Bellas Artes de Mexico has provided all the furnishings and decorations of this pocket-sized eatery.

Our meals certainly exceeded our expectations. I had two house specialty veggie tacos, and they were sublime. Clearly the veg were all fresh and had been sauteed just before being generously heaped on two soft double tacos. I chose the plate, so my tacos were accompanied by a 1/3 sized cup of rice – just the right amount – and a splash of refried beans with Mexican cheese melted on top. My plate was hot, though the food on it was tepid – but it was so delicious I didn’t mind. Our friend had the same taco I had; here are poor photos of our two plates (this was actually a photo of the two of us, I’ve deleted us and enlarged the food):

ellys-taco my-tacos

Clearly I wasn’t thinking about taking good foodie pics. But I’m sharing them for two reasons – one, to show you how intelligent the portions are and how truly beautiful the tacos are; and two, to show you just a couple of the salsas from the restaurant’s salsa bar. In addition to the usual pico di gallo, salsa cruda, salsa chipotle, etc., there were salsa di guacamole (top photo on left), salsa di cilantro, and salsa di fresa (strawberry, top photo on right), as well as others I don’t remember.

Speedy ate a pork and beans burrito and reports that it was “very good.” That’s high praise. Our friend declared her taco, “the best taco I have ever eaten in my whole life.” This is a woman with a fair amount of travel, not to mention tacos, under her belt, so you can take her word for it. This was delicious food, and we saw some enticing plates being delivered to nearby tables (very nearby – it’s a small restaurant and they don’t waste space).

Our host, who flew around non-stop, was very kind when we asked him to turn down the music a tad – he immediately complied, which meant we could actually have a delightful conversation with our long not-seen friend.

But I’m not here to write only about the restaurant, as you may guess from the quality of the food photos. I’m here to write about the neighborhood. We’re definitely returning to this top notch restaurant, and I’ll write more about it when we do.

16th Street north of McDowell is on the edge of a largely Hispanic neighborhood (interesting article on cultural diversity of Phoenix here. It includes a map giving percentages of various ethnicities and where they reside). It is not the most elegant neighborhood in Phoenix, but it is surely one of the most artistically interesting that we’ve visited.

art-on-outside-of-shopAfter lunch we took a short stroll – it was in the mid-90’s, too hot to enjoy much of the post-prandial thing. The building above (the sign says Thai Body Healing/TaSen Buddha) houses a little shop that carries woo-woo items, used clothing, and some fun toys for kids. In addition there is a small coffee shop, an art gallery and, in back (beyond the small elevated stage which was surrounded by children’s toys) what might be a sculpture garden or, perhaps, just a place to dump stuff. There was also a bathroom, of which I was in great need at that very moment.

sign-in-the-toilet-stallThis was hanging over the toilet. I’m ashamed to say I did not comply with the upper command. Maybe I was in the wrong room?

Over the sink was this anatomically vague figure, carefully labeled with such diseases as wrenched ankle, broken heart, water on the knee. I don’t know if it’s art or a children’s game. Note the Scrabble tile holders and a basket of tiles; I couldn’t find all the letters I wanted, so my message read “T_AN_  U. I hope it was clear enough.

1008161353other-bathroom-artI’m not sure what this signifies, but I stared at it for a while.

Outside we continued our stroll, and came upon several more wonderful murals. I got good photos of only one of them. I’m sorry to say I don’t know who the artist is – research needed!

ellie-and-louis-in-front-of-muralSpeedy and our friend give scale to the left side of this mural. The rest of it is below. (I know, there is such a thing as a ‘landscape setting,’ but I neglected to use it (not my best photo day, I guess).

rest-of-that-muralThis area definitely demands a return visit to seek out more of the graffiti and mural art. It is not the only part of Phoenix that sports such excellent examples. Katrina Montgomery has documented her 40 favorites in the New Times. I can’t wait to go hunt for some of them. A picture is fine, but to see such a large piece of art in person is really much more fun.