Casa de Amigos Fresh Mex Restaurant, Springdale, Utah
You come to Zion National Park to see the world’s highest sandstone cliffs and to hike some of the most compelling trails in Utah canyon country. Another reason to come here is to relish what we believe is the most delicious Mexican food in North America.
Mexican food has long been our favourite. We’ve dined at hundreds of Mexican restaurants and tacquerias in Mexico, the U.S., and Canada. Years ago, we were thrilled to discover an excellent one in Galway, Ireland. Prior to heading south to Arizona in December, we were eager try as many new Mexican eateries as possible.
We probably hit about 18 of them. Most were merely okay. As a result, we became frequent patrons of the popular Chipotle chain, which serves hefty portions of what they call “food with integrity.” It’s delicious, nutritious, ethical, and a good value, but it does not qualify as authentic Mexican. It’s tame.
Most of the other Mexican restaurants we tried this winter were less than tame. They were bland. Their fare is intended to suit the typical, unadventurous, North American palate. We enjoyed a few, pleasing tamales and enchiladas, some filling burritos, but nothing exciting or memorable.
After working on our computers all day during a freak, April blizzard in Zion Canyon, at 9 p.m. we ventured out of the campground, into the adjacent town of Springdale, in search of a meal. The only “OPEN” sign we saw was at Casa de Amigos Fresh Mex. Even before we ordered, we knew we’d found a special restaurant. They served us homemade chips and three condiments: pico de gallo, roasted red-chile salsa, and tomatillo salsa. Each was spectacular. Just enough spice to add a little heat, some zing, but not so much that we recoiled. Just the opposite. We dug in, enthusiastically commenting about the unique tastes.
We ordered their “super burritos” that night, and both of us agreed they surpassed any burrito we’d ever eaten. They were fresh, hearty, wonderfully spicy, with just a hint of fire. The service was equally good: relaxed, fun, yet attentive and efficient. We returned the next morning for breakfast burritos with side orders of refried beans and guacamole. That might sound mundane, but every bite was heavenly. So we returned that night for dinner and ordered their stew, which they served with steaming, corn tortillas.
We’d never heard of this Mexican cross between soup and stew. Wow! It was a meal we’ll never forget. Ingredients include slivers of seasoned, grilled beef, pinto beans, chunks of avocado, and cilantro. The owner told us he has a relative in Chicago who owns a restaurant and serves only this dish—nothing else—and customers line up for it day and night. Between spoonfuls of this divine soup, we sipped fresh, tart-yet-sweet tamarindo juice. For desert, we sipped iced horchata, which approximates liquid, vanilla ice-cream laced with cinnamon.
The owners of Casa de Amigos are Victor and Alicia. Their extensive menu is based on family recipes from Victor’s home in Jalisco province, Mexico. You’ll find Casa de Amigos at 805 Zion Park Blvd, on the east side of the street, just outside the south entrance to Zion National Park. It’s open seven days a week for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
Hike fast and far in Zion, so you’ll come to Casa de Amigos with a voracious appetite. And ask if they’ve made a batch of tamarindo or horchata. Both drinks are delectable.