Sedona’s Elote Cafe

Ever since Jeff Smedstad opened Elote Cafe in 2007, hungry devotees have been flocking to the restaurant. When the doors open at 5 p.m., there’s frequently a line outside (Elote doesn’t take reservations). What keeps the hungry crowds coming? It’s Jeff’s cuisine, which is inspired by his travels through southern Mexico. The elote appetizer is legendary, and if it’s your first time at the restaurant (or your 100th), this is where you should start your meal – after you order a round of margaritas, of course. The Jeff’s Margarita is made with 7 Leguas Reposado, Cointreau and fresh-squeezed lime, making it a very tequila-forward drink, and we love it. As for the elote, it is a dish featuring fire-roasted corn with spicy mayo, lime and cotija cheese. It’s the perfect accompaniment to the tortilla chips on your copper-topped table, though we are also big fans of the restaurant’s homemade salsa.

During our most recent visit to the cafe, we deviated from our traditional favorites to try the Buffalo Mole Poblano and Corn Crusted Scallops. The smoky mole dish features buffalo short ribs braised in mole poblano, a traditional Mexican sauce featuring chocolate, chilies and about a million other ingredients. Don’t worry about making a saucy mess when you dive into this flavorful dish; the buffalo meat is so tender you could eat it with a spoon. And don’t neglect the roasted red onion and tortilla strips that top off the dish or the warm corn tortillas served on the side. The Corn Crusted Scallops (pictured) features three large, fresh, fried scallops topped with sweet tomato jam, earthy truffle crema and spicy roasted poblanos.  The scallops are crisp on the outside and tender on the inside while being sweet and spicy all at the same time. Both dishes come with a side of refried black beans and rice that redefine the concept of boring rice and beans.

For dessert, we opted for the Mexican Chocolate Pie. The made-in-house pie is topped with candied almonds and whipped cream. It’s sweet, salty, creamy and crunchy with every bite. Only someone with a talent like Jeff’s could pull it off. So line up at Elote before you’re completely starving, and savor some of the most talked-about cuisine in Sedona.Erika Ayn Finch. Photo courtesy of Elote Cafe.

Elote Cafe, 771 AZ-179 at Arabella Hotel Sedona. Open Tuesday to Saturday, 5 p.m. to closing, for dinner. MC, Visa, AmEx, Disc (928-203-0105) (Moderate to Expensive)

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