Sedona Restaurant Elote Cafe
Press and Reviews
Budget Travel: America's Favorite Restaurants
...but if you don't get to Elote before 6 p.m., expect to wait an hour or more for dinner. Bide your time at the bar with perfect margaritas (there are five versions) and servings of free popcorn dusted with chile powder. All of the Mexican dishes are prepared imaginatively, with gourmet overtones: Start with the sopa de elote, and then move on to standout plates like enchiladas, carne asada, chile relleno, tacos with mole sauce, or anything slow roasted. The menu's smaller plates are close to entree size, so visitors often keep prices moderate by eating tapas-style. The patio has great views... Read the whole article here
Red Rocks and Red Rice
January 9th, 2008
By Amy Pataki, Restaurant Critic
...Chef/owner Jeff Smedstad is as respectful of traditions as Mexican cuisine expert Rick Bayless, making his own tortillas and grinding two dozen spices into a silky mole with a bitter chocolate backbone. His take on Mexican street food – grilled corn kernels doused with chile, lime, cojita cheese and spicy mayonnaise – is worth the price of admission alone.
But it was Café Elote's refried beans that made the greatest impression. Thick but pourable, dark as night and unbelievably earthy, they came to the table as a side dish with red rice. I ate them two nights in a row and crave them still.
Red rocks and black beans. Sedona has them both.
October 9th, 2007
By Howard Seftel, Arizona Republic restaurant critic
For 10 years, Jeff Smedstad turned out exceptional regional Mexican fare at Los Sombreros in Scottsdale.
Now, after a divorce (his ex runs the restaurant), he has resurfaced in Sedona at Elote Cafe. And he's turning out the same kind of inspired fare, only this time with a better view.
The room itself is nondescript - Smedstad hopes to refurbish it next year. But no matter how well the renovation goes, you'll still want to sit on the balcony patio at sunset, gaping at the breathtaking red-rock backdrop.
It's a good thing the chips and salsa are just ordinary. If they weren't, you'd be kicking yourself for filling up before dinner. Believe me, every part of the meal here - appetizer, entree, dessert - is worth being hungry for.
The green corn tamal is practically the Platonic tamales ideal sprung to life. Moist and fluffy, it packs a sweet corn fragrance. The quesadilla de costilla, handsomely filled with braised beef short ribs and Oaxaca cheese, bears no resemblance to the quesadillas at gringo Mexican chain restaurants. And the tacos de mole are so compelling - braised chicken on a trio of soft corn tortillas with a sublime Puebla-style mole - you may forget the view altogether.
Smedstad's signature entree at Los Sombreros was the lamb adobo. The current version, braised lamb shank mantled with a magnificent sweet-and-spicy ancho chile sauce, hasn't lost any of its impact. The kitchen salutes the Mexican coast with the pepita-crusted snapper, lusciously topped with cilantro and lime cream sauce.
Even a standard like carnitas has the power to excite. The slowly roasted pork is exceptionally tender, beautifully seasoned and armed with a faint crunchy edge. And though main dishes come with rice and beans, you absolutely must order the knockout side of elote, a bowl of roasted corn kernels brightened with spicy mayo, lime and Cotija cheese.
People don't talk much about Mexican desserts, but Smedstad's are going to create a buzz. One of them is the dreamy pastel de elote, a sweet, skillet-griddled corn cake touched up with cajeta (caramelized goat's milk) and homemade ice cream. Another is the Mexican chocolate tort, which makes you wonder why everyone doesn't use intense Mexican chocolate in cake recipes. Or take the sting out of Sedona's fall chill with a nightcap dessert of Mexican hot chocolate invigorated with a shot of almond tequila. It practically guarantees sweet dreams.