Macayo’s Mexican Grill & Cantina Thrills with New Flavors and Time-Honored Favorites



By Lynette Carrington

Macayo’s has been a cherished Valley tradition since 1946. When the Scottsdale location recently decided to gently rebrand and bring some new and vibrant menu items into the fold, it was met with enthusiastic response, both inside the restaurant and at local culinary festivals.

Director of Marketing and Brand Management for Macayo’s, Ashley Negron explains, “In honor of Woody Johnson’s innovative spirit we reopened the Scottsdale location as our research and development kitchen to continue to do what he had always done, and what we are confident he would be doing today.” In reimagining Macayo’s as Macayo’s Mexican Grill & Cantina, new menu items were introduced, fresh décor was orchestrated and the patio space was redesigned and upgraded to create a bold and engaging dining experience.

Many of the time-honored menu favorites that were developed by founders Woody and Victoria Johnson live on in the restaurants that remain owned and operated by three of the Johnson’s children, including Sharisse Johnson, the company’s CEO. “Woody was an incredible innovator and he was always bringing chefs in to work and try different things,” notes Negron. Back in a time when diners were skeptical of Mexican food being too spicy, Woody Johnson created what Negron describes as “safe Mexican,” but he also had a bit of an eclectic and wild side, too, where Macayo’s recipes were concerned.

Negron explains, “Sharisse is very passionate about carrying on that innovation and she’s very innovative herself. She’ll go to Mexico and try new recipes and then she brings it all back with her. Then we play with it in the kitchen and see what would work best.” A few consultant chefs were called upon in helping to develop some of the new menu items at Macayo’s Mexican Grill & Cantina. Two consultant chefs from Texas, one from Argentina and one from California helped introduce dishes with new flavor profiles and the inclusion of more fresh ingredients in tasty and sometimes unexpected ways.

In that Johnson family tradition, new menu items include fried avocados, Mexican corn (roasted corn served off the cob and served with creamy chipotle sauce and fresh Jalisco sauce on top), chicken rolled tacos with red bell pepper sauce, chicken tinga street tacos and a chicken tinga quesadilla, jicama street-style tacos, braised short rib (a sweet version made with red wine and cinnamon and served on street tacos or in enchiladas), queso fundido, Bosio’s shrimp and homemade churros with Mexican chocolate.

The green chili pork stew has been a huge hit. “The green chili pork stew has won two awards, one at the Scottsdale Spice event where we won first place in the ‘medium’ category,” says Negron. “We also took it to the Arizona Taco Festival and made a taco out of it and we won second place on Saturday at the event. It’s been our first big success from our test kitchen.” Some of the new menu items, including the green chili pork stew will be rolled out at other Macayo’s locations.

“The biggest décor impact that we’ve had at this location has been with the patio and bar,” Negron explains. “The south patio is beautiful and includes a water feature. When you’re sitting out there and enjoying yourself, you completely forget that you’re sitting just off of an intersection. It’s our best spot for a happy hour party.” Patios can be made available for private parties and events, too. Some guests may notice a new Macayo’s logo at the Scottsdale location. This is meant to give it a bit more flexibility in its unique branding, given that it is the test kitchen.

“The tables and chairs are beautiful, the bar has been remodeled and we have a tequila window for ultra-premium tequilas,” Negron continues. “One of our goals this year has been to raise our culinary credibility where people understand and its top of mind that when they think about Macayo’s that we use fresh products and that we make everything fresh everyday in our kitchens.”

Beverage credibility is paramount, too. Macayo’s has introduced an approachable program for tequila. There are 10 different ultra-premium tequilas ranging from $90 a bottle up to $375 a bottle and samples are available. “We introduced all of these at approachable price points so our guests could feel comfortable trying these usually very expensive tequilas,” adds Negron. “We’ve also brought in some hand-crafted cocktails and enhanced that area of the beverage program, too, and those have already been rolled out at the other locations.”

Happy hour at Macayo’s Mexican Grill & Cantina is really something special. From 3:30 -6:30 p.m. Monday through Friday, guests will enjoy appetizers ranging from $3.75 to $6.00, $3 happy hour margaritas, draft beer and domestic bottles and $6 featured margaritas, wine and red sangria. Be on the lookout for the fishbowl at Macayo’s. Drop your business card in and two winners each month will receive a free happy hour appetizer buffet for up to 30 people!

Macayo’s invites all its guests to “Join The Family” via its online link. The free Macayo’s membership includes a delicious gift when you first join, Macayo’s special news and events, exclusive offers and coupons and e-club anniversary treats.

Family-owned and operated, Macayo’s Mexican Kitchen has been serving fresh, homemade Mexican cuisine since 1946! Still used today, almost 70 years later, are the signature recipes created by original owners Woody and Victoria Johnson. These two were committed to quality ingredients served with a warm and friendly touch.

Woody and Victoria Johnson began Macayo’s in 1946, opening their first restaurant on Central Avenue in Phoenix, Arizona. That day they established the standards on food quality, freshness and guest experience that continue today. You will taste the tradition at every table, in every dish and every flavorful ingredient! Every family has their secrets, the Johnson’s just happen to be recipes!

Macayo’s has 12 Arizona locations in Scottsdale, Tempe, Mesa, Phoenix, Glendale, Surprise, Goodyear, Casa Grande and Tucson. Visit www.macayo.com/restaurants for individual locations. Macayo’s Mexican Grill & Cantina is located at 11107 N. Scottsdale Rd., Scottsdale. Call (480) 596-1181 for additional information and quotes for catering and in-restaurant banquets.

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