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Special family owned Mexican restaurant in Mesa, AZ in a sea of chains: Matta's

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I was recently in a part of Mesa, AZ that's chock-a-block full of chain restaurants. I'm of the belief that if I want everything to taste just like it does at home . . . I'd stay at home. You might live in a part of the world that doesn't have lots of chain restaurants, for reasons of zoning, tight economic development and planning, etc. You might not know a restaurant is part of a behemoth chain! That's why it's good to ask your hotel concierge what are the indie restaurants in the area. I did and got fantastic results.

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That's why I want to point out a very special, family-owned Mexican restaurant that's been making people happy since 1953: Matta's. I was recently sharing a snack there with my friend and fantastic colleague, (Chicago) World Travel Examiner, Carol Stigger. As I sometimes joke to her, Carol once bought me a gelato in Italy and I was her friend forevermore!

Matta's makes everything from scratch and considers themselves "West Texas-style Mexican" cuisine. Our very sweet server kept us stocked with complimentary tortilla chips, hot sauces and a chunky pico de gallo: bright with fresh cilantro, scallions, chopped good red tomatoes. Hey, we didn't get them just because we're so great -- you'll get them too!

I have a particular weakness for good, homemade soups. They have two! Albondiga soup sounded good, with meatballs, broth and veggies, but it's like something I make at home on a regular basis. Again, I was traveling, so I wanted something different. Spanish soup has potatoes, onions, tomatoes and roasted green chile in a seasoned veggie broth. It was hearty, flavorful, a huge portion and packed with vegetables.

Carol and I shared some Relleno Bites: little lightly breaded chile rellenos, chopped into bite sizes. Chile rellenos tend to go in one of two directions: awesome or awful. These were most certainly awesome: fresh, crisp fried (and drained), with a blend of cheese and meat -- which was unfamiliar to me -- and a light egg batter. Nothing goopy or greasy about it. Perfect food to share!

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