The candidate: Ultimate Taco from Fry Bread House, Phoenix, Ariz.
The construction: Green chile beef and refried beans with sour cream, lettuce and cheese on folded frybread. I ordered mine without onions.
Frybread is flat fried dough with a complicated place in Native American history. You should read this for way more, but essentially: In 1864, when the U.S. government forced the Navajo out of their native land and into less habitable lands in what’s now New Mexico, it provided them rations to prevent starvation. The rations included lard, flour and sugar, from which they made frybread.
For the purposes of only this discussion, what matters most is that it’s delicious.
Arguments for sandwich-hood: The Ultimate Taco is meat and toppings wrapped in a bread. Though the frybread is amazing, the fillings make the dominant flavor and focus. I ate it with my hands, though it got a bit messy. It was more than enough for a meal.
Arguments against: There’s only one piece of bread-stuff. Plus, it’s called a taco even though it doesn’t much resemble anything else you’ve seen called a taco.
How it tastes: So, so good. Amazing.
I don’t really know how to present this in an appropriately sensitive manner, given the history of frybread and whatever socio-cultural implications this presents, so I’m just going to come out with it: It both resembles and tastes like a Chalupa Supreme from Taco Bell. It’s a fried piece of bread-stuff wrapped around beef, lettuce and sour cream.
Only it’s much bigger and much, much better than any Chalupa I’ve ever had. My friend Will said something about it making Chalupas look like cave drawings — presumably he meant that this is the Renaissance masterpiece of taco-stuff-in-fried-dough. I wasn’t really paying attention, though. I couldn’t focus on anything but the Ultimate Taco.
The frybread is hot and pillowy, with a beautiful, crispy golden brown outside and a chewy middle. The beef in green chile was perfectly seasoned, tender little bites of beefiness with just enough flavor to permeate every taste but not enough to dominate the velvety refried beans and the cooling sour cream. The lettuce added some crunch on the inside, the cheese some salty creaminess.
Oh man. Man. We have to go back.
I typically don’t rate sandwiches reviewed in this format, but since this one was a no-doubt Hall of Famer from the first bite, I’m adding it to the Sandwich Hall of Fame. I suppose that sort of gives the verdict away.
What it’s worth: I think it cost $8 or so. Also, a flight to Phoenix and a hotel room and everything else. Worth it.
The verdict: It’s a sandwich. Everything about it besides it’s name says so, and also it needs to be recognized on this site permanently and I don’t have a Taco Hall of Fame. It’s clearly toward the gyro end of the sandwich spectrum, since it’s one flattish piece of bread instead of a traditional two-slices-of-bread sandwich. But it’s a sandwich. An awesome sandwich.