Have you ever experienced something truly one of a kind? Well, if not then I would surely recommend visiting Indian Village in Cave Creek, Arizona. It is also referred to as Bart's Indian Village, but you wouldn't know as it's not mentioned on any of the signage. They have been in business since 1972 although the building looks older than that!
We had driven past it many times and it always attracted my eye. We finally stopped in one day. This was before I saw the movie "More Than Frybread". We've been back many times since.
It's a Souvenir Shop and a Restaurant
If you go for the food because someone recommends it, you might be a bit confused when you first step inside. You'll walk through a rickety-looking screened-in front porch with picnic tables. I've never seen anyone eat in this area yet.
When you enter it just looks like a gift shop. They have a large selection of souvenirs, some jewelry, pillows, clothing, etc. There is a cashier area in this room, and this is where you place and pay for your food order.
Once you place your order you can eat on the front porch or go through a narrow hallway to the back area, where there is another small enclosed dining area where they pass your food through. There are different-sized tables in this room, with only one large table for a bigger group.
There is also a table with plastic pitchers of some of their beverages, including horchata. If you order one of the drinks, you'll get it from the kitchen and then you can get your own refills. I've had horchata at other places and never got free refills except at Indian Village.
If you like dining al fresco on a nice day there is an outside dining area with picnic tables and a little eating area that is cute with two small wooden tables and chairs but doesn't look too comfortable. Maybe one of these days we'll give it a try with some good weather.
Is It Indian or Mexican Fry Bread?
It's called Indian Village, but as you can see, the sign says Fry Bread and Mexican Food. I've learned that other countries have their own versions of fried dough or bread. I know Mexico has churros, Mexican Fry Bread (gorditas), and sopapillas. I tasted my first sopapilla recently at one of my favorite Scottsdale Mexican restaurants - Los Olivos Mexican Patio. As I flattened the little sopapilla square, I thought it tasted more like a much lighter version of Indian fry bread (if you top it with sweet items like powdered sugar, honey, jam, apple pie filling, etc.). A gordita is closer to the shape of Indian fry bread but is a smoother, denser product - not like puffy fry bread.
If you check on Yelp, you'll find mostly positive reviews of the food and it's got a good 4.3 star rating which is better than others on a Top Ten List of "Best Fry Bread in the Phoenix Area" online. But of course, you'll also get some negatives. One woman complained, "Cannot understand how others have rated it so high, must never have had good fry bread." A male diner wrote, "This was my first time eating here and I thought the Fry Bread was excellent!"
So who is right? I've never had fry bread anywhere else, the closest I've gotten is funnel cake, and fry bread is definitely different. I need to try the Fry Bread House in Oldtown Scottsdale next time I'm there for comparison's sake. But Indian Village has a higher Yelp rating. I would still like to do a taste test.
When I get the fry bread I usually get it with the apple topping, which appears to be canned apple pie filling - fine with me. I've also had the honey and powdered sugar that is a sweet, sticky delight! My son and husband have gotten the Red Chile with beans and cheese. There are a lot of different toppings you can order. Oh, and this is no fine dining as you'll be dining on paper plates with plastic utensils. That's just part of the charm!
That brought up a question as to what is authentic Indian Fry Bread. I'm not sure how factual the movie "More Than Fry Bread" really is (it is a comedy), but they served it with a mutton stew on top. I've done some Internet searching and I did find something about the Navajo using mutton stew. The movie was about a fry bread competition between Native American tribes.
A Little Fry Bread History
This is what I've gathered from doing some quick research. Also known as Navajo or Indian Fry Bread, it is a flatbread primarily made with flour, salt, baking powder, and water. It gets its distinct flavor from being deep-fried in oil or lard. Honey and jam are conventional accompaniments for this treat; however, tacos, stews, or chowders can also be cooked using fry bread.
With such common ingredients, I can't understand how you can get different flavored fry bread with the exception of the toppings. How does one recipe compare with another in flavor and texture? I guess it depends on the exact amounts of these simple ingredients used and the frying methods, down to using lard or another oil. When you dine in the back room at Bart's Indian Village you can see the stock room with cans of lard stored.
Fry bread came about as a result of the United States government's forced relocation of Native Americans in the 1800s, around 1864 for the Navajo tribe. They were given flour, sugar, baking powder, and lard during this time to make use of – so they created an amazing flatbread that quickly became part of their culture. It is interesting to note that Native Americans probably did not make fry bread prior to being forcibly relocated. If bread was made, it was normally made from corn ground down to flour.
It's a Place for the Locals
We lived in Scottsdale before moving to Cave Creek. So we are now official locals and we can usually tell other locals from the tourists. We try to take any of our out-of-state visitors here. I lovingly explain to them before going that the place is a cute little dump. You can dine in or take out. It seems like every time I visit they are preparing a take-out order.
I've only ordered the Indian Fry Bread here, but the rest of the menu looks good. I swear the next time we stop in I'm getting something else. Or maybe I'll get it topped with beans and cheese for a savory dish. Since fry bread isn't served in many places, it's difficult for me to bypass it.
Other menu items are hotdogs, tacos, tostadas, burritos, chimichangas, enchiladas, and salads. Their sides are tortilla chips, homemade guacamole, sauces - red, tomatillo, and Arizona Gunslinger, beans, and rice.
But that's not all! They have an all-day breakfast menu too. There are corn cakes, egg burritos, beef tamales, and quesadillas. I've never thought of quesadillas as breakfast, and there is a choice of savory toppings to choose from.
They are located at:
6746 E Cave Creek RD
Cave Creek, Arizona 85331
They are open from 9:30am-5:00pm - so no dinner unless you eat early
Holiday and Super Bowl hours are 9:30am-3:00pm
Closed on Thanksgiving and Christmas
Posted by Judy Orr on