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Best Of 2002

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Food & Drink

La Vida

Megalopolitan Life

People & Places

Shopping & Services

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Best Of :: La Vida

Best AZ-MEX Restaurant
Gecko Grill
Meagan Simmons

Gringo-friendly Sonoran-style Mexican food -- isn't that an oxymoron? Not if it's in the hands of the Moreno family. Then it becomes reliably safe even for the most timid taste buds, yet still so well-prepared it gets a rise even out of us.

We're in for standard tacos, tamales, enchiladas, burros, tostadas and such, minus too much spicing or surprises. But we're also in for honest, well-flavored dishes that rely on fresh ingredients instead of gussied-up presentation or overpowering heat to wake us up.

The meals start with a freebie ramekin of bean dip, all creamy and deep with a vibrant chile punch. Then we head to the specialties, like an appealingly offbeat shrimp quesadilla, folded and stuffed with healthy portions of shrimp, cheese, silky seafood sauce and the unexpected spark of fresh mango cubes. Rellenos are superb, too, the roasted chiles plump with crab and creamy white sauce or bloated with cheese under a mild-mannered green sauce. And we're smitten with the spinach enchiladas, two slender bundles tucked with juicy leaves and draped in a delightful jalapeo cream cheese sauce.

For soul-satisfying Sonoran-style comfort food, we just call the Gecko: "Here, lizard, lizard . . ."

835 N. Gilbert Rd., Gilbert, 85234
MAP
480-892-8099
Readers Choice

BEST SPANISH LANGUAGE TV/RADIO PERSONALITY
Johnny Dilone (Mas Channel 55)
480-607-9222

BEST SOUTHWESTERN RESTAURANT
Z'Tejas Grill
several Valley locations

BEST SALSA
Macayo's
several Valley locations

BEST MEXICAN RESTAURANT
Garduño's Margarita Factory
8787 North Scottsdale Road,
Scottsdale

BEST MARGARITA
Garduño's Margarita Factory
BEST TEQUILA SELECTION
Garduño's Margarita Factory

Readers Choice

BEST SPANISH LANGUAGE TV/RADIO PERSONALITY
Johnny Dilone (Mas Channel 55)
480-607-9222

BEST SOUTHWESTERN RESTAURANT
Z'Tejas Grill
several Valley locations

BEST SALSA
Macayo's
several Valley locations

BEST MEXICAN RESTAURANT
Garduño's Margarita Factory
8787 North Scottsdale Road,
Scottsdale

BEST MARGARITA
Garduño's Margarita Factory
BEST TEQUILA SELECTION
Garduño's Margarita Factory

Best Pi?ata Shop

There's no better way to relieve stress than to bash the shit out of someone with a large stick, and you can do this legally at Reyna's Party Place. With a few days' advance notice, and for around $25, Reyna's people can provide you with a custom-made piata -- just bring in a photo or a description of the character you would like to create. Stuff the offender with tiny plastic airplane bottles of scotch and beat your papier-mâché nemesis into a newsprint-and-crepe-paper pulp. Reyna's also rents bouncy castles, helium tanks, tables, chairs and other festive necessities, including mini-handcuffs and stink bombs.

Best Piata Shop

There's no better way to relieve stress than to bash the shit out of someone with a large stick, and you can do this legally at Reyna's Party Place. With a few days' advance notice, and for around $25, Reyna's people can provide you with a custom-made piñata -- just bring in a photo or a description of the character you would like to create. Stuff the offender with tiny plastic airplane bottles of scotch and beat your papier-mâché nemesis into a newsprint-and-crepe-paper pulp. Reyna's also rents bouncy castles, helium tanks, tables, chairs and other festive necessities, including mini-handcuffs and stink bombs.

Best Curandero O Brujo

Boss on your case? Feeling hexed? If you're in need of a quick spell removal -- or a spell installation, for that matter -- Las Potencias Africanas might be able to help. The small storefront next to the Azteca Cafe offers just about anything you might need for a self-help take on the ancient Catholic-and-African-fused method of Santeria -- including its darker cousin, Palo Mayombe. Some practices might call for frog legs and dried hummingbirds, so it's a good thing it has them on hand. Plus it has original artwork by local Latino artists, incense, religious items, soaps, candles and music, along with readings of tarot cards and chamalango (coconut shells). And just to round out your expertise, there are even classes available in spiritual candle- and soap-making, for the more advanced spell-it-yourselfers.

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Best AZ-MEX Restaurant: Gecko Grill

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