Best of Phoenix®

Best Of 2005


  • + Ahwatukee
  • + Anthem
  • + Apache Junction
  • + Avondale
  • + Buckeye
  • + California
  • + Carefree
  • + Cave Creek
  • + Central Phoenix
  • + Central Scottsdale
  • + Chandler
  • + East Phoenix
  • + El Mirage
  • + Fountain Hills
  • + Gilbert
  • + Glendale
  • + Goodyear
  • + Higley
  • + Laveen
  • + Litchfield Park
  • + Mesa
  • + Nevada
  • + New River
  • + North Phoenix
  • + North Scottsdale
  • + Out of Town
  • + Outside the Valley
  • + Palo Verde
  • + Paradise Valley
  • + Peoria
  • + Queen Creek
  • + South Phoenix
  • + South Scottsdale
  • + Sun City
  • + Surprise
  • + Tempe
  • + Tolleson
  • + Unknown
  • + Waddell
  • + West Phoenix
  • + Youngtown
Map It

Arts & Entertainment

Food & Drink

La Vida

People & Places

Shopping & Services

Readers' Choice


Best Of :: La Vida


It seems that if it's Mexican and it even remotely involves music on tape or CD, El Idolo de Oro has it. This tuneful stop stocks just about every regional group living, breathing and harmonizing in Mexico, including oompah bands from Michoacán; norteño/Tex-Mex groups from Sonora, Chihuahua and Sinaloa; the exitos (hits) of wailing mariachi ensembles from Jalisco -- even reggaeton, a salsita of hip-hop, rap and Jamaican reggae from Puerto Rico, and Mexican rap by Control Machete. El Idolo's strong suit, however, is an incredible selection of narcocorrido music, a recent twist on the romantic Mexican folk ballads, or corridos, blaring in every Mexican restaurant and cantina from here to Culiacán. Think of the narcocorrido as the Mexican equivalent of American folk tunes about Western gunslingers, desperadoes and bank robbers (or maybe the theme song from The Sopranos) -- except that these ballads chronicle the joys and derring-do involved in drug trafficking (narcocorrido expert Elijah Wald says, "They're an anachronistic link between the earliest European poetic traditions and the world of crack cocaine and gangsta rap"). Ain't nothing new here, since more than a century ago, the corridos were about crafty Robin Hood types, revolutionary guerrillas like Pancho Villa and campesinos who pulled fast ones on evil Texas Rangers. Wildly popular both south and north of the border, narcocorridos are set to polka or waltz rhythms and usually backed by accordions and often brass sections. El Idolo carries the latest by groups famous for these drug ditties, like Los Tigres del Norte, Los Tucanes de Tijuana, Grupo Exterminador (you gotta love a group that's titled one of its albums Contrabando en los Huevos), Los Pajaritos del Sur, and the notorious Sinaloan legend Chalino Sanchez. With titles like Los Tigres' Pacto de Sangre (Blood Covenant), it makes you wanna run to the nearest Berlitz for a crash course in Spanish so you can figure out all the lyrics.

Dulceria Pico Rico

In the interest of our gaming-themed "Best of," we wanted, dear reader, to find you the best cockfight in town. But The Man cried fowl. You can't find a legal cockfight in AZ anymore, although we hear there's still some action on the west side of Phoenix. Anyhow, we don't want to recommend anything that would hurt a chicken, short of a trip to KFC. But as far as "good" games go, we found Dulceria Pico Rico, a Mexican game store on 16th Street. DPR carries several versions of Loteria (Mexican bingo), as well as the Mexican version of Chutes 'n' Ladders, called Serpientes y Escaleras, and Pin the Tail on the Donkey, er, Burro. Even if you're bummed about not catching a cockfight, there's something very satisfying about winning the pot in Loteria. Victory tastes like chicken.

2533 N. 16th St., Phoenix, 85006

Silvana Salcido Esparza, owner and executive chef of Barrio Cafe, is proud of the series of tattoos that decorate her right leg. For her, tattooing isn't just the trendy thing to do, but a way of expressing and paying homage to her culture. "I didn't start getting tattoos until I was 35," says Esparza, who's now 45. "So it's not like I'm some kid who runs into the tattoo shop and runs out half an hour later with a new tattoo." In fact, Esparza reports that her tattoos took countless hours of conceptualization, and they are all original designs, featuring images of Toltec warriors, Nahuatl women, a Mexican eagle, the Day of the Dead calavera dressed as a chef, and a Mayan corn god. Each tattoo has a special meaning for Esparza. "In my culture, we believe that corn is life, and it denotes a new beginning and sustenance," she says. "And it's also associated with food, which is such a big part of my culture." Esparza's tattoo of Nahuatl women grinding corn comes from artist Diego Rivera's Mercado mural, and she chose the design for its suggestions of feminine power. "The woman signifies everything for the Mexican culture," she says. "Everything is centered around the mother." Most of the work was done by various tattoo artists in Mexico City, except for the Mayan corn god, a local job. Eventually, Esparza says, the series of tattoos will become a full leg sleeve, brought together by images of corn. We don't think that's corny at all.

2814 N. 16th St., Phoenix, 85006
Four Seasons Resort at Troon North

We've had a lot of margaritas in our day, but we must admit to doubling our intake after discovering what the addition of a little prickly pear juice can do to such an already perfect drink. And nobody in the Valley does prickly pear margaritas better than the surprisingly low-key bar at this posh resort in far north Scottsdale. Unlike lesser prickly pear margaritas, there is nothing syrupy or heavy about these purplish-pink babies; they're possessed of a perfect light tartness. The only drawback: The resort is so far from civilization, and the drinks go down so smoothly, you're probably going to have to book a room.

10600 E. Crescent Moon Dr., Scottsdale, 85262

The blender has done for margaritas what the automatic transmission did for sports cars. Why do people pay top dollar for high-end tequila, then ask the barkeep to blanderize it with pulverized ice? As Frank Sinatra was prone to say when given more than two cubes in his whiskey tumbler, "What do I look like, a figure skater?" If you want a Slurpee, go to 7-Eleven. If you want an honest margarita -- one with real bite -- head to Richardson's, where there's no blender, or sweet-and-sour mix, to get in the way of a good thing. Richardson's knows the recipe for pure refreshment on a hot summer day: good tequila and fresh-squeezed lime juice with a dash of Triple Sec poured into a glass filled with ice (cubes!) and rimmed with salt. That's it, nothing more. Alter this recipe even a smidgen and you may be drinking a cocktail, but it ain't a margarita.

6335 N. 16th St., Phoenix, 85016
Z'Tejas Grill

Some folks like their margaritas on the rocks, just as some folks enjoy a 10-inch spike to the upper thorax. Those rocks-in-their-heads margarita masochists will argue that frozen margaritas are an abomination thought up by girly men. Back in the day, they'll point out, we didn't have blenders, so margaritas would have been served chilled or on the rocks at best. Perhaps, but then there's this little thing known as "progress," of which we're so fond. Since the invention of the margarita back in the 1930s, progress has come to improve our lives with such marvels as air conditioning and frozen margaritas, both of which are available for your pleasure at Z'Tejas. Its eight-ounce Chambord margarita is particularly wicked -- a blend of Sauza Gold, triple sec and sweet and sour, swirled into Chambord liqueur that makes them so potent that imbibers are cut off after three drinks. While the knuckle-draggers are sipping theirs on the rocks (and probably trying to start a fire with two sticks), we'll be on our third Chambord maggie, enjoying a lovely yet profound buzz.

7014 E. Camelback Rd., Scottsdale, 85251



All-access pass to the top stories, events and offers around town.

  • Top Stories


All-access pass to top stories, events and offers around town.

Sign Up >

No Thanks!

Remind Me Later >