Best Of La Vida

  • Best Rise From the Ashes

    Restaurant Atoyac Estilo Oaxaca

    For years, Tacos Atoyac was the bar against which we judged all other street-style Mexican eats. The no-frills restaurant served everything we could have asked for from a taco: affordability, simplicity, and lots of flavor. That's why we were devastated to hear the restaurant had closed suddenly and indefinitely in...

  • Best Upscale Mexican Restaurant

    Los Sombreros

    If you've never dined on the patio at Los Sombreros, then you've been missing out on one of the more romantic dining spots in town — not that the inside of the converted brick house that this restaurant calls home is a bad option. No matter where you sit at...

  • Best Latin American Restaurant

    República Empanada

    It may be small, but what this Mesa restaurant lacks in size is more than made up for in soul. The family-run restaurant came into being after months of hard work from Marco, Jinette, and Edmundo Meraz, who renovated the mid-century building themselves and even inherited some of the cacti...

  • Best New Mexican Restaurant

    Phoenix Burrito House

    When you know that Phoenix Burrito House comes courtesy of the De la Cruz family — they're the folks behind Zócalo Mexican Grille and El Sol Mexican Cafe & Bakery in Chandler, Mangos Mexican Cafe and Bakery in Mesa, and Méjico in Central Phoenix — then it should come as...

  • Best Neighborhood Mexican Restaurant

    Los Olivos

    If you're at Los Olivos only for the chips and salsa and a margarita, you will not be disappointed. This restaurant delivers from that first perfectly crisp, salty chip. But we dare you to stop at just chips — soon you'll be ordering a cheese crisp, maybe some corn sopas...

  • Best Chilaquiles

    Pepe's Taco Villa

    Breakfast, lunch, or dinner, there is no wrong time to sink your teeth into chilaquiles at Pepe's Taco Villa. There's an endless list of places in town to get yourself an order of the Mexican favorite, but nowhere with the balance of chicken, tortilla strips cooked to crispy perfection, and...

  • Best Breakfast Burrito

    El Norteño

    Spicy chorizo, scrambled egg, soft, diced potatoes, and melted cheddar cheese all wrapped in a warm tortilla. Yep, most can agree that nothing gets better than biting into a homestyle breakfast burrito after a long day or night. El Norteño, the quintessential hole-in-the-wall restaurant in downtown Phoenix, on Seventh Avenue...

  • Best Burrito

    Rito's Mexican Food

    There's a reason this little restaurant boasts snaking lines of hungry patrons during the daily lunch rush. It's because smart diners know this lunch-only downtown Phoenix eatery serves seriously satisfying Mexican fare that's always worth the wait. The green chile burrito is one of our favorite dishes, with tender beef...

  • Best Tacos

    Taco Mich

    From the outside, this Mexican restaurant looks like nothing much, but don't let the cheesy signage and gaudy paint job fool you. Taco Mich is our go-to spot for tacos, particularly on Friday and Saturday nights. When we need late-night weekend eats, we head here for the best $1 al...

  • Best Enchiladas

    Menuderia Guanajuato

    Enchiladas are not uncommon. Mexican or not, almost everyone knows how to put together the easy dish. So how is it possible for a restaurant to differentiate itself from the competition? For one thing, the use of housemade tortillas. Menuderia Guanajuato lines up six fresh enchiladas rolled with chicken and...

  • Best Tamales

    La Tolteca

    Unwrapping a moist, steaming tamale is reminiscent of ripping into a gift as a kid. The excitement that comes from the anticipation of finding out what's inside only intensifies once expectation and reality meet. Tearing into a plump green chicken and cheese tamale from La Tolteca brings excitement that doesn't...

  • Best Torta

    Gallo Blanco

    Gallo Blanco, located in the Clarendon Hotel, isn't the hole-in-the-wall kind of Mexican restaurant you usually look to for simple south-of-the-border cuisine. But that's part of the charm of chef Doug Robson's menu — the restaurant's tacos, enchiladas, and tortas compete with some of the best. And when it comes...

  • Best Sonoran Hot Dogs

    Nogales Hot Dog

    Every region of this great country has its own way of serving the all-American hot dog. In Arizona and throughout the Southwest, we live and die by Sonoran hot dogs. When guests come into town boasting about the merits of a hog dog "dragged through the garden," we take them...

  • Best Pozole

    Los Taquitos

    For those who find it hard to swallow menudo, pozole is the route to take. Thick chunks of tender, flavorful pork, along with hominy float together in the bowls of fresh pozole at Los Taquitos. The aroma of the steaming soup fills the nostrils, making it hard to resist. Pozole...

  • Best Menudo

    Rosita's Place

    No one likes being told that they can order menudo only on weekends. There are times when the day's events call for a soothing bowl of deep red or bright white menudo filled with fresh tripe and soft hominy. Rosita's Place knows about those days and caters to us the...

  • Best Mexican Seafood

    Mariscos Altata

    To call Mariscos Altata loud doesn't do justice to the level of noise you're likely to encounter while dining at the West Phoenix restaurant. But if you're really looking to have top-quality Mexican seafood, then the impressive din will be worth enduring. The restaurant serves a large menu of dishes...

  • Best Carne Asada

    Asadero Norte de Sonora

    Much of the draw of this 16th Street spot is the whole grilled chickens, which will set you back less than $10 but easily can satisfy a whole family. And they're really good. But it's not the chicken that keeps us coming back. It's the carne asada. Whether we're taking...

  • Best Carniceria

    El Rancho Market IGA

    Walk past the display of balloons, down the aisles of hot sauce, chips, and beans. It's then you'll know you've made it to the meat section of El Rancho Market. Every part of the chicken is available — all you have to decide is whether or not you want it...

  • Best Mexican Grocery Store

    Los Altos Ranch Market

    From the giant pots to the corn husks and masa you'll need to make tamales, Ranch Market has you covered. The produce aisle offers a bounty of produce both familiar and exotic. And you can get fresh juices, baked goods, rotisserie chicken, and just about anything you can think of,...

  • Best Panaderia

    La Purisima Pasteleria

    There's a reason La Purisima has taken the crown as the best panadería. It's not stuck in a vortex of only spitting out multi-colored conchas, which, let's face it, aren't that great to begin with. No, La Purisima gives customers every reason to drool over the pastries inside the cases...

  • Best Tortillas

    Carolina's

    Don't even bother trying to convince us that there's a place in town making better tortillas than Carolina's. This restaurant has been doing them perfectly for as long as we can remember. There are lots of Mexican restaurants in town and many of them make good tortillas, but none achieves...

  • Best Guacamole

    Barrio Cafe

    We've said it once and we'll say it again: Chef Silvana Salcido Esparza's guacamole is the best in town. True, there's something to be said about a simple, well-executed bowl of creamy guacamole, but we can't help dreaming about the heartier, fancier version found at the chef's famous Barrio Cafe...

  • Best of Phoenix 2014: Legend City / Goat Cheese

    In Spanish, its name means "goat sucker," which is meant not as a pejorative but rather a description of the dietary habits of the chupacabra, a mythical creature who's occasionally seen stalking the desert. The name comes from the animal's penchant for killing and drinking the blood of small animals,...

  • Best Salsa

    Carniceria Los Pinos

    Making good salsa is not easy. Finding the balance of chiles, garlic, and salt while still imparting a memorable flavor is sometimes best left to those who have been doing it for years. The folks at Carniceria Los Piños put out a refrigerator full of three different kinds of salsas...

  • Best of Phoenix 2014: Legend City / Miranda Rights and Wrongs

    There are people who believe that Ernesto Arturo Miranda was murdered in a setup by angry cops out for retribution, because he's the reason they have to read you your Miranda rights every time they bust you. Still others think Miranda's death in a knife fight in a seedy Phoenix...

  • Best Elote

    Fruitlicious

    Elote (simply put, corn) has gained favor in respected restaurants, making its way onto menus for about $5. So, sure, you could say it's trendy. But head down to South Phoenix and there lies the mecca of Mexican street foods, with prices equivalent to the streets. Instead of serving corn...

  • Best of Phoenix 2014: Legend City / Chimi Battle

    Your taste buds don't care who invented the chimichanga, but how true is the story about it being accidentally created right here in Arizona? One story goes that the famous Mexican entrée was invented by Woody Johnson, founder of Macayo's Mexican Kitchen. Woody always swore that the chimi belonged to...

  • Best Nopales Dish

    Comedor Guadalajara

    Most are not comforted when spotting cactus (nopales) on a menu, but Comedor Guadalajara got smart and put it into a classic: the quesadilla. Packed with cheddar cheese, chunks of grilled chicken, red and green bell peppers, and cactus, the dish is an easy way for cactus newbies and experts...

  • Best Nopales Drink

    Courtyard Café, the Heard Museum

    Don't be deceived: That glass filled with what looks like pink lemonade is not pink lemonade. It's prickly pear lemonade, made with the beautifully bright purple fruit that grows every summer on prickly pear cactus (a.k.a. nopales). The flavor is a cross between watermelon and bubblegum, but without the tart...

  • Best Aguas Frescas

    Gorditas El Tio

    The only thing worse than stale pan dulce is filtered aguas frescas that have been sitting all day. So how come huge vats with various flavors of aguas frescas don't fill the counter space of Gorditas El Tio accompanied by dried-out fruit art in front indicating the flavor? Because all...

  • Best Raspados

    Raspados Neza

    Raspados used to be known as street food, sold on carts in Phoenix neighborhoods. The jingle of a bell or the honk of a horn used to be the indication that refreshment was on its way. Now shops are popping up all through the Valley, filling our cups and stomachs...

  • Best Paletas

    Realeza Michoacana

    The paletas at Realeza Michoacana are so fresh that the fibers found in mangos are ever-present in the mango and chile paleta, as are the strawberry seeds adding texture to the strawberry paleta. Sure, there are other places that mix fancy ingredients into their paletas, but you can't beat old-school...

  • Best Mexican Candy

    Dulceria Pico Rico

    If you think Mexican candy begins and ends with Pelon, the push-up tamarind-style candy, you've got it all wrong. Take a stroll through the aisles at Dulceria Pico Rico for a few lessons in Mexican candy. The store is filled from top to bottom with selections such as De la...

  • Best Piñata

    Arizona Piñatas

    We've all seen the Mickey Mouse piñata with the odd-shaped head and the princess piñatas with their eyes crossed. It's the only thing left on your list for an upcoming party, and it's obvious. But the piñata game has been taken to another level for several years by Arizona Piñatas...

  • Best Yerberia

    Yerberia San Francisco

    Feeling a little under the weather with sinus pressure? Got an embarrassing itch that just won't go away? How are your pH levels measuring? Is that migraine interfering with your day-to-day life? Well, that's where Yerberia San Francisco comes in. The glass cases are filled with remedies, medicines, and ointments...

  • Best Place to Buy Mexican Furniture

    Meza's in Art

    Drive too fast and you'll miss this quaint corner shop. It's not huge like a department store, but the quality inside will take your breath away (or that might be the thick scent of real wood). Rustic armoires with turquoise finishes, high-back chairs, and a dining set made with thick...

  • Best Place to Buy Mexican Tchotchkes

    Mexican Import

    Whether you're taking someone from out of town or you're playing tourist yourself, Mexican Import is the place to stock up on Mexican tchotchkes. Colorful sombreros and cotton dresses with embroidery hang from the ceiling in the colorful shop. Browse and sort through jewelry and woven wallets from Guatemala or...

  • Best Place to Buy Day of the Dead Treasures

    Purple Lizard Boutique

    Flowing skirts, cotton tops, purses, hats, belts, and jewelry all fit into this small, eclectic boutique. But the true gems are the Day of the Dead trinkets and paintings. High on a shelf, low in a case, or up on a wall is where you can find sugar skulls, Day...

  • Best Spanish-Language Bookstore

    Pablo Helguera's "Librería Donceles"

    The only complaint we have about the Spanish-language bookstore that opened this spring on Roosevelt Row is that it was not permanent. But that's a big part of the charm of Pablo Helguera's "Librería Donceles," a traveling exhibit that incorporated more than 12,000 used books and a lot of elbow...

  • Best Latin Night

    Fridays at Monarch Theatre

    While each floor at the Monarch Theatre comes alive with hip-hop and Latin music on Friday nights, the real fun happens in the upstairs lounge. Every week, a pair of 13-person Mexican banda ensembles, each equipped with brass section, multiple percussionists, and a singer, stage a battle of sorts in...

  • Best Immigration Story

    Underwater Dreams

    Filmmaker Mary Mazzio's Underwater Dreams is timely because it deals with immigration reform. And the movie, which played for a week this summer on various cable networks before opening nationwide in theaters, is pleasant for locals to watch because it's set here in Phoenix, specifically at Carl Hayden High School...

  • Best Latin Club

    El Capri

    El Capri is a bit removed from the nightclubs of downtown Phoenix's Latin circuit, both in its location and its selection of music. You don't hear much in the way of Pitbull, Romeo Santos, Marc Anthony, and other overplayed artists in either of the two dance halls inside this long-running...

  • Best Margarita

    Tamarind Margarita La Santisima

    La Santisima isn't just about giant, delicious tacos or a salsa bar with more varieties than you can dream of; it's also about the tequila and the aguas frescas. If you're having trouble deciding on which of the two should accompany your spicy meal, why not marry the two into...

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