Best Of La Vida

  • Best Work in Progress on the Arizona Border

    Repellent Fence by Postcommodity

    In early October, a group of Native American and indigenous artists plans to unveil the largest bi-national land art installation ever shown on the U.S./Mexico border. The interdisciplinary four-person group — Raven Chacon, Cristóbal Martínez, Kade L. Twist and Nathan Young — is Postcommodity, and together, the artists are known...

  • Best Cultural Mash-Up

    Latino-Jewish Seder

    Every year for the past decade or so, a select group of Phoenix Jews and Latinos have gathered to break bread — or, rather, matzoh, the unleavened crackers that symbolize the unfinished bread made by Jews fleeing the Pharaoh, an integral part of the Passover story and any seder dinner...

  • Best Weekly Flamenco

    Flamenco Por La Vida at Crescent Ballroom

    Led by Angela Ramirez, Flamenco Por La Vida has become an early-evening staple Saturdays at Crescent Ballroom. The troupe's passionate songs and fiery dancing in Crescent's lounge often top the indie rockers that take the stage in the main room afterward. Each week, Ramirez and her crew don traditional garb...

  • Best Latin Club

    La Flor de Calabaza

    A quiet lunch spot featuring a sprawling patio by day, La Flor de Calabaza is a Latin lounge by night. With art on the walls, white leather couches, and nightclub lighting, the vibe here is fresh, and so is the food it serves. The cocktail list includes drinks such as...

  • Best Latin Night

    Mijana

    Most of the time, Mijana is a Lebanese restaurant, but on Friday nights, the tables are put away and Mediterranean music is replaced with Latin dance music, and el baile begins. A $10 cover charge buys a lesson at 9:30 p.m. with professional instructors from all over the Valley as...

  • Best Alt-Latino Dance Night

    Clandestino

    Scenes don't always rise organically within a music community. Sometimes, they are placed there deliberately, started and maintained by organizers who see a void and have the will to make it better. Such is the case with Phoenix's fledgling alt-Latino music scene. Whereas our southern cousin Tucson boasts a handful...

  • Best Margarita

    House Margarita at Paz Cantina

    What do you want with a plate of tacos or a big ol' bowl of guac? A margarita, of course. And after a long day or at the start of a long night, there's nothing better than Paz Cantina's house margarita, which will never cost you more than three bucks...

  • Best Upscale Mexican Restaurant

    Mejico Cocina Mejicana

    Let's start with the fact that Mejico doesn't serve fancy modern Mexican cuisine. This cozy restaurant, located in a converted house, offers homestyle Mexican food that's simply done, but also excellent. It's exactly that you would expect from an owner like Obed de la Cruz, also one of the owners...

  • Best Tortillas

    Carolina's Mexican Food

    The particular magic of Carolina's flour tortillas is in not being able to leave the parking lot without digging out that bag of warm tortillas, battling the twist-tie, and wrestling out one of those floury, paper-thin disks. Tortillas this good need no adornment. This Phoenix institution may sell tortillas by...

  • Best Salsa

    La 15 y Salsas

    If northern Mexican food is all about the beef, then Oaxacan food, of which La 15 y Salsas is a shining example, is all about the salsa. A trio of fresh salsas hit the table with every meal, with a basket of thin, crunchy corn chips on the side. The...

  • Best Guacamole

    Cocina 10 at Crescent Ballroom

    Thank the music gods for the creation of a fantastic casual eatery inside of a busy bar and event venue, particularly one with thick guacamole that can be enjoyed during bingo, flamenco dancing, trivia nights, a concert, or any other event at Crescent Ballroom. Coarsely crushed avocado is complemented with...

  • Best Beans

    Asadero Norte de Sonora

    In a town full of quick, affordable, and delicious Mexican restaurants, all of them featuring sides of beans, it takes talent and effort to stand out. The steaming cup of charro beans at Asadero Norte de Sonora does just that. Forget paste-like, greasy refried beans; these soupy pinto beans, studded...

  • Best Elote

    Tortas Paquime

    Sometimes, we feel a menu item was created only to heed our call. Such is the case of the coctel de elotes at Tortas Paquime. So what if we nearly died getting in and out of the dangerously packed and tiny parking lot one time. We left with a warm...

  • Best Quesadilla

    Luncha Libre Gourmet Food Truck

    There's nothing traditional about Luncha Libre's quesadillas, but that's precisely what makes them so good. They may be Mexican food, but expect a dose of Asian, Southwest, and good ol' American flavors. The Breakfastdilla, a monster stuffed with cheese, scrambled egg, and chorizo, is a revelation about how we've been...

  • Best Chilaquiles

    Los Reyes de la Torta

    We can't blame you if you've never made it past the selection of excellent tortas at Los Reyes de la Torta. They are, after all, what made the restaurant famous, but you would be missing out on their wonderful chilaquiles, a perfect balance of spicy green or red salsa penetrating...

  • Best Breakfast Burrito

    El Norteño

    If a cramped, cash-only establishment is not for you, skip El Norteño. But be warned: You'll be missing out on one of the best bargains on breakfast burritos in the Valley, found inside a tiny building at the corner of Seventh Avenue and Roosevelt Street in downtown Phoenix. Four bucks...

  • Best Burrito

    Rito's

    Henry Ford famously said, "Any customer can have a car painted any color that he wants so long as it is black," but he may as well have been talking about the cult-worthy burritos at the worst-kept secret spot in Phoenix, Rito's. Any customer can have any burrito that he...

  • Best Tacos

    Mercado y Carnicería Cuernavaca

    Swing by this butcher shop and food counter on any night and you're certain to run into one of the many self-described foodies of the Valley utterly devoted to the charcoal-grilled chicken, carne asada, and al pastor tacos of Mercado y Carnicería Cuernavaca. If you thought tacos had to be...

  • Best Enchiladas

    Pitic

    Patience is a virtue, one that is richly rewarded at the South Phoenix eatery Pitic. Crowded with families and business folk enjoying a leisurely lunch, Pitic is the place where enchiladas stand out on a menu overflowing with Mexican classics. Appropriately drenched in a smooth red chile more flavorful than...

  • Best Tamales

    Azteca Bakeries & Restaurant

    Go past the shady courtyard into this production bakery/casual eatery to get to the most delicate corn tamales money can buy in the Valley. They're buttery with melted hunks of queso fresco, roasted green chile rajas, and roughly ground kernels of fresh sweet corn. Get that wax paper and corn...

  • Best Tortas

    Tortas El Güero

    If your hunger for a torta comes in mini, regular, or supersize, you're in luck. El Güero has you more than covered. With 14 menu items to choose from — including a vegetarian creamy avocado and cheese torta — there is something for everyone. We're hooked on the I-can't-make-up-my-mind Cubana,...

  • Best Sonoran Hot Dogs

    Nogales Hot Dog

    The real secret to the Sonoran-style hot dog isn't the bacon wrap, not that it doesn't help. The secret is the bun — slightly sweet, light as a cloud, yet sturdy enough to hold that bacon-wrapped wiener, mayo, pinto beans, diced tomatoes, onions, avocado cream, pickled jalapeños, and any other...

  • Best Pozole

    Pozoleria Guerrero

    You can find some of the best red or green pozole in town on an otherwise unremarkable stretch of Van Buren. And you can find it early in the day, as this wonderfully fragrant restaurant opens daily (except Tuesdays) at 9 a.m. Pozole for breakfast? Why not? Especially when it's...

  • Best Mexican Seafood

    El Pacifico Restaurante y Pescaderia

    There's more to Mexican seafood than fish tacos, and if there's one place in Phoenix to experience mariscos, it is El Pacifico, a colorful family-owned seafood eatery in Central Phoenix. This is the sort of place where bringing a group and ordering one of everything is never a bad idea,...

  • Best Carne Asada

    Tacos Sonora Grill

    There's value in restaurants that dedicate themselves to doing one thing, and doing it well. When it comes to the tacos at Tacos Sonora Grill, there's only one choice to make: corn or flour tortillas. No matter what your choice, those generously sized tacos (no two-bite minuscule tortillas to be...

  • Best Carnicería

    Carnicería Sonora

    As much as we like to think we're mavens in the kitchen and can whip up a flavorful marinade on the fly to go with any meat, our grill thanks us every time we get our carne asada from the folks at Carnicería Sonora. Buy it preparada (as in drenched...

  • Best Mexican Grocery Store

    Los Altos Ranch Market

    Calling Los Altos Ranch Market a grocery store is like calling the Great Wall of China a fence. This massive food emporium contains everything one might need for a fantastic Mexican meal: fresh epazote, dried avocado leaves, freshly made tortillas, masa to make your own tamales, 20 kinds of dried...

  • Best Panaderia

    Panaderia y Tortilleria Guerrero

    Nothing makes us think of a childhood spent in Mexico more than entering a panadería, grabbing a round aluminum tray, a pair of tongs, and getting busy picking out favorites from the racks and cases brimming with freshly baked pan de dulce, cookies, and individual cakes. From flaky palmeras and...

  • Best Horchata

    La Santisima Gourmet Taco Shop

    Nothing pairs as well with spicy Mexican food as a tall glass of horchata. Sure, a margarita will get the job done, but when you're sweating bullets and looking for something to cool the flames in your mouth, there's only one drink that can really meet your needs. When you...

  • Best Churro

    Barrio Cafe

    From start to finish, chef Silvana Salcido Esparza delivers Mexican cuisine at its finest at her longstanding Central Phoenix restaurant. You'll want to begin the experience with an order of the award-winning guacamole and finish with the churros rellenos de cajeta de cabra. The dessert comes with two churros dusted...

  • Best Raspados

    Raspados Paradise Mexican Restaurant

    If you're still thinking that a raspado is just the Mexican version of a Slurpee, you need to step out of the convenience store and find yourself a real raspado shop. We wish our corner 7-Eleven had chunks of tamarindo swirled into the cups of ice, or thick strawberry or...

  • Best Paletas

    Paletas Betty

    If it seems the paleta game is a one-woman show in the Valley, that's because it is. Drawing from her upbringing in Michoacán, the paleta and ice cream epicenter of Mexico, Betty Alatorre de Hong, has been creating seasonal and addictive frozen fruit treats since 2010, stamping each one with...

  • Best Mexican Candy Shop

    Dulceria Arcoiris

    Did you set out to eat every bit of Mexican tamarindo candy ever made? Or just have a need to feed your inner Mexican Willy Wonka? Dulceria Arcoiris has you covered with more Mexican candy — in all its sweet, salty, and spicy (sometimes all at the same time) glory...

  • Best Piñata Shop

    Importaciones Valentinas

    If you're not happy with the thought of smashing into a traditional star-shaped piñata, with colorful streamers flying from each of its cones, the folks at Importaciones Valentinas are here to make your custom piñata come to life. Bring in a photo, sketch, or just describe the piñata of your...

  • Best Yerberia

    Yerberia Botanica Gloria 2

    There are yerberias that focus largely on the mystical aspects of healing, and then there's Yerberia Botanica Gloria 2, an incense-perfumed shop heavily stocked with obscure herbs, barks, and seeds, as well as high-quality nutritional supplements, tinctures, and essential oils. Have a question as to what is best for an...

  • Best Place to Buy Mexican Furniture

    Casa Decor

    If your hacienda-style house seems empty, this dense store has large, darkly stained antique and new wood dining tables, comfortable and sturdy carved chairs to match, glazed and colorful talavera pottery. With an in-house repair and design team, Casa Decor can fix anything or create a custom furniture piece to...

  • Best Place to Buy Mexican Tchotchkes

    Mercado Mexico

    The space may be a little dusty and a bit warm on a summer day, but inside this 30-plus-year-old shop is one of the Valley's best selection of traditional talavera pottery to fill the grandest of tables, clay pots for every kind of traditional Mexican cookery, and volcanic stone molcajetes...

  • Best Place to Buy Day of the Dead Treasures

    Purple Lizard Boutique

    Looking for the elusive Day of the Dead sugar skull? Or how about authentic embroidered Mexican clothing to dress up as a calavera? This jam-packed store has everything Day of the Dead-related, from calavera-adorned greeting cards to earrings, sugar skulls, and ceramic skulls, as well as colorful decorative calavera catrina...

  • Best Nopales Dish

    Queso Fundido at Asi Es La Vida

    Imagine this: cheese, chorizo, and cactus. We know what you're thinking. Who would dare to put cactus in something you eat, right? Well, a lot of people, actually. It's more commonly called nopales and is a staple in Mexican food, especially that of central Mexico. If you look carefully, you...

  • Best Agave-Spirit Cocktail

    "El Ultimo" at Last Drop Bar at The Hermosa Inn

    The agave spirit revolution is coming, as the smoky mezcal variant rightfully becomes more and more familiar to tequila drinkers, leaving room for plenty more curiosity for what's next. "What is next?" is a question best fielded by Travis Nass at the Last Drop Bar at the Hermosa Inn, in...

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