Best Neighborhood Mexican Restaurant, East Valley - 2008
Rancho de Tia Rosa
Never mind the sprawl. If there's one thing we truly envy about East Mesa, it's Rancho de Tia Rosa. Even if you don't happen to live in this 'hood, Rancho de Tia Rosa is worth a visit, for both its charming atmosphere and its outstanding cuisine. The sprawling, 8,000-square-foot pink hacienda features water fountains, lush landscaping, front and rear patios decked out with wrought-iron chairs and tile-topped tables, and Saltillo tile floors throughout. Inside the cavernous main dining room, where there's a wall of funky brickwork and paintings of parrots and pretty señoritas, rustic tables and booths can accommodate large groups. The food's just as whimsical as the vibe, with playful gourmet spins on traditional dishes such as the Nuevo Chile Relleno, a plump roasted poblano filled with moist pork picadillo, with sour cream, cheese, and pine nuts on top. The grilled pork chop is accented with adobo chile rub and red chile chutney, while the decadent chicken mole makes use of six kinds of chile peppers, 22 spices, fruits, nuts, herbs, and — of course — chocolate. Dare we say, if this place were located closer to central Phoenix, it would attract as much attention as Barrio Café's gotten over the years.