La Vida

  • Dulceria Pico Rico

    Best Place to Buy Mexican Candy

    Dulceria Pico Rico

    This party-supply store is located on the same block as some of our other south-of-the-border staples — across the street from Realeza Michoacana, a bakery and paleta (Mexican popsicle) shop; and Tortas El Güero, a torta shop; and next door to Llantera del Norte. But Dulcería Pico Rico can easily stand alone. It's pretty much a one-stop shop if you're… More >>
  • Realeza Michoacana

    Best Raspado

    Realeza Michoacana

    There are lots of reasons to stop by this colorful Mexican sweet shop, from ice cream to fruit cocktails, paletas to pastries (the fruit-filled smiley-face cookies never fail to cheer us up). Even the atmosphere's a hoot, with bright murals of fruit and an eye-popping pink-and-yellow-checkered floor. But usually we just swing by for a refreshing raspado, Mexico's answer to… More >>
  • Bragg\'s Pie Factory

    Best Place to See Mutant Piñatas

    Bragg's Pie Factory

    Leave it to longtime downtown arts advocates/developers Beatrice Moore and Tony Zahn to turn a crusty old pie factory into a showcase for genetically modified art. In early April, their latest historic restoration, Bragg's Pie Factory, was filled with description-defying, literally pie-in-the-sky piñatas dangling from the rafters of what was once a state-of-the-art pie-production plant built in 1947 in classic… More >>
  • El Gran Mercado

    Best Over-the-Top Swap Meet

    El Gran Mercado - CLOSED

    Past the handmade wooden sign marking the entrada, you'll find an outdoor market lined with booths of colorful Mexican pottery, religious statuary, clothing, and Spanish-language cassette tapes. Locals dance to Mexican pop music, sipping cerveza and chowing down on roasted corn with goat cheese. Sounds like a wonderful vacation find, but this isn't Guadalajara — it's SoPo. El Gran Mercado… More >>
  • Best Amigos

    Friends of Mexican Art

    So, perhaps the closest to Mexico many members of Friends of Mexican Art (FOMA) have been is Nogales. That doesn't stop this dedicated group of Mexican art-philes, founded more than 45 years ago in Phoenix, from generously donating their time, effort, and funds to promote all aspects of Mexican culture throughout Arizona. FOMA is the forward-looking organization that had the vision… More >>
  • Best Mirror on the City

    "The Mexican American Mirror/El Espejo México Americano: Reflections of Our City's Heritage"

    Trinidad Escalante crossed the border into Arizona about a century and a half back. While we could all sit around and argue about whether or not she did it legally, one fact can't be debated. Trinidad is yo' mama, Phoenix. In 1864, she married a man named Jack, and the two rounded up a bunch of their day-labor Mexican friends… More >>
  • Best Glitter

    Kathy Cano-Murillo, the Crafty Chica

    For years, she's slaved with the hot glue gun, hoping to make it big. And she has — syndicated newspaper column, books, public appearances, sales of original folk art, workshops, even a show this fall at the Heard Museum. But all that pales next to the shiny stuff. This year, Kathy Cano-Murillo hit the crafter's jackpot with her own product line,… More >>
  • Best Mexican Folk Art Mural

    MJ Mini Mart

    It was an agonizingly tough decision, given the competition, but we finally decided we're partial to a true Mexican folk art mural gracing the west side of MJ Mini Mart, a combo carnicería/casa de cámbio/restaurant in Sunnyslope. A visual paean to the platonic ideal of cows, pigs, and Mexican cerveza, the exuberant painting features two bigger-than-life-size horned cows — one… More >>
  • Best Place to See Day of the Dead Ofrendas

    Arizona Historical Society Museum at Papago Park, Tempe

    Arizona is now embracing its Mexican roots big-time, especially around the time of Día de los Muertos, an ancient Mexican tradition that marries pre-Columbian social ritual to 16th-century Spanish Catholicism. The raucous result is a less-than-somber celebration devoted to honoring the dearly departed by annual graveyard cleaning and partying all night next to one's buried kin. Probably the best part of… More >>
  • Best Place to Snag Day of the Dead Stuff

    Mesa Arts Center

    Give the dead their due and buy cool stuff, too, at the Día de los Muertos Celebration held at Mesa Arts Center in downtown Mesa. This annual Day of the Dead extravaganza, usually mounted as close to November 1 and 2 as possible (the dates conveniently coincide with All Souls' and All Saints' days on the Catholic liturgical calendar), boasts… More >>
  • Best Place to Take the Kids on Day of the Dead

    Dr. A.J. Chandler Park, November 1

    Kids never seem to have an issue with things from which adults often recoil in horror. Like death, for example. So don't hesitate to take your offspring to Chandler's annual Día de los Muertos/Day of the Dead Celebration and Festival, a free, kid-friendly fiesta put on by Xico Inc. (formerly Xicanindio del Artes of Mesa), Vision Gallery and the Calaca… More >>
  • Best Authentic Mexican Dining Experience

    Tradiciones

    It's hard not to get excited about going to Tradiciones, because visiting this central Phoenix eatery is almost as good as taking a mini-vacation to Mexico. From street tacos and mini-chimis to lomo azteca (pork tenderloin in chipotle cream sauce), chicken in mole sauce, and plump camarones a la diabla (shrimp in fiery chipotle-red chile sauce), the dishes are as… More >>
  • Best Authentic Mexico City Dining Experience

    Plaza Grill

    Okay, so it may not be Mexico City's posh, post-industrial minimalist dining mecca, Aguila y Sol, nor its Centro Historico's charming, pre-Columbian-inspired eatery, Los Girasoles. But Plaza Grill in north Phoenix is the place you want to head for if you're craving real Mexican food that tastes like, well, real food from Mexico, served with an elegant flourish on white… More >>
  • Best Neighborhood Mexican Restaurant, Central Phoenix

    Rosita's Place

    Visiting Rosita's Place is like visiting an old friend — a friend who loves nothing more than to make us fat and happy. Just setting foot in this place is enough to make us smile, thanks to a citrus-bright color scheme, paintings and framed photos with an Old Mexico feel, and the soothing sounds of water cascading into a tiny… More >>
  • Best Neighborhood Mexican Restaurant, South Phoenix

    Poncho's

    If you walk into Poncho's and think the place feels homegrown, well, you're on to something. Turns out this South Phoenix favorite was raised from a takeout business to a full-fledged restaurant back in the mid-'70s, when the Vasquez family converted their house into a dining room to accommodate a growing crowd of regulars. True to its history, Poncho's menu's… More >>
  • Best Neighborhood Mexican Restaurant, West Valley

    La Perla Café

    La Perla Café doesn't present itself as anything other than a homey neighborhood place to splurge on tasty Chihuahua-style Mexican cooking, but the truth is, it's a full-fledged Glendale landmark. The Pompa family got this place started way back in 1946, which, in the land of sprawl, makes La Perla older than most parts of the Valley. It's no wonder… More >>
  • Best Neighborhood Mexican Restaurant, East Valley

    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… More >>
  • Best Neighborhood Mexican Restaurant, Tempe

    Restaurant Mexico

    In its three-plus decades of existence, Restaurant Mexico has certainly had its share of changes (ever-expanding development has forced it to pack up and move three times), but one thing's remained the same: its mouthwatering food. And in an area overflowing with Sonoran eateries, its menu full of Mexico City-style dishes definitely sets it apart from the pack. How about… More >>
  • Best Neighborhood Mexican Restaurant, Scottsdale

    La Fonda del Sol

    Sometimes it seems like Scottsdale is home to more sushi joints than good old-fashioned Mexican restaurants, but if you know where to look, there is definitely South of the Border grub to be found. In the case of La Fonda del Sol, it's at the north end of a quirky retail complex on the southeast corner of Scottsdale and Shea,… More >>
  • Best Modern Mexican Restaurant

    Barrio Café

    Too many restaurants treat Mexican dishes like diner food — they crank them out quickly and cheaply, and if the stuff happens to be tasty, well, you're lucky. In the hands of a talented chef, though, Mexico's culinary traditions can be downright sophisticated, not to mention surprising. At Barrio Café, guacamole, prepared tableside, is anything but run of the mill,… More >>
  • Best South American Cuisine

    Mi Cocina Mi País

    Mexican restaurants already blanket the Valley, but what about culinary offerings from much farther south of the border, as in South America? For those, you might have to search a little harder, but the effort's worth it. Our favorite stop is Mi Cocina Mi País, a strip mall gem that serves up homestyle dishes from Ecuador, Peru, and Colombia in… More >>
  • Best New Mexican Brunch

    Richardson's

    Different moods call for different kinds of breakfast. Some days, it's a greasy, gut-busting American-style spread with pancakes and bacon and eggs. Other times, we prefer something lighter — and kind of French — like an omelet or some crepes. And then there are times when nothing but savory, spicy Mexican dishes will do. When that last craving kicks in,… More >>
  • Best Mexican Patio Dining

    El Zocalo Mexican Grille

    What a charmer. We already thought El Zocalo was a neat restaurant with the perfect name (a Mexican zócalo is the town square, and this eatery is situated right on Chandler's own town square, San Marcos Place). But once we discovered the lush outdoor patio tucked out back — something we'd missed when we ate there during the hottest time… More >>
  • Best Mexican Takeout

    Rito's Market & Mexican Takeout

    Talk about a testament to a restaurant's success: Earlier this year, Rito's streamlined its already compact menu — farewell, tacos and tostadas — and it hardly seems to have put a dent in business. Nope, most days there's still a line here at lunchtime, even though this no-frills eatery keeps a really low profile (so low that there's not even… More >>
  • Best Tortillas

    Carolina's

    Tucked away on a quiet street southeast of downtown Phoenix, the original Carolina's would appear to be off the beaten path. But step through the front door and you'll be surprised at how bustling this place is; there's usually a line at most times of the day. (To be fair, the packed parking lot sort of gives it away.) Indeed,… More >>
  • Best Mole

    Los Sombreros

    We don't use the word "dreamy" too often, but that's the first description that comes to mind when we think of the mole poblano at Los Sombreros. The first bite makes us feel like we're floating on a cloud, and the last bite gives us a twinge of melancholy, as if we're a little heartbroken to see our meal come… More >>
  • Best Mariscos (Mexican Seafood)

    Mariscos Sinaloa

    We have no illusions. Mariscos Sinaloa's blue vinyl booths and colorful, whimsical mural of sea creatures are not enough to fool us into thinking we're anywhere near the ocean. The seafood dishes, however, are beyond convincing. Not only do they look freshly caught — whole cooked snapper seems as though it was just plucked from the deep, and you half… More >>
  • Best Tortas

    Tortas El Güero

    Ever since we discovered the joys of eating at Tortas El Güero, we can hardly bring ourselves to eat at fast-food joints anymore. What, you've never had a torta? Friend, let us introduce you to the glory of the Mexican sandwich: It's a ginormous, filling thing, stuffed with meat, lettuce, tomatoes, pickled jalapeños, mayo, and thick slices of avocado, served… More >>
  • Best Tacos

    El Nopalito

    It's probably a cliché, but it's true: Some of the best tacos we've ever had were at a ramshackle roadside stand in Mexico, cooked right up in front of us and served with halved limes the size of large gumdrops. We thought we'd have to swing a return trip to eat tacos that good again, but thankfully, we've found a… More >>
  • Best Machaca

    Los Dos Molinos

    Do you ever find yourself ordering one particular thing whenever you see it on a menu? We're that way with machaca. And ever since we discovered the outrageously good machaca at Los Dos Molinos — where there's a whole menu full of memorable dishes — we've had to keep returning just to satisfy our cravings. Here, the classic shredded beef… More >>
  • Best Flan

    Sabor Cubano - CLOSED

    At this family-owned buffet — brimming with home-style Cuban dishes like arroz con pollo, ropa vieja (shredded beef), fricasé de puerco (super-tender pork), and apporeado de pescado (shredded fish with vegetables) — it seems kind of indulgent to order an extra dessert, especially since there are puddings, fresh fruits, and pastries included in the all-you-can-eat spread. But seriously, who can… More >>
  • Best Paletas

    Flor de Michoacan

    We have plenty of guilty pleasures, but one thing that makes us feel no guilt whatsoever is an ice-cold paleta on a toasty Arizona afternoon. Sure, you could call them Mexican popsicles, but paletas are truly a class unto themselves, so much more fun than their American counterparts. Flor de Michoacan carries around two dozen flavors, including tamarind, pistachio, and… More >>
  • Best Aguas Frescas

    Los Reyes de la Torta

    Los Reyes de la Torta (translated, the Sandwich Kings) of Sunnyslope reign supreme in the realm of aguas frescas, those luscious-looking fresh-fruit drinks sold on just about every corner throughout Mexico. They're sort of the Aztec answer to the Sonic Sunrise, but without the diabetes-inducing corn syrup and artificial flavoring. For a mere $3.25 at Los Reyes, you can revel… More >>
  • Best Mexican Market

    Phoenix Ranch Market

    Truth be told, we'd like to give Phoenix Ranch Market a whole handful of Best Ofs. What's not to love about this cheerful, sprawling emporium of Mexican food? The in-house panadería greets you right inside the front door, with everything from fruit-filled empanadas to Hello Kitty tres leches birthday cakes. The aguas frescas counter hawks a nice variety of ice-cold… More >>
  • Best Panadería (Bakery)

    La Tolteca

    Whether we're craving a simple sweet treat or need to order up a festive special-occasion cake, La Tolteca's our go-to spot. It's a given that we stock up on fresh corn and flour tortillas, of course, but there's so much more to tempt us — it's just impossible to walk past the row of illuminated display cases filled with huge… More >>
  • Best Religious Shrine in a Grocery Store

    Mini Mercado Oaxaca

    Ahhh . . . Walking into Mini Mercado Oaxaca recently transported us back to the beautiful southern Mexican state of Oaxaca (before Andrés Manuel López Obrador declared himself the real president of Mexico and forced his pretender to the presidency, Felipe Calderón, to send in armed federal troops to save the city from chaos). To your left, just as you… More >>
  • Best Place to Buy Hubcaps and Quesadillas

    Precision Auto

    Need a cheap used fender, hubcap or new windshield? No problem, vato. Broadway Road in South Phoenix has got you covered. This theatrical stretch from about 12th Street all the way west to 35th Avenue has got to be one of our town's best-kept secrets. Just ask Robert de la Torre of Precision Auto. His family's auto store has been around… More >>
  • Best Piñatas

    Arizona Piñatas

    You'd think it would be easy to find piñatas in Phoenix. It is. But something special? Sure, chains like Food City and Party City carry a token selection of papier-mâché Disney characters and traditional piñatas, but they're all the same. Time and again shop owners told us that no one local does custom piñatas. Finally, a tip brought us to… More >>
  • Best Mexican Imports

    Mexican Arts-Imports

    Don't be fooled by the bland white exterior of the Mexican Arts-Imports building at Van Buren and 24th Street. Inside, ceiling-high shelves are crammed full of Mexican imports from maracas to painted wall tiles and rustic wooden benches. And not just the kitschy souvenir stuff Midwestern gringos love to pick up at Phoenix's dime-a-dozen pottery shops — Mexican Arts has… More >>
  • Best Boutique with a Latin Flair

    Purple Lizard

    We love Purple Lizard for so many reasons. This is a true neighborhood shop — we never go in without running into at least one person we know. We love Marguerite, the longtime owner, who remembers all our personal stories. Most of all, we love the merchandise. And while the bulk of the wares at P.L. include hard-to-find women's clothing… More >>
  • Best Place to Buy a Quinceañera Dress

    I Do! I Do! Bridal - CLOSED

    A girl's quinceañera is, perhaps, the most important ceremony of her life (outside of her wedding), and part of the allure and fun of the whole expensive shebang is the dress. Here in Phoenix, there are plenty of Latina-centered bridal shops that sell them. That makes I Do! I Do! appear out of place here because the shop focuses mostly… More >>
  • Best Place to Buy Quinceañera Accessories

    Azteca Bridal

    There is so much more to a quinceañera ceremony than just the dress. Yeah, there's the religious aspect (kind of, we guess) and the serious, coming-of-age part, but you need so much more than a pretty dress and a rosary for the big day. There's the tossing doll (thrown away to symbolize a girl's turning into a woman — because… More >>
  • Best Latina Designers

    Lola y Lola

    Too many designers in Phoenix get so distracted by sewing stuff onto other stuff that they forget the part where they're supposed to be making things that people will, you know, wear in public. Not so for Yesenia Puente and Miriam Navarro, the creative force behind Lola y Lola, a cheeky local line of clothing that we have possibly become… More >>
  • Best Place to Buy Narcocorridos

    El Idolo de Oro

    The coke-rap of T.I., Young Jeezy, and The Re-Up Gang is humdrum. Next stop: narcocorridos, where epic tales of Mexican drug-running are blended with corridos norteños (bouncy, accordion-accented ballads). El Idolo de Oro is your no-frills hookup, peddling myriad musical outlaws including Sinaloan legend Chalino Sanchez. In '92, Sanchez shot a would-be assassin during a concert and was later killed… More >>
  • Best Mexican Radio Station

    La Campesina

    Barack Obama has used "Yes, We Can!" as his rallying cry and it's not an accident. Team Obama has sampled and remixed the "¡Sí se puede!" chant that César Chávez and Delores Huerta came up with for the United Farm Workers. Their presence still echoes today via La Campesina Radio Network, initially established by the UFW with the help of… More >>
  • Best Latino Radio Station

    95.1-FM Latino Vibe KVIB

    What makes Latino Vibe so cool is that it reflects the diversity of the Latino culture to which it caters — playlists include everything from Argentinian cumbia group SuperMerka2, Dominican bachata/R&B fusion band Aventura, Colombian pop-rock star Juanes, and Mexican reggaeton group Sonidero Nacional to Top 40 artists like hip-hop/R&B sensation Chris Brown and Enrique Iglesias. The station also sponsors… More >>
  • Best Jump to FM Radio

    El Break on 95.1 Latino Vibe

    We've been fans of this show since back in the days when it used to broadcast on AM radio station La Buena Onda. But we got really excited last year when the group of 20-something Hispanics managed to make the jump to the FM dial. Now broadcasting on 95.1 Latino Vibe, in Spanglish, the Breakers reach a greater audience. Which… More >>
  • Best Latin DJ

    DJ Melo

    DJ Melo's responsible for keeping the party going at one of the hottest (and, incidentally, gay) Latin nightclubs in Phoenix: Karamba. The dance floors here are often so crowded on weekends that there's no maneuvering through them, and much of that is due to Melo's mash-ups, influenced by such Latin DJ legends as Kassanova and Roberto Dominguez. Melo spins a… More >>
  • Best Latin Club DJ

    DJ Big Latin

    DJ Big Latin bumps more beats in Valley clubs than any other DJ. Even if he's not spinning at one of his weekly gigs — Thursdays at La Perla Café in Glendale, Fridays at both Macayo's downtown and Club DWNTWN, Saturdays in The Latin Room at Coach & Willie's — his company, Big Latin Entertainment, is booking and promoting other… More >>
  • Best Latin Nightspot

    Club DWNTWN

    Club Dwntwn continues to be a red-hot Latin nightspot, and not just because of its fiery scarlet-and-crimson color scheme or the faux-flame statues just outside its entrance. The downtown Phoenix danceteria's just hot, period, and it's where a sizable Hispanic crowd, sporting their finest duds (as the dress code is strictly enforced), goes out every weekend. There is an amply-sized… More >>
  • Best Latin Dance Night

    Caliente Chica Fridays - CLOSED

    At this point, we don't know who's been around longer: AL3, Phoenix's Turntable Patriarch and international DJ all-star, or The Matador — the iconic downtown Mexican food joint that's been busting out burritos for almost three decades. All we know for sure is that magic happened when these two joined forces. Freakin' good clubbin' in a restaurant? Are we serious?… More >>
  • Best Gay Latin Dance Night

    Vaquero Thursdays

    Karamba Nightclub is the overachieving bar that could. While they rack up international accolades as one of the planet's best gay bars, they're still workin' on workin' it out on the dance floor for all their fans. Like the unmatched Vaquero Thursdays. This night brings the best beats from DJ Miguel, who we think is just about the best DJ… More >>
  • Best Place to Worship Carlos Santana

    Maria Maria: La Cantina - CLOSED

    Carlos Santana appears to be supernaturally gifted at stuff other than playing guitar. Take his shoe line, for example — festive, affordable heels that are sexy rather than sleazy. The same adjectives apply to Maria Maria, his restaurant concept: festive, affordable, sexy-not-sleazy. Either the man's a wizard at creating ambiance, or he knows enough to pick the right partners. The… More >>
  • Best Place to Hear Happy Mariachi Music

    La Casa del Mariachi

    No quinceañera or boda (Mexican wedding) in sight to satisfy your thirst for the joyous blare of mariachis? There's always La Casa del Mariachi, where the excellent Mexican fare, the Crayola-bright interior, and the music makes it the place to be. On weekends, the adjacent dancehall hosts quite the fiesta with a full mariachi band, brass and all.… More >>
  • Best Place to Hear Sad Mariachi Music

    Oaxaca - CLOSED

    Heartbroken? The remedy is Oaxaca. Three grandfatherly gentlemen on guitar, vihuela, and guitarrón post up on Friday and Saturday nights in the cozy, zarape-wrapped lounge. Their soulful croonings of love — whether fulfilled, unrequited, or lost — always ring true, especially when you're wistfully nursing a beer.… More >>
  • Best South American Wine Bar

    Bomberos Café & Wine Bar - CLOSED

    We swear we're not trying to be trendy by saying we like South American wines. Scout's honor, we've long thought they were a great bang for the buck, and often stocked our depleted wine rack with South American labels when we couldn't afford the stuff from California. But ever since our pal came back from a trip to Buenos Aires… More >>
  • Best Mi/Chelada

    Taxi Inn

    On a recent bar crawl, we were surprised when we stumbled into the Taxi Inn, asked for the house specialty, and were told there was no hard liquor on the menu. No hard liquor? What's the point? Ah, but we had no further questions after consuming the mi/chelada. Let us elaborate. We watched as the weathered bartender rimmed a beer mug… More >>

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