Best Neighborhood Mexican, Tempe - 2009
You have to give props to Restaurant Mexico for being a survivor in the Tempe dining scene. In more than three decades in business, this humble but determined eatery has had to pack up and move three times (alas, blame it on development). In an area where so many beloved institutions are now just the stuff of legend, Restaurant Mexico's longevity really is something to applaud. But, of course, the real reason it's still around is because of the food, which is pretty novel in these parts. While Sonoran-style dishes are the default at most Mexican joints, this place dishes up the cuisine of Mexico City. That means outstanding sopes topped with chorizo, quesadillas that defy the ordinary (they're deep-fried masa, stuffed with goodies), and plenty of crumbly white cheese instead of the gooey yellow stuff. Students naturally flock here because of the modest pricing, but it's really the food that has a following.