La Vida

  • Best Piñatas

    Arizona Piñatas

    To paraphrase an old saying about a dead cat, you could swing a baseball bat in this town and hit a piñata. Many grocery stores sell them, and you can easily cruise 16th Street in central Phoenix and find a wide selection. But would it be wide enough? This year, our little princess didn't want a princess piñata. She wanted… More >>
  • Best Old-School Mural

    El Mural Bar (defunct)

    People often refer to Phoenix as a young city, but our burgeoning metropolis has a pretty old soul. That's why our hearts delight when we have the opportunity to drive past what used to be the El Mural bar in west Phoenix. It's been years since anyone's hoisted a drink there, but the outside is still emblazoned with the beautiful… More >>
  • Best Day of the Dead Festival

    Desert Botanical Garden

    For the past several years, the Desert Botanical Garden has thrown the best Dia de los Muertos party in town. This year, the festivities — held Halloween weekend and the first week of November — promise to be grander than ever, with performances, food, and hands-on crafts for the kids. Oh, and a mercado! We'll be sure to stop by… More >>
  • Best Place to Buy a Quinceañera Dress

    Bridals by Ofelia

    The Hispanic equivalent of the bat mitzvah or "Sweet 16" party, the quinceañera marks a Latina girl's coming of age. It's easy to find a respectable dress for the event, but only at a true tiendas de bodas can you get service to fit a quince's exact needs. Owner Ofelia Martinez understands the Hispanic market and, more importantly, understands young… More >>
  • Best Mexican Imports

    Mexican Arts — Imports

    At one end of this cavernous, winding mishmash of spaces is a room packed with all kinds of crosses — metal, tin, wooden. At the other end, there's a room full of hand-tooled gun holsters. In between is just about any Mexican tchotchke you can dream of: small wooden guitars, leather wallets, ceramic pots, embroidered dresses. We felt like we'd… More >>
  • Best March Leader

    Zack de la Rocha

    Let's be honest: Too much that goes on in Sand Land stays in Sand Land. That's to say, if a saguaro falls in Cactus Country, unless news of it reaches beyond the borders of the state, it sometimes seems as though it never happened — no matter how great the injustice involved. So when a rock star like Zack de… More >>
  • Best Videographer

    Dennis Gilman

    Scottsdale resident Dennis Gilman is used to being threatened by nativists. They've called his house. Posted his address on the Internet. And whenever he shows up at, say, the Macehualli Day Labor Center in north Phoenix, where vicious nativist groups such as United for a Sovereign America keep vigil with their guns, he attracts them like a magnet, and the… More >>
  • Best Bilingual Web Site

    We have to give it up to former state Senator Alfredo Gutierrez for creating this bilingual Web site, one representing the future of Arizona and the Southwest. La frontera refers to the border, and Gutierrez stretches the meaning to encompass the exchange of culture, news, and language that occurs in states like ours — where America meets Mexico, English meets… More >>
  • Best Meal in a Parking Lot

    Nogales Hot Dogs #2, Sonoran-Style Hot Dogs

    There's nothing quite like dining al fresco. The fresh air, the stars, and a killer view are all part of the deal. At Nogales Hot Dogs #2, the view may consist of cars whizzing by, but, hey, that's all part of the charm. For seven years, Pablo Perez has been dishing up a little slice of heaven known as the… More >>
  • Best Place to Get Drive-Thru on a Bicycle

    Antonio's Mexican Food - CLOSED

    Fast-food joints like to get their dictator on whenever a non-automobile attempts to order at the drive-thru. Not so at Antonio's, which won't discriminate against folks who roll up on two wheels. Basically a Filiberto's clone, this spot on 16th and Roosevelt streets serves bicycle-riding or walk-up customers 24 hours a day as they look to satisfy their cravings without… More >>
  • Best Tamales to Go

    The Tamale Store

    We're not saying you shouldn't keep buying a couple dozen tamales from your grandma's friend's neighbor at Christmastime. It's just that you might want to branch out a bit. Year-round, along with its location on Cave Creek Road north of Cactus, The Tamale Store operates stands at several Valley farmers markets (check their Web site for where and when). Sample… More >>
  • Best Tortillas

    Carolina's Mexican Food

    Carolina's is legendary. A Phoenix institution. A family-owned business for more than 40 years. And now, it's bigger than ever. While the Mohave location remains ultra-busy, serving the downtown business crowd as well as hungry locals, and Carolina's on Cactus keeps people well fed in the North Valley, this past year has seen the addition of a third Carolina's, in… More >>
  • Best Panadería

    La Tolteca

    We're not sure which is more fun: walking into La Tolteca to catch a whiff of fresh bread and the mouthwatering selection of baked goods displayed in cases at the front of the restaurant, or walking out with a bag full of fragrant confections that we'll inevitably devour as soon as we hop in the car. We're talking huge cookies,… More >>
  • Best Neighborhood Mexican, Central Phoenix

    Los Compadres

    We're never too busy to get our grub on at Los Compadres. That's because this institution makes it easy to grab our favorite Mexican dishes to go. Counter service is quick, and everything's packaged to take home, even if we end up snagging a table to eat on the premises. We love the top-notch beans and rice, 10 different kinds… More >>
  • Best Neighborhood Mexican, South Phoenix

    Comedor Guadalajara

    For as long as we can remember, Comedor Guadalajara has been the place in South Phoenix to throw a bangin' dinner party for all of your nearest and dearest — without the hassle of straightening up around the house and actually, uh, cooking. Once you set foot in this sprawling restaurant, you'll understand why it was made for a fiesta;… More >>
  • Best Neighborhood Mexican, West Valley

    Pedro's Mexican Restaurant

    There's a reason this cozy, family-run restaurant is such a success — it makes gluttony seem not only acceptable, but pretty much mandatory. Love the chips and salsa? They'll keep 'em coming as long as you keep munching. Got a craving for a chicken burro or a crispy chimichanga? You'll gasp when you see the size of one, stuffed almost… More >>
  • Best Neighborhood Mexican, Tempe

    Restaurant Mexico

    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… More >>
  • Best Neighborhood Mexican, Scottsdale

    El Molino Mexican Café

    For such a tiny little spot, El Molino Mexican Café has a surprisingly large menu — and everything on it is delicious. How do they make it so good? Consider it the wisdom of five generations of family cooks who've passed down the recipes that El Molino still uses today. Its discreet location makes it seem off the radar, but… More >>
  • Best Neighborhood Mexican, Southeast Valley

    El Zocalo Mexican Grille

    What a classy little spot this is, located right along downtown Chandler's bustling restaurant row (fitting, since el zócalo refers to a quintessential Mexican town square). Given the airy high ceilings, the crisp white tablecloths, and the rustic tiled roof over the kitchen, you'll think you stumbled into a stylish bistro in a hip Mexico City enclave. There's even a… More >>
  • Best Latin Brunch

    The Mission

    It's finally the weekend, and after last night's overindulgence, we need hair o' the dog, big-time. A Bloody Mary sounds like the ultimate cure, so we're on a mission to get to The Mission for a perfectly crafted version of this classic a.m. cocktail (or maybe a mimosa if we have a sweet tooth). Then we can dig into a… More >>
  • Best Mariscos

    Mariscos Playa Hermosa

    Yeah, yeah, we know we're giving away one of central Phoenix's best-kept secrets here, but more people need to know about this splendid little nook. Who knows how many people drive right by Mariscos Playa Hermosa's humble storefront without knowing how charming it is inside — friendly service, a full bar, and colorful, tropical décor? Even more appealing is the… More >>
  • Best Ceviche


    Once you get a taste for ceviche, you'll find that it's as habit-forming as sushi. Although this fish isn't quite raw, you see — it's gently marinated in citrus juice for a little extra zing. And Deseo's got the most creative ceviche in town, thanks to the wizardry of chef Douglas Rodriguez (a James Beard Award winner considered by many… More >>
  • Best Fish Tacos

    Las Glorias Grill

    The 99-cent fish taco night at Las Glorias Grill in Phoenix is a long-standing and deservedly popular Wednesday tradition. The tender whitefish is grilled rather than deep-fried, then folded inside a warm corn tortilla, garnished simply with crumbly white Mexican cheese, lettuce, and a surprisingly light sauce. Two or three will fill you right up. A Corona or two at… More >>
  • Best Quesadillas

    Huauchinango Mexican Grill - CLOSED

    Before you yawn at the thought of eating a quesadilla — one of the most run-of-the-mill Mexican dishes around and, perhaps, the most frequently gringo-ized — we want you to think beyond the generic cheesy creation that's stuck in your head. Think of something more substantial, with a savory masa crust around chicken and cheese filling. Imagine the whole thing… More >>
  • Best Red Chili

    Si Señor Restaurant

    Si Señor really brings the heat. An Arizona spin-off of the Castillo family's restaurant in New Mexico, this place specializes in tantalizingly tongue-searing dishes that put our neighboring state's famed Hatch chiles to good use. Free chips and homemade salsas get your taste buds primed, but prepare to rev things up even more with the spicy, luscious red chili con… More >>
  • Best Green Chili

    Rito's Market & Mexican Takeout

    There's something about Rito's that feels like an insiders' club — maybe it's the lunchtime line snaking out the door or the complete lack of signage on the building, which is off the beaten path in a central Phoenix neighborhood. And, indeed, there is a very special secret about this place, although it's one we share with everyone who loves… More >>
  • Best Carne Adovada

    Los Dos Molinos - CLOSED

    The unforgettable carne adovada at Los Dos Molinos is doubly seductive — slow-cooked, melt-in-your-mouth pork combined with the heat of red chile marinade. What's the kitchen's secret? It uses New Mexico red chiles, whose distinctively rich flavor takes the dish to a whole new level. If you're impatient to get a taste of it, the easiest plate-to-mouth delivery method is… More >>
  • Best Birria

    La Barquita

    Thanks to La Barquita's lengthy, covers-all-the-bases menu, there are plenty of reasons to stop by this affordable, no-frills neighborhood joint on McDowell. From crispy chicken-stuffed flautas to chile verde with pork to mouth-searing camarones rancheros (shrimp in spicy ranchero sauce), there's a dish for just about any craving. The real reason we come here, though, is to eat a dish… More >>
  • Best Huitlacoche

    Sierra Bonita Grill

    We doubt many folks would drool over any menu description that mentions corn smut, because it sounds like something gnarly that Bizarre Foods host Andrew Zimmern would seek out on his Travel Channel show. But call this fungus by its Nahuatl name, as they do in Mexico, and it has quite an appetizing ring to it: huitlacoche. This is the… More >>
  • Best Pupusas

    Restaurante Salvadoreño #1

    The Salvadoran specialty called a pupusa is one of our all-time favorite budget eats, usually ringing up at about two dollars each. But that's hardly the reason we can't resist 'em. Truth is, they're so satisfying to sink our teeth into — thick corn masa patties filled with cheese and other flavorful ingredients, like black beans, pork, or loroco, an… More >>
  • Best Mole

    Barrio Café

    We're pretty convinced that the more ingredients there are in a mole recipe, the quicker you'll be hooked on it once you try it. But of course, we'll never know for sure because the best mole recipes also happen to be the most closely guarded — and for good reason. The flavors are so rich and complex that it takes… More >>
  • Best Elote

    Gallo Blanco Café at the Clarendon Hotel

    Awesome tacos on made-to-order tortillas? Top-notch tortas on fluffy telera bread? Thirst-quenching homemade aguas frescas? It's hard to pick just one thing from Gallo Blanco Café to rave about. Still, we think the elote callejero represents everything that's great about this hip but unpretentious eatery inside the Clarendon Hotel. The grilled Mexican street corn is simple, fresh, and ridiculously tasty,… More >>
  • Best Tortas

    Tortas El Güero

    At this point, Tortas El Güero has a cult following. Why? Once you take a bite of one of its enormous Mexican sandwiches — stuffed with meat, thick slices of ripe avocado, pickled jalapeños, lettuce, tomato, and mayo — you can't help but inhale the whole thing with giddy delight. The soft, lightly toasted telera bread gives way to succulent… More >>
  • Best Tacos

    El Nopalito

    A jaunt to Rocky Point may seem like the quickest route to an authentic Mexican street taco, but it turns out that the real thing can be had a lot closer to home. Of course, you'll still be logging a lot of miles heading to El Nopalito, but only because of the many repeat visits we're sure you'll make once… More >>
  • Best Carne Asada

    America's Taco Shop

    America Corrales doesn't mess around. At her adorable little restaurant — tucked into an old house, like so many of CenPho's quirkiest eateries — she's totally up-front about what her kitchen does best, and that's carne asada, pure and simple. The delectable smell coming from the grill will clue you in before you even get a taste of the smoky,… More >>
  • Best Tequila Selection

    Cien Agaves Tacos & Tequila

    With a name that translates as "100 agaves," this Scottsdale restaurant's specialty is crystal-clear. Approximately 100 tequilas, including almond- and pomegranate-tinged varieties and Gran Centenario Rosangel hibiscus tequila, are available by the shot or in margaritas with flavors such as cucumber and prickly pear. Guests can even sign up for a Tequila Club and receive drink specials and event news… More >>
  • Best White Sangria

    Lola Tapas

    Listen closely: There's this drink in town. It's a drink you must try. It's a drink we hear calling our name in the summer months. We'll catch a whisper of the word, "Sangriaaaa" in the winds of the monsoon. In this heat, a boozy iced beverage is just what we all need to make life manageable. And we've found the… More >>
  • Best Red Sangria

    Ticoz Resto-Bar

    Wine-lovers are the first to line up for good sangria, but getting a beer drinker to try the fruity wine cocktail is like getting a child to eat foie gras instead of chicken strips. That's why we're sold on Ticoz's passion fruit sangria. Everyone we've cajoled into drinking the stuff — from our beer-swilling husbands to Harley-riding, whiskey-drinking Cousin Lou… More >>
  • Best Mojito

    Trader Vic's - CLOSED

    We've consumed many a silly mojito in our day — including, heretically, one with an umbrella in it — and we held out no great hopes for the interpretation of the national drink of Cuba served up by tiki-couture chain Trader Vic's. But this Trader Vic's ain't your mom and dad's kitschy '70s version of the island restaurant. The new-millennial… More >>
  • Best Specialty Margarita

    Olive & Ivy

    We usually go to this ravishing canal-side eatery to see and be seen ó not to drown our sorrows. But then we stumbled onto a gorgeous new twist on the classic margarita that has us second-guessing our sobriety. The white peach and hibiscus margarita is a lovely soft pink, served on ice in a tall glass. But donít let its… More >>
  • Best Budget Margaritas

    Mi Patio

    With the economy dragging, we've become a little less shy about pinching our pennies in public. If we're hitting a bar or a club, then we're pre-gaming at the Circle K around the corner with our friend, the tallboy. If there's something a bit dressier popping, we're filling our flask and hitting the lavatory to indulge between slow sips of… More >>
  • Best Pitcher Margaritas

    Oaxaca - CLOSED

    The margarita can be a tricky mistress. Ordering one on a per-glass basis, really, is only going to lead to one or two more. So, you might as well ante up and go hard with a full pitcher. That goes double if you're cavorting with friends. And if it's been a hell of a week for your crew, then you… More >>
  • Best Use of Horchata

    The White Rabbit at SideBar

    We've long been fans of horchata, the delightful, delectable Mexican rice milk. But even our affection for that sweet drink did nothing to prepare us for the joys of the White Rabbit, an horchata-based cocktail at the downtown hotspot SideBar. A sweet yet never cloying mixture of horchata, Frangelico, and White Godiva liqueur, the White Rabbit is served in a… More >>
  • Best Latin Club

    Club Rain - CLOSED

    If your weekend plans involve a trip to Club Rain in Scottsdale, it'd be wise to apply a few extra coats of Axe body spray, because the pulsating Latin dance warehouse (situated in the same McDowell Road mini-mall that houses the lively Club Tropicana) gets quite muggy with its wall-to-wall levels of writhing bodies. To paraphrase the Fergalicious one, there… More >>
  • Best Latin Dance Night

    Latin Ladies Saturday Night - CLOSED

    Weekends are traditionally prime time for Latin dance nights around the PHX, with discotecas like DWNTWN and Scottsdale's Club Rain making serious scrilla by spinning up tropical sounds and other muy caliente beat treats for hundreds of Hispanics. Club Silver also gets in on the action with its self-described "urban Latin night" every Saturday night, and it's a supersize Sábado… More >>
  • Best Gay Latin Dance Night

    Vertigo Fridays

    It's been three years or so since the proprietors of Karamba broke many a scenester's heart by pulling the plug on the infamously wicked Hot Pink! electro/glam night. But the hipster community's loss has proved to be the gay scene's gain, as the notorious night was replaced with Vertigo Fridays, which has become a big hit with the Latin LGBT… More >>
  • Best Rock 'n' Roll Road Trip

    Circus Mexicus with Roger Clyne

    Even though they're not very active in the sleepy resort town, warring Mexican drug lords have put a damper on things in Rocky Point. But Roger Clyne and the Peacemakers still put on one of the best parties you'll ever attend. Clyne, who's made a career out of mythologizing the restless beauty of life in the border towns in the… More >>
  • Best Mexican Market

    Phoenix Pro's Market

    Competition is stiff among markets catering to the local Hispanic community — heck, even Wal-Mart's entered the fray this past year. But the hands-down best place to get your Mexican shop on is still Phoenix Pro's (formerly Phoenix Ranch) Market. To call it a grocery store just doesn't do it justice. It's an experience that turns stocking your pantry into… More >>
  • Best Dream Act

    James Garcia

    Immigrant raids, detentions, deportations. We read about it in the local news, but rarely do we get to know the people behind the headlines. That's where James E. Garcia comes in. A journalist, Arizona State University professor, and playwright, Garcia uses his literary talent to put a human face on the immigrant drama that is played out every day in… More >>
  • Best Imitation of a Mayan Temple

    Macayo's Mexican Kitchen

    Macayo's is more than just a nice place to have dinner. This renowned Mexican restaurant is a great place to go to relive your lunchtime past over a plateful of flautas and a bowl of pico de gallo, because it's been standing on North Central Avenue for decades, and there's hardly anyone who can't recall having dined there "back when."… More >>
  • Best Guadalupe Activist

    William Robles

    If there's anything going down in Guadalupe, William Robles is the first to know about it. That's one reason why so many reporters stay in contact with the local community activist, who can often be seen doing security for different private and city events or patrolling the square-mile municipality of 5,000 souls on his bike. If Robles spots something happening, like… More >>
  • Best Pro-Immigrant Activist

    Lydia Guzman

    If Phoenix human rights activist Lydia Guzman has ever had a lazy day in her life, we haven't seen it. Guzman, who heads two vital immigrant rights organizations, Respect/Respeto and Somos America, is usually a blur of motion. You might hear her voice on Spanish-language radio, urging listeners to call Respect/Respeto about being racially profiled. Or you might get the… More >>
  • Best Wordsmith

    Alberto Rios

    Alberto Alvaro Rios is a writer with a keen eye and an open heart who knows how to get out of the way of his own material. And the man's got some material. Born in Nogales in 1952, the son of a Mexican father and an English mother, he chronicles the real and imaginary borders that divide us as well… More >>
  • Best Heroine Worship

    Phoenix Fridas

    It's the coolest clique in town — a group of female artists who practice their craft(s) in the name of their heroine: Frida Kahlo. Once a year, the Phoenix Fridas throw a birthday party for the enigmatic late artist (she would've turned 102 this summer) and every day, they make art that — in one way or another — honors… More >>
  • Best Badass Chef

    Silvana Salcido Esparza

    There is only one chef in the Valley who would have no qualms about referring to the majority of the men in the culinary world as "10-foot-high tokes." With her cropped hair, unedited demeanor, eclectic art collection, and some of the best leg tattoos around, Silvana Salcido Esparza is clearly as badass as they come. Oh, and she's also one of… More >>