La Vida

  • Best Calle of Dreams

    "Calle 16: A Mural Project" in the "office" at Barrio Cafe

    Barrio Cafe chef Silvana Salcido Esparza turned 50 this year, and she was pissed. It wasn't the number of candles on her cake or years she's spent building her restaurant business on 16th Street — it was Arizona Senate Bill 1070. Esparza's been glued to the news and images of Arizona's Mexican community in all its lackluster glory on the… More >>
  • Best New Showcase for Latino Art

    Arizona Latino Arts and Cultural Center/Galeria 147

    Art with a political edge is what this town's been needing in the worst possible way, and Phoenix's new Arizona Latino Arts and Cultural Center/Galeria 147 has been delivering. In a state where Latinos are under the gun, both literally and metaphorically — from the Legislature, in the form of the ethnic studies ban and SB 1070, to Sheriff Joe… More >>
  • Best Pinata Art

    Mutant Pinata Show at Bragg's Pie Factory

    It was a collection of tentacles coming out of a Starbucks mug. How could we not love it? And that's just one of the bizarre creations we got to see at the Mutant Piñata art show at Bragg's Pie Factory. This annual event never fails to tickle our imagination with papier-mâché vampires and anatomically correct (or so we're told) baboons.… More >>
  • Best Pinata Politics

    Scott Jacobson

    Want to beat the crap out of Jan Brewer? Now's your chance — though at $85 a pop, we're not sure you'll want to deface your purchase. Leave it to Scott Jacobson — he of the impish grin and years in the middle of Arizona politics doing public affairs for a big, bad utility company. These days, Jacobson's pushing piñatas… More >>
  • Best Day of the Dead Festival

    Desert Botanical Garden

    One of the best events of the year is the Dia de los Muertos festival, hosted by the Desert Botanical Garden on Halloween weekend and during the first week of November. The festivities include Mexican folk arts, storytelling, dance, and poetry, as well as a mercado with awesome wares for sale. Wander the garden paths and check out the ofrenda… More >>
  • Best Mexican Imports

    Mercado Mexico

    We'll admit it: There was a time we thought that the aesthetic sold at places like Pier 1 Imports and Cost Plus World Market was charming. Decking out our homes in overpriced crap from Third World countries is our right as Americans and a hell of a way to look as though we're cultured and sympathetic to the poor souls… More >>
  • Best Boutique with a Mexican Flair

    Purple Lizard

    Marguerite Tram, the owner of this funky boutique across the breezeway from a garden shop and a hamburger joint in a cute strip mall near Phoenix College, has the best taste. She stuffs her little shop with linen dresses, comfortable shoes, cute purses, and a lovely collection of the best Mexican-inspired gifts and wares we've seen in town. From oilcloth… More >>
  • Best Mexican Embroidery Supplies

    Mario Ramos Mexican Imports

    What?! You didn't know there was a such a thing as Mexican embroidery thread?! Okay, neither did we — 'til our friend Kathy "Crafty Chica" Cano-Murillo let slip that Mario Ramos is her favorite local Mexican craft store. We jumped in the car immediately. Mario Ramos himself is a doll, custom-making piñatas in the parking lot of his tiny shop.… More >>
  • Best Place to Take a Tourist Looking for Mexican Tchotchkes

    Mexican Import

    Let's be honest. The days of a dawdle down to Nogales are over. We miss the pretty drive through the desert to the sweet little town, where we used to spend hours hunting for punched-tin frames and Dia de los Muertos figures (and maybe a bit of time hunting for perfectly legal Xanax). But now, Nogales is war-torn, the victim… More >>
  • Best Mexican Market

    Food City - CLOSED

    This El Mirage Food City offers an authentic taste of Mexico in its little snack bar, tortillería, and throughout its grocery aisles. Stop by early any day of the week for a bag of fresh roasted whole green chilies, the perfect ingredient for homemade green chile. Satisfy your sweet tooth with a bag of fresh pan dulce to enjoy with… More >>
  • Best Latin Brunch

    The Mission

    Everybody already knows that The Mission is one of Old Town's sexiest dinner destinations — those chandeliers and candles everywhere create a moody, decadent kind of glamour — but it's just as cool a hangout during the day. We're huge fans of the weekend brunch menu, which has some unique and unforgettable dishes. Crave savory in the a.m.? Go for… More >>
  • Best Upscale Mexican Restaurant

    La Hacienda

    A lot of hearts were broken when La Hacienda, the iconic fine-dining spot at the Fairmont, closed in 2008. But in January, the grand dame returned to the Valley scene looking refreshed and ready for another turn in the spotlight. This time, the restaurant has acclaimed executive chef Richard Sandoval — a Mexico City native who's famous for his modern… More >>
  • Best Neighborhood Mexican Restaurant, Central Phoenix

    La Tolteca

    Ambitious is the word that comes to mind when we think of La Tolteca, an affordable spot close to downtown that goes the extra mile to give customers the Mexican food they crave. Love tacos and burritos? Sure, they've got 'em, from basics like carne asada and shredded chicken to more exotic fillings like tripa (tripe), lengua (tongue) and cabeza… More >>
  • Best Neighborhood Mexican Restaurant, South Phoenix

    Los Dos Molinos

    Here's a place that's got the laid-back, fun vibe of a great neighborhood spot with all the pizzazz and unforgettable food of a destination restaurant. Whether you live nearby or just feel like heading south, Los Dos Molinos will feed you well and send you home with a proper food coma, thanks to fiery New Mexican-style cuisine and huge margaritas… More >>
  • Best Neighborhood Mexican Restaurant, West Valley

    Pepe's Taco Villa

    Oh, Pepe, you know what we like. Amazing chicken enchiladas with deep, dark mole negro, tender pork carnitas, heaping plates of green chile beef with rice and beans, and spicy, filling breakfast dishes (like kicky huevos rancheros) that've never done us wrong. We're especially fans of the unique Taco Monterrey, with dried beef, scrambled eggs, chiles, tomatoes, and onions wrapped… More >>
  • Best Neighborhood Mexican Restaurant, Southeast Valley

    Si Senor

    We're so happy that the Castillo family decided to expand its Las Cruces, New Mexico-based business to the Valley, because Si Senor is one of the top spots to try spicy dishes made with our neighboring state's famous Hatch chile peppers. Red chile pork, with moist chunks of meat in an alluring, rich roasted chile sauce, and green chile beef,… More >>
  • Best Neighborhood Mexican Restaurant, Tempe

    Moreno's Mexican Grill

    Moreno's is unexpectedly charming when you set foot in this strip mall spot near the ASU campus — faux stone details, cozy booths, and a fresh salsa bar are just a few of the details that make it better than your average Mexican joint. The menu is broader and more interesting, too, with a variety of sopes, tostadas, cheese crisps,… More >>
  • Best Neighborhood Mexican Restaurant, Scottsdale

    Habanero's Mexican Grill

    Every neighborhood should be so lucky to have a family-owned Mexican joint like Habanero's, a special little gem in North Scottsdale. Here, owner Arturo Diaz serves up recipes he brought to the states from Jalisco, Mexico, where his parents ran taco stands. And, yes, Habaneros does tacos brilliantly, from carne asada, fish, and excellent carnitas de Jalisco to blackened shrimp… More >>
  • Best Mexican Restaurant Decor con Queso

    Casa Reynoso

    We've lauded Casa Reynoso in the past for its comidas muy auténticas, yummy, old family recipes from the Mexican-cuisine-heavy Globe-Miami area. And, indeed, the tacos filled with beef shredded to near-pâté consistency and not a speck of cheese, the meticulously roasted green chile dishes, and the traditional scorching-hot plates are a dependable comfort in an almost deserted strip mall. But… More >>
  • Best Salsa

    Kissed With Fire

    Bill Hutichison won't divulge all the secret ingredients in his Kissed With Fire salsa, but he stands firmly on the belief that roasted green peppers are essential to producing just the right bite. Hutichison traveled throughout the Southwest in pursuit of the perfect pepper until he discovered a New Mexican green variety worthy of his tasty salsa. Loaded with fresh… More >>
  • Best Tortillas

    Verde - CLOSED

    Although we can't prove it unless we start sneaking into some kitchens, it's pretty obvious that a lot of Mexican restaurants get their tortillas straight out of a bag — and some don't even bother to reheat them. What gives, people? There's a lot of competition for good Mexican food in the Valley, and to set yourself apart from the… More >>
  • Best Huitlacoche

    Los Sombreros

    When it comes to names, "corn smut" just doesn't do it for us. "Mexican truffle" sounds a whole lot better. Funny, though, that they're the same thing: huitlacoche, a delicacy that's starting to show up on more local menus as people catch on to its earthy, flavorful allure. At Los Sombreros, it gets a sexy spin in the form of… More >>
  • Best Tortas

    Gallo Blanco Cafe & Bar

    Street tacos seem to be Gallo Blanco's thing, but what can we say? The juicy carne asada torta is killer, topped with charred tomato salsa, while the cochinita pibil is a delightful mélange of sweet and savory flavors. And then there's the beautifully sinful Naco Torta, which teams tender grilled rib eye and charred tomato salsa with two oozy fried… More >>
  • Best Sonoran Hot Dog

    Nogales Hot Dogs

    The heck with healthful eating. As long as there are Sonoran hot dogs in the world, we must eat them. Any dog served in a piping hot, freshly baked sweet bun and wrapped in bacon, then smothered in diced tomato, guacamole, chopped onion, and beans is one worth eating. And the best of these can be found at Nogales Hot… More >>
  • Best Tamales

    The Tamale Store

    With 23 flavors of tamales, The Tamale Store offers everything you can think of — and if you don't find what you're looking for on the menu, just ask. The Tamale Store will custom-make specialty batches for events. It also offers a special flavor of the month. What is even more fantastic is that it sells and delivers to most… More >>
  • Best Carne Asada

    Sonora Mesquite Grill

    Sometimes the urge to seek out good carne asada hits us so hard that we'll drop whatever we're doing to go devour a plate of meat. But things have gotten a lot easier since we discovered Sonora Mesquite Grill, a tiny, super-friendly spot that specializes in the stuff. What's the secret to such juicy, flavorful carne asada? We wish we… More >>
  • Best Carne Adovada

    Dick's Hideaway

    The unforgettable carne adovada at Dick's Hideaway is the same recipe that used to be served at the late, great (and soon-to-reopen, in a different location) Richardson's. When that restaurant succumbed to fire last year, we were beyond relieved that our favorite dish could still be had at the Hideaway. Why? It's the kind of food that revives you when… More >>
  • Best Cochinita Pibil

    Barrio Cafe

    There are few greater tributes to the glory of pork than how chef Silvana Salcido Esparza does it at Barrio Cafe. Yes, her cochinita pibil is one of her most famous dishes and, no, it can't be bested by anyone around. Slow-roasted for 12 hours — until it's falling apart and truly does melt in your mouth — the pork… More >>
  • Best Tacos

    La Condesa Gourmet Taco Shop

    We figured we were in for some good tacos as soon as we spotted the salsa bar at this hip little 16th Street hangout. Freshly made pico de gallo, smoky chipotle salsa, luscious cilantro crema, strawberry salsa, and kicky tomatillo salsa were just a few of the offerings, all intended to dress up tacos so good they hardly need any… More >>
  • Best Burrito

    Rito's Mexican Food

    This teeny neighborhood joint has been around for more than 30 years, which may come as a surprise to the uninitiated. How can owner Rosemary Salinas get a line of people out the door when her restaurant has no seating (except for a few picnic tables outside), no sign, and a limited menu? The answer's simple if you've ever eaten… More >>
  • Best Mariscos

    Mariscos Playa Hermosa

    Anyone who complains about the lack of good seafood spots in the middle of the desert has obviously never frequented our city's many fine mariscos joints, where a bite of cool ceviche can transport you straight to the ocean. Mariscos Playa Hermosa feels beachy even in its colorful décor, and the way folks here know how to keep the cold… More >>
  • Best Tapas

    Iruna - CLOSED

    We were heartbroken when chef Aaron May closed Sol y Sombra, his swanky tapas spot at North Scottsdale's DC Ranch, but May's Iruña swooped in this summer to ease the pain with a lot of old favorites and just as many delectable new dishes. Stop by this stylin' eatery for a lively scene and a slew of mouthwatering small plates… More >>
  • Best Flan


    After digging in to lusty plates of stuffed poblanos and chorizo-stuffed pork chops and green chile stew, we're aching for mercy at this charming New Mexican spot in Ahwatukee. The spicy, flavorful fare shifts our taste buds into overdrive. But we always need to rein it in with something sweet, something delicate to soothe our palate at the end of… More >>
  • Best Paletas

    Paletas Betty

    Our wish came true! We wished for gourmet paletas and Betty Alatorre arrived on the scene, armed with her grandmother's recipes. You'll still have to hoof it to downtown Chandler to get flavors like mango con chile, naranja (orange vanilla cream) and durazno (peach, ginger, and honey), but, hey, that's better than traveling all the way to Michoacan, the Mexican… More >>
  • Best Mexican Candy Store

    Dulceria Pico Rico

    Hey, kids, want to fill that piñata in style? Then steer Mom and Dad to the funky purple building on the east side of 16th Street. In the back of this party store, you'll find aisle after aisle of bulk Mexican candy — peanut-y marzipan, hot chile, and chocolate-covered marshmallows. Forgot the piñata? No worries, there's a large selection of… More >>
  • Best Margarita Mix

    Margarita Sensations

    Michael Braden's Margarita Sensations margarita mix is used to create the perfect margaritas at nearly three dozen restaurants and gathering places throughout Arizona, including Mountainside Office Bar in Scottsdale, My Florist Cafe in Phoenix, Padre Murphy's in Glendale, and Tiburon Aquarium Restaurant in Litchfield Park.And while it's always relaxing to pull up to a bar and order a freshly blended… More >>
  • Best Tequila

    3 Amigos Tequila

    Without a doubt, one of the finest and smoothest tequilas you can treat your palate to is 3 Amigos Tequila. This premium, 100 percent agave tequila is handcrafted at a family-owned distillery in Jalisco, Mexico. The blue agave plants are harvested by jimadores with a talent for selecting only the healthiest and most perfectly ripened agaves.3 Amigos is an affordable… More >>
  • Best Margarita


    Yes, that is half of a lime, muddled and resting at the bottom of your frosty, salted glass. And trust us, a good amount of lime makes all the difference in this Mexican cocktail. A margarita at this retro (and very metro), dimly lit uptown bar will run you $6 — order one during happy hour (Monday through Friday from… More >>
  • Best Cucumber Margarita

    Cruz Tequila's Cucumber Margarita

    Scottsdale-based Cruz Tequila has numerous cocktail recipes for its 100 percent blue agave tequilas, whether you prefer blanco, reposado, or anejo. There's the Cruz Refresco with a splash of cola, the Paloma with grapefruit juice, and the self-proclaimed Perfect Margarita with agave nectar. For our discerning tastes, though, nothing comes close to the Cruz Cucumber Margarita. Muddle two ounces of… More >>
  • Best Chambord Margarita


    We've been around long enough to recall when Z'Tejas was barely a chain — just one here and a couple of outposts in Texas. Today, that's changed, with restaurants in five states and four locations in the Valley alone.Good, we say. That just means more Chambord margaritas for the masses. Smoother than a Slurpee and more lethal than just about… More >>
  • Best Latin Club

    Sky Lounge

    A nonstop war for supremacy is waged every weekend among the discotheques of downtown Phoenix. Believe us, it's quite the fight. The club-on-club combat is particularly punchy among the boîtes of Washington Street, with venues like Sky Lounge and Bar Smith battling for bigger turnouts and sheer volume. From what we've seen (and heard), Sky Lounge is the clear winner… More >>
  • Best Latin Dance Night

    Saturdays at DWNTWN

    We can't decide which is a more popular activity at this super-size Saturday soiree encompassing both DWNTWN and Palazzo: drinking or dancing. Opportunities abound for both, as each club features its own dance floor, DJs, and alcohol selection. (If you can somehow find your way through the throngs, that is.) Here's how it all works, cabrón: DWNTWN features impromptu drink… More >>
  • Best Gay Latin Dance Night

    Kaliente Saturdays

    Think the Valley's dance music scene is outta step with the rest of the world? Not this time: The embryonic Latin genre moombahtón has blown up quite big in recent months in dance clubs across the country. And, thanks to Phoenix's DJ Melo, it's snuck into our city via his Kaliente Saturdays night. He figured the bass-heavy spin-off of reggaeton… More >>
  • Best Latin DJ

    DJ Kyko

    Miguel Morales (a.k.a. DJ Kyko) is down with downtown's Latin dance scene. Almost every weekend, you can find the 27-year-old pulling spin shifts in some of the hottest clubs situated in our city's central core, usually moving more bumpers than a body shop with his high-energy style. On Fridays, he serves as selectah during PHX Nightclub's weekly Latin night, masterfully… More >>
  • Best Place to Watch Lucha Libre in Action

    Gladiadores Unidos, Fridays, 7 p.m.

    El Pakal is one tough-looking hombre. Not only is he ripped from head to toe, but his face is hidden by a gold wrestling mask and his torso is painted with Aztec symbols. Is he loco? Nah, just a participant in lucha libre (Mexican-style wrestling). Pakal is a member of Gladiadores Unidos, a local group that holds matches every Friday… More >>
  • Best Place to Get a Spider-Man Piñata

    Mundo Piñata

    How can cardboard boxes, busted balloons, sticky and shredded pieces of newspaper, and brightly colored tissue paper jazz up a child's birthday party? When they're used to create a custom piñata, of course!Sure, you can go with the stock piñatas — donkeys or bears with stiff, outstretched arms — hanging from the rafters of your local Mexican market. But the… More >>
  • Best Immigrant's Comic Book

    The Guide for the Mexican Migrant

    A while back, the Mexican government commissioned a comic book covertly instructing illegal aliens how to cross the Mexico/Arizona border. The Guide for the Mexican Migrant depicts "illegal aliens" crossing the Rio Grande and dodging border patrol agents, and spells out crafty ways to hide out among gringos once they're here. Wee-hoo!Despite its cunning claim that the comic is about… More >>
  • Santiago Gonzalez

    Hero Worship

    Santiago Gonzalez

    See: a video interview with Santiago Gonzalez. Santiago Gonzalez is one of the good guys, and not just because his family produces 3 Amigos Tequila — a delicious, smooth tequila made exclusively from blue agaves untouched by pesticides. Sure, the taste rivals any of the top-shelf tequila brands out there — and costs way less — but Gonzalez isn't my hero for… More >>