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La Vida

  • Best Mexican Restaurant in a Bowling Alley

    Oaxaca Restaurant (at Let It Roll Bowl) - CLOSED

    Ah, the bowling alley snack bar — a place that’s never, ever as good as you want it to be. Especially at those corporate houses that dominate the kegling landscape. The pizza is always prefab junk, and the deep-fried goodies rarely are any better. That’s why this family-run eatery at Sunnyslope’s independently owned Let It Roll Bowl is a breath… More >>
  • Best Mexican/Chinese Fusion Fast Food

    Chino Bandido Takee-Outee

    We're not sure exactly how the idea for fast Mexican/Chinese food came about ("Hey, you put your chimichanga in my sweet and sour sauce!") but we're glad it happened — and it's a Valley original. With two locations, you can indulge in a Chino Bandido fix whether you're in the East Valley or on the west side. Either way, you'd… More >>
  • Best Upscale Mexican Restaurant

    The Mission

    Chef Matt Carter's sophisticated, intimate spot serving modern Latin cuisine in Scottsdale might mean shaking the piggy bank for some extra coin, but the culinary journey is worth it. Mixing French cooking techniques with influences from Spain, Mexico, Central and South America, Carter's dishes are intensely flavorful and expertly prepared. Start with a stellar smoked pork pozole, or shared plates… More >>
  • Best Neighborhood Restaurant, Central Phoenix

    Tacos Atoyac - CLOSED

    The abundance of Sonoran-style Mexican eateries is plainly clear in the Valley. But finding comida oaxaqueña, Oaxacan food from southwestern Mexico, takes a bit more work. Thank the dynamic duo of Oaxacan Pablo Lopez and Chilean-born Dan Maldonado for bringing their bare-bones taco shop to north Central Phoenix — where the food's served up street-style, fast and flavorful, and at… More >>
  • Best Neighborhood Mexican Restaurant, Downtown Phoenix

    Rito's

    To those in the know (and that's more and more all the time), this award probably comes as little surprise, because this is one of downtown's true gems. There's no signage to speak of, there's no place to sit inside, the menu is tiny, it's open for only a couple of hours a day, and it takes only cash. Sounds… More >>
  • Best Neighborhood Mexican Restaurant, North Phoenix

    El Rinconcito del D.F.

    This is the kind of place you could drive by every day on your way to work and never notice. In fact, we'd passed it by numerous times without giving it a second thought, until one day, the light bulb went off over our head. And are we ever glad we popped in to this Sunnyslope outpost, just south of… More >>
  • Best Neighborhood Mexican Restaurant, South Phoenix

    Los Taquitos

    Normally, when we hear the words "Guy Fieri," we wanna stick a hot relish fork in our eye — twice. Still, for whatever reason, the Fieri seal of approval does seem to help some deserving Valley eateries. Case in point: this small, strip-mall storefront in Ahwatukee. Save for the Lalo Cota Day of the Dead mural on the wall, this… More >>
  • Best Neighborhood Mexican Restaurant, West Valley

    Mama Lupita's

    Don't be put off by the location (in a crummy strip mall a couple of miles west of considerably tidier historic downtown Glendale) because inside this very good Mexican eatery is a cheery little dining room with a friendly. The menu focuses on the cuisine of the southern Mexican state of Michoacan and features several menu items you'd otherwise have… More >>
  • Best Neighborhood Mexican Restaurant, Southeast Valley

    Taquitos Jalisco

    From the outside (well, from the inside, too), this unassuming eatery could be just another no-frills, hole-in-the-wall taquería in a past-its-prime suburban strip mall. However, the food is excellent. Let's start with the bírria de chivo (a specialty of the southern Mexican state of Jalisco): This goat dish may be the best of its kind in the Valley, with luscious… More >>
  • Best Neighborhood Mexican Restaurant, Tempe

    El Tlacoyo

    Find this hidden, casual eatery in Tempe and you'll discover a selection of unique and authentic eats from the eastern Mexican state of Hidalgo, located north of Mexico City. For starters, don't miss the restaurant's namesake, the tlacoyos, oval-shaped fried masa cakes topped with a delectable green sauce, cheese, and feather-light shredded chicken. There's also a larger version of the… More >>
  • Best Neighborhood Mexican Restaurant, Scottsdale

    Tacos Jalisco

    Just a mile north of this dilapidated '60s-era strip mall, in Old Town Scottsdale, there's no shortage of higher-end Mexican restaurants. And many of them are quite good. But for dyed-in-the-wool, dirt-cheap Mex eats, this is our go-to. A carne asada platter for just $6.45? Yes, please. The chopped beef is tender and lightly seasoned, served with homemade tortillas, diced… More >>
  • Best Mexican Breakfast

    La Barquita

    Mexican breakfast or American breakfast? You can get both at this small, unassuming neighborhood restaurant in Central Phoenix. Originally from La Barca, in the western Mexican state of Jalisco, chef and owner Jose Garcia cooks up Mexican breakfast favorites like chilaquiles, huevos rancheros, and eggs alongside nopales or machaca or scrambled with serrano chile, tomato, and onion. A fork is… More >>
  • Best Mexican Lunch

    Carolina's

    It's noon and your corporate overlords already hate you for even stepping away from your desk at all, let alone for lunch. (Yeah, we feel your pain: more work for less pay.) Time for a break that's fast, cheap, good, and legendary, courtesy of this always-hopping Mexican joint just south of downtown. Boasting crazy-good tortillas, green corn tamales, machaca, and… More >>
  • Best Latin Brunch

    Rio Mirage Cafe y Cantina

    It would be enough to feast on unlimited chorizo con huevos, red menudo, chiles rellenos, and other Mexican staples at Rio Mirage's brunch — all served with a glass of sparkling champagne. But what makes this Sunday treat especially worthy of a nod are the fresh-off-the-grill, piping-hot tortillas delivered in a woven basket right to your table. You simply can’t go… More >>
  • Best Salsa

    La Condesa Gourmet Taco Shop

    The tacos and burritos at this small and stylish Central Phoenix eatery certainly are good, but let's face it: It's the salsa bar that put this place on the map. There usually are 12 different salsas on hand, consistently well prepared and wonderfully flavorful — from sweet to spicy to fruity to tangy. There's a cool cilantro cream with a… More >>
  • Best Guacamole

    Rita's Kitchen at The Camelback Inn

    We didn't think things could get any better than sitting on Rita's elegant and spacious patio with a cinnamon-spiked glass of their red sangria — and then we tried a bowl of the luscious guacamole. Holy avocado! Made tableside with fresh avocados, spicy jalapeños, and tart lime juice, the dip is customized to your liking and served with an overflowing… More >>
  • Best Tortillas

    Red Eagle El Porvenir Tortilla Factory

    El Porvenir Tortilla Factory isn't much to look at — from either the outside or inside. But don't let the dusty shelves in the dimly lit store turn you off, because this family business has been churning out the best flour and corn tortillas in Arizona since 1954. Delivered daily to stores across the state, you’ve probably seen the packages,… More >>
  • Best Pozole

    Pozoleria Mi Casita

    Lots of Mexican joints in the Valley solve the Mexican-soup puzzle, but many of these serve it only on the weekends. This West Phoenix hole-in-the-wall serves the stuff every single day, and it serves not one but three varieties — one for each color of the Mexican flag. The deep-flavored pozole rojo is filled with pork chunks, hominy, and red… More >>
  • Best Elote

    La Carreta de Lily

    Neither La Carreta de Lily nor its specialty offering is much to look at. The small mostly ice cream shop is packed into a nondescript storefront, and the specialty — elote en vaso — will leave you holding plump kernels of corn floating in a styrofoam cup filled with a hot, gooey mayo, lime juice and salsa mixture, smothered with… More >>
  • Best Tacos

    Barrio Queen

    Silvana Salcido Esparza's new restaurant in Scottsdale's SouthBridge complex may not be what the Valley chef originally had intended (the menu and space have been combined with Esparza's quickly shuttered Silvana Bistro next door), but her gourmet street-size taco concept has remained intact — and that's what we love most. Ranging from the familiar to the exotic, there are 30… More >>
  • Best Burritos

    Asadero Norte de Sonora

    Of the roughly five gazillion places in the Valley that serve a chicken burrito, this humble little orange building on 16th Street just north of Washington is the one we keep coming back to time and again. How could it be that good? First, the chicken is from a rotisserie bird, chopped up with the skin for that much more… More >>
  • Best Tamales

    El Bravo

    For 30 years, this Sunnyslope restaurant serving Arizona-style Mexican food has been one popular joint. And with good reason: This is where you take the family for inexpensive renditions of the staples, especially the tamales. What makes them so good? Well, for starters, there's the key ingredient: masa. Here, it's a little sweet, moist, fresh-tasting, and light — none of… More >>
  • Best Chiles Rellenos

    Los Jarritos Restaurant

    If an omelet arrives on your table at this cute and quirky family-owned Phoenix lunch spot, do not send it back. And, by all means, avoid any temptation to pick up a fork. That's your chile relleno, dude. How to enjoy it best? Simply lift and place the soft yellow mass, topped with splotches of melted cheddar cheese and bright… More >>
  • Best Pupusas

    Restaurante Salvadoreño #3

    Forget burritos and tacos — it's all about the pupusas. There are a few places in town that make these Salvadoran specialties, but time and time again, Restaurante Salvadoreño #3 serves the very best. A pillowy, soft outer tortilla sandwiches your choice of filling for just $2.15 apiece. For a unique taste from El Salvador, try the loroco pupusa, which… More >>
  • Best Tortas

    Tortas El Guero

    At this no-frills eatery on 16th Street (part of a family-owned mini-chain) you can choose from around 20 varieties of the popular, monster-size Mexican sandwich, each for about five or six bucks. Stuffed with meat, thick slices of avocado, pickled jalapeños, lettuce, tomato, and mayo on soft, round telera bread, we like the milanesa de pollo (breaded chicken), Cubana (piled… More >>
  • Best Mariscos

    Las Glorias Restaurante de Mariscos Mexicanos

    The patio floor is painted bright yellow, and the entire restaurant — inside and out — is covered in fantastic blue murals with sea creatures, lighthouses, and mermaids. It's the perfect over-the-top ambiance for a seafood restaurant that serves delicious dishes, such as an octopus tostada and ceviche with raw shrimp that's been "cooked" in pure lemon juice. Our favorite is… More >>
  • Best Mole

    El Conquistador

    Tuesdays are our favorite days at this bright and welcoming North Phoenix restaurant serving Jalisco-style Mexican fare. That's when Maria and Mark Altmaier serve up their luscious chicken mole. Simmered for hours and with a list of ingredients that could fill a page or more, the Altmaier's rich, thick, chocolate-tinged sauce can be had over tender pieces of chicken or… More >>
  • Best Carne Asada

    Ta' Carbon, The Real Mexican Grill

    Psst, want some crazy-good carne asada cooked over an open flame right in front of you? Step right up — to the counter — and order one of three vehicles for its delivery: tacos, a burrito, or a plate. A guy takes your name and hands you a 5-by-7-inch styrofoam tray. Take the tray over to the condiment bar, and… More >>
  • Best Carne Adovada

    Los Dos Molinos

    Sure, there are plenty of New Mexican joints we love in the Valley, but when it comes to carne adovada, Los Dos Molinos is one place we keep coming back to. With four locations in the Valley, this family-owned chain from founder Victoria Chavez serves up carne adovada as large chunks of slow-cooked marinated pork, perfectly prepared, tender and moist,… More >>
  • Best Sonoran Hot Dog

    Nogales Hot Dog

    Don't go looking for Nogales Hot Dog during the day — it doesn't exist. Operating only at night in a makeshift setup in a parking lot on the southwest corner of Indian School Road and 20th Street, owner Pablo Perez and wife Monica set up every evening around dusk and sell dogs until around the time the bars close. With… More >>
  • Best Aguas Frescas

    Birrieria Obregon

    This Mexican restaurant pours one of the most authentic-tasting glasses of horchata (a blended rice water) we've had in a long time. Unlike most of the horchata you find — dispensed from a machine and almost too sweet to drink without adding extra water — this refreshing beverage has an earthy rice and cinnamon flavor and is scooped out of… More >>
  • Best Paletas

    Paletas Betty

    If you think a paleta is just another Popsicle, then you need to try one of Betty Alatorre de Hong's paletas. It's anything but your average pop. Betty uses only the finest of ingredients — fresh fruits, fresh cream, and even fresh ground spices — and combines them with a little bit of magic and a lot of love to… More >>
  • Best Artisan Mexican Sweets

    Muñeca Mexicana

    Minerva Orduño's day (more night, in this case) job is nothing to scoff at — she's a line cook at FnB, one of our favorite restaurants. Perhaps the best part of the job: Her bosses let her use the restaurant's kitchen to pursue her dream. Muñeca Mexicana is a little business that's making our own dreams of authentic, artisan-crafted Mexican… More >>
  • Best Mexican Candy Store

    Pico Rico Dulceria

    If Willy Wonka had a Mexican cousin, Pico Rico Dulceria is where Guillermo Wonka would peddle his candied confections. The store stocks something for every sweet tooth, so whether you're after a fruity, spicy, or just plain sugary treat, you'll be satisfied by the selection. Aisles are stacked with bags upon bags of candies. There's cajeta, candied guava, dulce duro… More >>
  • Best Panaderia

    La Purisima Bakery

    Like a beacon of baked goodness, this giant blue building in Glendale is sure to catch your attention, if the aromas coming from its fragrant pastries and breads don't get to you first. There's usually a line, but the friendly gals behind the counter make sure it goes quickly. Plus, you'll want to spend some time peeking into the glass… More >>
  • Best Carniceria

    Carniceria Sonora

    We must recognize this carnicería in downtown Peoria for its super-fresh cuts of carne ranchera and carne preparada (soaking in a marinade).Unlike other carnicerías — where you might find the meat with tinges of brown or with edges of thick fat — this one always has a bright red freshness, is sliced thin, but thick enough not to fall apart… More >>
  • Best Mexican Market

    La Tolteca

    There are a lot of great Mexican markets in this town, and there's no doubt everyone has a neighborhood favorite. Among them all, La Tolteca is a real standout, not only for its restaurant, panadería, and carnicería, but also for its central location and ability to bring together a wide variety of people. Stop by on a busy weekend afternoon… More >>
  • Best Mexican Swap Meet

    The Glendale Public Market

    It seems the traditional outdoor swap meet is giving way to indoor swap marts — and, sure, hunting indoors for bargains makes sense, especially during our brutal Valley summers. But if you're old-school, one of the remaining outdoor venues for weekend hawking of new and used wares is the Glendale Public Market, which doubles at night as a double-feature drive-in… More >>
  • Best Day of the Dead Celebration

    Desert Botanical Garden

    Dia de los Muertos has been celebrated in Phoenix for more than 30 years; just ask veteran Chicano artists Zarco Guerrero and Marco Albarran.The holiday's festivities — including the creation and decoration of altars that honor family members and friends who have died as well as processions, prayers, celebrations and gatherings — take place annually in November in family homes… More >>
  • Best Tequila

    3 Amigos Tequila

    Santiago Gonzalez's tequila will make you rethink your margarita. The local entrepreneur and his brothers started G Farms on the west side of Phoenix in the '80s, where, among other produce, they grow top-grade blue agaves that never see an ounce of pesticide. It's at the farm and nearby — at the family distillery in the Mexican state of Jalisco… More >>
  • Best Tequila Selection

    Canteen Modern Tequila Bar

    If you can make it past the throngs of ASU students on Mill Avenue feeling the effects of 21st-birthday shots and chanting what sounds like a mix between the school fight song and a fraternity anthem, head straight through the doors of Canteen Modern Tequila Bar. The server will know exactly what you need to drown out the noise and… More >>
  • Best Margarita

    Margarita Classico at Gallo Blanco

    A rough day, a hot afternoon, a leisurely brunch — we'd be hard-pressed not to come up with an excuse to suck down a margarita. But in any and all of the above cases, it'd better be good.Gallo Blanco bartenders shake up a variety of margaritas with grapefruit juice, jalapeño, prickly pear, and Grand Marnier, but we prefer to stick… More >>
  • Best Latin Dance Night

    Latin Passion Fridays

    The doors at Sky Lounge typically open around 9 p.m. on any given Friday, which might be the ideal time to arrive if you're seeking a primo spot before the rest of the masses flood the place. It's the most popular night of the week at the two-story dance hall, which fills up quicker than the beat in a feisty… More >>
  • Best Latin Nightclub

    DWNTWN

    Downtown Phoenix's Latin dance circuit is more than just a little competitive, as rivaling clubs do anything and everything to get as many hombres y mujeres inside and onto their dance floor as possible. To wit: The proprietors of DWNTWN opened a third room in the back, started allowing the 18-and-over crowd in after last call, and began booking such… More >>
  • Best Latin DJ

    DJ Kyko

    It's a good thing that Miguel Morales owns a fairly sturdy automobile, considering the amount of mileage that the 29-year-old DJ (better known by Kyko) racks up every week getting to his various Latino club events across the Valley. On most Tuesdays, you can find him dropping it like it's hot at La Cabana in Glendale as a frequent guest… More >>
  • Best Mariachi

    Mariachi Valle del Sol

    These mariachi performers poetically pluck, blow, and strum their vihuelas, trumpets, and guitars, astonishing audiences who gather to hear them perform on Sundays at Fiesta Mall in Mesa, as well as private parties and receptions.Mariachi Valle del Sol is a seven-man ensemble that's been performing for more than a decade in the Valley. This crew is made of seasoned musicians… More >>
  • Best Anti-SB 1070 Hip-Hop Group

    Shining Soul

    One of the best songs to put Senate Bill 1070 and the whole police state mentality that reigns in Arizona on blast is "Papers," by Phoenix hip-hop duo Shining Soul. Shining Soul's lyrical depiction of a Sand Land on lockdown for the brown is especially relevant. And the video's footage of a landscape infested with Border Patrol vehicles and a… More >>
  • Best Pro-Immigration Mormon

    Daryl Williams

    Daryl Williams is just about the coolest Mormon in the Valley, and that's saying a lot considering how many adherents of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints there are in this neck of the cacti. Williams is a renowned commercial trial lawyer, a pilot with his own Cessna, a classical pianist, and a wood shop devotee who knows… More >>
  • Best Token Republican Hispanic

    State Representative Steve Montenegro

    Without state Representative Steve Montenegro, brown-bashers and notorious Sand Land nativists might not have a Hispanic willing to stand next to them in pictures, sing their praises on the stump, or cosponsor their mean-spirited anti-immigrant legislation. But Montenegro is good like that. Himself an immigrant from El Salvador whose family reportedly received a mysterious grant of asylum in the 1980s… More >>
  • Best Spanish-Language Journalist

    Maritza Lizeth Felix

    These are the best of times to be a Spanish-speaking journalist in Arizona — what with Jan Brewer, Russell Pearce, Joe Arpaio, and the rest of the pro-SB 1070 crew still hanging around. Felix has uncovered so many good yarns that she practically swept the Arizona Press Club's contest for Spanish-language newspaper reporting at this year's awards banquet. Her piece… More >>
  • Best DREAM-er

    President Barack Obama

    Even a year ago, we didn't think there'd be any way we'd be bestowing this award to President Obama, who was solidifying his reputation in the Latino community as a do-nothing president despite his promises that national immigration reform would be among his priorities.But better late than never. On June 15, Obama lifted a huge weight off the backs of… More >>
  • Best Basketball-Playing Robot Named for an Undocumented Immigrant

    Angelica's Dream

    Yeah, yeah, Steve Nash left the Phoenix Suns. But we're not fazed, because a group of kids at Carl Hayden High School built a fully functional layup-shooting robot in six weeks. The robot is named for Angelica Hernandez, an undocumented Carl Hayden alum (and robotics team member) who went on to be the valedictorian of Arizona State University. Check out… More >>
  • Best Immigration Documentary

    Two Americans

    This gripping documentary film by Dan De Vivo and Valeria Fernández follows the story of two Americans at the center of Arizona's fierce battle over illegal immigration — 9-year-old Katherine Figueroa and Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio.America's self-proclaimed "toughest sheriff" sent his deputies on a raid in search of undocumented immigrants and snatched Figueroa's parents from their job at a… More >>
  • Best Place to Observe the Science of Xenophobia

    Arizona

    Joe Arpaio's Maricopa County Sheriff's Office has become imfamous for its stance on illegal immigration. Some call it racial profiling; some think it's just simple law enforcement. Whatever it is, it's controversial. From the state border north to Maricopa County, police officers and border patrol agents are hunting for illegal immigrants.The Yuma Sector of the U.S. Border Patrol supervises 126… More >>
  • Best Place to Find Mexican Jumping Beans

    Mexican Import

    Ah, Mexican jumping beans. And we're not talking about what happens when you overeat at Taco Bell. This variety tends to take the form of Southwest souvenirs, the kind that come in a teeny tiny clear plastic box. Place them on a table and they could be any sort of brown bean or nut. But as soon as you get… More >>
  • Best Scientist Incubator

    AGUILA Youth Leadership Institute

    There are young geniuses among us, and you'll find several of them have been roosting at the Aguila (eagle) nest in Central Phoenix.This leadership institute, a nonprofit organization launched about eight years ago by Rosemary Ybarra-Hernandez, mentors young Latinos, mostly from lower-income families, from high school through college. They say their approach is not "rocket science," but they certainly are… More >>
  • Best Science Experiment in a Mexican Dish

    Huitlacoche (a.k.a. corn smut)

    All over the world, humans eat some strange stuff, and the Southwest is no exception. Huitacoche, or corn smut, looks a great deal like a piece of corn that's gone bad. But corn smut is a delicacy south of the border and, lately, people have been trying to bring wider recognition to this ancient delicacy.It's a tough sell. The problem… More >>
  • Best Use of Computers to Terrify Visitors to Our State

    Automated Virtual Agent for Truth Assessments in Real-Time

    Arizona's recent laws concerning immigration certainly have made some people think twice about visiting our state. And now we have finally reached the stage where we can automate the process of scaring visitors away.The AVATAR, or Automated Virtual Agent for Truth Assessments in Real-Time, is a machine that looks like an ATM as envisioned by Kafka. AVATAR has two screens:… More >>
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