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La Vida

  • Best New Mexican Restaurant

    Otro Cafe

    On one hand, it could be said that chef Doug Robson's Otro Cafe is a complement to his first restaurant, Gallo Blanco, in the way of very good and deftly prepared Mexican cuisine. In another sense, it's a more elevated companion that can hold its own. You'll find outstanding, bulked-out tacos here, as well as the Spanish-style tapas called El… More >>
  • Best Neighborhood Mexican Restaurant, Downtown Phoenix

    Rito's Mexican Food

    For the longest time, this 36-year-old neighborhood staple in Central Phoenix had pared down its menu to just its famous green chili and red chili burros. Not that anyone was complaining. When you serve essentially just two dishes (and a couple of variations on each) and the lines are still out the door, you're doing something right. Earlier this year,… More >>
  • Best Neighborhood Mexican Restaurant, Central Phoenix

    Asadero Norte De Sonora

    Have you had the chicken burro at Asadero Norte De Sonora? Because if you haven't, you're missing out on a kind of chicken burro nirvana — a piece of wrapped paradise in the form of stellar shredded bits of mesquite chicken, frijoles, shredded cabbage, and creamy guacamole. It will make you feel happy. It will cause you to grin while… More >>
  • Best Neighborhood Mexican Restaurant, South Phoenix

    Los Dos Molinos

    When Victoria Chavez started Los Dos Molinos nearly 40 years ago in Springerville, Arizona, she hardly could have imagined her New Mexican-style restaurant, named after two antique chile grinders, would be the fiery family business it is today. The original Phoenix location, housed in the adobe-style onetime home of Western silent movie actor Tom Mix, keeps the home fires burning… More >>
  • Best Neighborhood Mexican Restaurant, West Valley

    Fajardo's Café

    There's nothing like a neighborhood restaurant that's actually, well, in a neighborhood. And this homey spot just off historic Glendale's main drag has been serving old-school Mexican eats since 1949. Originally Lily's Cafe, it became Fajardo's in 2009 when Alfredo Fajardo, the son of the original restaurant's cooks, reopened the place, keeping the old recipes intact. There's nothing over-the-top here,… More >>
  • Best Neighborhood Mexican Restaurant, North Phoenix

    La 15 y Salsas

    If you are a fan of mole, the dark, intricate sauce made with dozens of nuts, chiles, and spices, you could do worse than pay a visit to Elizabeth Hernandez's cheery Oaxacan restaurant in Sunnyslope. Available in red or black, the mole can be had spooned over chicken or chicken enchiladas. And the black, made with chocolate, is the star… More >>
  • Best Neighborhood Mexican Restaurant, Scottsdale

    Los Sombreros

    Every year, chef Azucena Tovar travels back to her childhood home of San Miguel de Allende in central Mexico. And every year, we can't wait for her to return. That's when she adds new dishes to her already stellar menu of well-crafted Mexican food — the kind that have been bringing Scotts-dalians back to her charming brick home for almost… More >>
  • Best Neighborhood Mexican Restaurant, Tempe

    El Tlacoyo

    El Tlacoyo may not serve up the escamoles (red ant eggs), chinicuiles (insect larvae), or zacahuiles (yard-long tamales) of Hidalgo, the eastern Mexican state the restaurant tips its sombrero to, but its listing of more than 100 dishes is still, like the rugged-terrain state, a nearly inexhaustible source of flavors. There are tlacoyos, oval-shaped fried masa cakes topped with cheese,… More >>
  • Best Neighborhood Mexican Restaurant, Southeast Valley

    La Merced

    This unassuming restaurant in Mesa may look small from the outside, but through its doors await gigantic plates of boldly flavored and affordable Mexico City eats: long, scroll-like flautas packed with moist shredded chicken or beef; monstrous tortas gigantes layered with Mexican-style ham, chicken milanesa, and hot dog slices; and dinners of heady chilaquiles verdes and garlic-tinged carnitas piled high… More >>
  • Best Upscale Mexican Restaurant

    Así es la Vida

    Like an old friend, Así es la Vida, Spanish for "such is life," is the kind of restaurant that, no matter when we visit, never fails to remind us why it holds a place in our hearts. Since it began in 1993, closed in 1999, and resurrected itself again in 2003, the family-owned spot, more or less responsible for teaching… More >>
  • Best Mexican Breakfast

    El Mesquite Cocina Mexicana

    Looking for a plate of morning machaca on the city's south side? Pop into this unassuming little strip-mall eatery at the corner of Central Avenue and Baseline Road, where you can get a very good version of the dried shredded beef — mixed with egg, tomato, jalapeños, and onions — on a plate with rice, beans, and tortillas or bulking… More >>
  • Best Breakfast Burritos

    Carolina's Mexican Food

    The Carolina's tortilla, as just about everyone knows, is the closest thing to ideal in the Valley. Which is why when it comes to the breakfast burrito, your a.m. wake-up call should consist of this 40-year-old Mexican restaurant chain's fresh and delicate housemade tortilla wrapped around fillings like egg, beans, potato, spicy chorizo, and seasoned machaca. Add a little red… More >>
  • Best Burritos

    Cocina 10

    When the lovesick duke in Shakespeare's Twelfth Night remarks, "If music be the food of love, play on," we'd like to imagine him at this late-night Mexican eatery inside Crescent Ballroom, downtown's most popular music venue, with burrito in hand. Loaded with ingredients like sweet al pastor marinated in achiote citrus, garlicky Angus beef braised with oregano, and tasty seasonal… More >>
  • Best Tacos

    Tacos Atoyac - CLOSED

    True taco euphoria, it has been said, depends on the whims of the taco taster. And at this moment, ours can be found in this no-frills Mexican street-food joint in Central Phoenix that keeps them cheap, simple, and simply delectable. There is juicy grilled lengua, a spicy and luscious pineapple-marinated al pastor, and a beer-battered fish taco with lightly pickled… More >>
  • Best Tamales

    La Piñata

    Might the ultimate Mexican snack be the humble tamale? Quite possibly. The simple masa-based dish dates back to ancient Mexican and Latin Americans like the Aztecs and Mayans, who were gobbling them up back in 5000 BC. Seven thousand years later, they still are staples at Mexican restaurants, including this longtime family-owned eatery in Central Phoenix. Made in-house, the soft,… More >>
  • Best Sonoran Hot Dog

    El Exquisito

    Do you worship your hot dogs at the altar of Southwestern fast food? If so, there may not be a more perfect creation than the Sonoran. A beef frank with bacon, pinto beans, and condiments like onions, fresh tomatoes, jalapeño sauce, mayonnaise, and mustard, it's a dog whose whole is greater than the sum of its parts. El Exquisito, the… More >>
  • Best Tortas

    Tortas Paquime

    For those whose Mexican sandwich fantasies consist of ingredients like meat, avocado, tomato, pickled jalapeños, and mayo packed into torpedo-shaped bolillo or telera bread, this local chain's offerings are a tasty head trip. There's the namesake sandwich, which comes with tender, thinly sliced pork and mustard; the classic Cubano with shredded pork, ham, turkey, beans, and two kinds of cheese;… More >>
  • Best Carne Asada

    Ta' Carbon, The Real Mexican Grill

    The carne asada from Ta' Carbon is pretty amazing. Grilled to perfection, lightly marinated, and with just the right amount of coarse salt, the beef is sizzled over a charcoal fire, a method most asada aficionados consider ideal. You hardly could be blamed for watching it cook behind the counter, its smoky, meaty aromas finding their way to your nose… More >>
  • Best Pollo a la Parrilla

    Mercado y Carniceria Cuernavaca

    For 10 bucks, you could do worse than the crazy-good grilled chicken meal served at this no-frills Mexican meat shop and market in Scottsdale. Served up hot 'n' ready from a giant outdoor charcoal grill, these boldly seasoned and deliciously smoky whole chickens get packed to-go with corn tortillas, a pint each of rice and hot dog-studded beans, and fresh,… More >>
  • Best Mariscos

    San Carlos Bay Seafood Restaurant

    As Valley dwellers, we're lucky to never be too far from a place that serves zingy Mexican-style seafood cocktails, stews, and ocean-centric eats. Our hangout, at the moment, is San Carlos Bay — the little house in the shadow of State Route 51 that's been around for over 25 years. Here, you'll find plump shrimp baked with cheese in a… More >>
  • Best Elote

    Raspados Paradise Mexican Restaurant

    Corn gnawed right off the cob is a delicious thing, but even better is a warm cup of grilled white corn kernels, bathed in butter, with just a hint of mayo, and topped with cotija and Valentina. All the taste of an elote, but none of the mess. Nestled in a relatively quiet spot at the very crowded Arizona Mills,… More >>
  • Best Pozole

    Taquitos Jalisco

    For those without the good fortune of having pozole served up regularly at home, pop into this spartan eatery in Mesa for a soul-soothing bowl of what just might be the perfect Mexican comfort food. Served up as pozole rojo, Taquitos Jalisco's red chile-laced broth features bone-on chunks of beef, puffy, chewy pieces of hominy, and a plate loaded up… More >>
  • Best Tortillas

    La Sonorense Tortilla Factory

    The folks at La Sonorense realize that a thick and chewy flour tortilla is a terrible thing, so they make their tortillas, available from 5-inch taco all the way to 15-inch burro size, into delicate paper-thin and par-cooked disks, selling them out by the two-dozen pack in their tiny, friendly cash-only shop on Central. The best thing about par-cooked tortillas?… More >>
  • Best Salsa

    Joyride Taco House

    For those who consider chips and salsa the dynamic duo of Mexican eats, we present Joyride Taco House. In downtown Gilbert, this energetic taquería (from the folks behind Federal Pizza, Windsor, and Postino) serves up a dazzling default fire-roasted salsa and bottomless basket of crunchy housemade tortilla chips, then ups the ante with specialty salsas of bright tomatillo, bold and… More >>
  • Best Guacamole

    Barrio Café

    Purists may argue that on the subject of guacamole, less is more. But then, they've probably never had legendary Valley chef Silvana Salcido Esparza's Guacamole del Barrio. Bulked out with diced tomato, red onion, jalapeño, lime juice, cilantro, and juicy pomegranate seeds, this gourmet twist on a classic is nothing short of sublime – one whose flavorful enhancements might cause… More >>
  • Best Aguas Frescas

    Pro's Ranch Market

    With the entirety of the Pro's Ranch Market produce department at their disposal, this oasis within the madness of this supermercado is built on the colorful contents of the now-ubiquitous beehive glass jugs. Not only do the friendly ladies behind the juice bar make a mean (sadly, virgin) piña colada, but there is something awe-inspiring in watching 30 gallons of… More >>
  • Best Exotic Drinks

    Frutilandia

    Are you a refreshment seeker of the unusual sort? Then you'll want to wrap your lips around the chamoy-coated straw of a bebida exotica at this cheery sweet shop in Mesa. Colorful, bold, and jam-packed with ingredients like fresh mango, tamarind candy, plum syrup, flavored shaved ice, and cinnamon, the 21-ounce liquid invigorators might be creamy and fruity (the Gloria),… More >>
  • Best Paletas

    Paletas Betty

    With her kitschy logo and signature bite mark on every paleta (don't worry; it's a mold, not from her mouth), Betty stays at the top of the frozen-treat business in this town for two very good reasons: The insistence of using all-natural and fresh ingredients and the melding of traditional Mexican flavors with a modern twist. With her roots in Michoacán,… More >>
  • Best Paletas by the Case

    Dulceria Arcoiris

    If you've ever wished for a brick-and-mortar expanded version of an ice cream truck, wish no longer — Dulceria Arcoiris is here to fulfill your childhood summer dreams. The best part is that the fully-open-to-the-public warehouse sells its ice cream, popsicle, and candy wares at wholesale prices, so you can get an unreasonable amount of sweets, including gallon jugs of… More >>
  • Best Mexican Candy Store

    Dulcería La Mexicana

    What this small retail storefront lacks in space and ambiance, it more than makes up for with its variety of Mexican candies sold in larger packages perfect for stuffing the star-shaped piñatas dangling from the ceiling. It carries the requisite salty treats, like Lucas, and the sugary goodness of De la Rosa Mazapan, a powdery peanut butter candy. And, once… More >>
  • Best Mexican Party Store

    Sueños y Recuerdos

    Friendly, helpful workers make this bright, fun store that much better. At this one-stop shop, you get everything you need to throw a fabulous party. You can pick up one of the piñatas it has in stock or, if you give them a week's notice, you can custom-order one. Need a water slide? They have it available for rent. Ditto… More >>
  • Best Mexican Tchotchkes

    Mercado Mexico

    A flock of ceramic chickens greets you at Mercado Mexico. We could say it's almost like they're egging you on to explore — but that would be cheesy. And the chickens are only the beginning. Past the chickens are brightly colored turtles, frogs, lizards, and pigs — all keeping warm under blazing metal suns. There are candle holders, wrought-iron works… More >>
  • Best Mexican Home Goods

    Mexamigo Furniture - CLOSED

    No matter what you want, this place has it. Rustic, leather-covered chaise lounges. A six-foot pine bar with built-in drawers and a wine rack. Decorative vases and pots that range from "Hey, let's plant a few herbs" to suitable for an indoor queen palm. Mexamigo gets its goods from a factory in Guadalajara, so it's as authentic Mexican craftsmanship as… More >>
  • Best Mexican Market

    El Rancho Mercado y Carniceria

    We love the large supermercados in town, but when all we need is a cone or two of piloncillo or a package of chipotles, this tiny market in Mesa is just the thing to fill our shopping basket. With the same selection as the big stores (but edited), the shelves of this small shop (and the delicious bakery attached to… More >>
  • Best Margarita

    Margarita Especial Sierra Bonita Grill

    How did we know we'd likely stumbled upon a winner in the Best Margarita category? The name, silly. A high-class joint like Sierra Bonita Grill was hardly going to call a margarita special if it wasn't. And, oh, this one is. The not-so-secret ingredient that pushes it over the edge is brandy, but from top to bottom, this drink is… More >>
  • Best Tequila

    Senor Rio Tequila Jalisco International Imports

    It used to be a private, friends-and-family-only, small-batch tequila going back three generations in the town of Tequila, Jalisco. Today this smooth premium tequila is a gift resulting from the reunion of an estranged father and daughter, bringing an elegant tequila to the American market. Stone oven-cooked blue agave hearts are the foundation of a spirit that's double-distilled and shipped… More >>
  • Best Tequila Selection

    Blue Hound Kitchen & Cocktails

    Ever spend an hour trying to pick out a tequila from a list of 100 bottles? We don't like our tequila-sipping time being wasted by bottom-shelf tequila. We want to get to the good stuff and get to it fast. Give us a tequila list with an opinion and some editing or give us gin. Hold the gin bottle, though; Blue… More >>
  • Best Latin DJ

    DJ Kyko

    According to Miguel Morales, he isn't much into twerking. And he felt that way long, long before Miley Cyrus made the notorious booty-shaking maneuver even more infamous (and earning worldwide scorn as a result) on the VMAs earlier this month. The 31-year-old, who's also known as DJ Kyko, says he leaves that to the ladies to handle. "I'm a dude,"… More >>
  • Best Latin Night

    Sabados Latinos, Saturdays at Q-Lounge

    Latin dance fans who can't get their culos into Q-Lounge by midnight on a Saturday might as well stay at home. ¿Porqué? Because you missed out on the best moment of the weekly Sabados Latinos night, wey, and it's a quite a spectacle. Allow us to set the scene: Adjacent rooms inside the barbecue joint/dance club are packed to capacity… More >>
  • Best Latin Club

    Sky Lounge

    When it comes down to it, getting into Sky Lounge on Friday and Saturday nights is pretty easy. You just dress nicely (read: no caps or sportswear), wait patiently, and don't be a dick to security. Really, it's getting out that's the hard part. And not just because it gets really busy on weekends. Sky Lounge features the enticing combination… More >>
  • Best Mariachi

    Mariachi Pasión

    Since 2002, 14 ladies — gilded botonadura shining down the sides of their long charro skirts, hair and makeup perfectly in place — have been taking the stage throughout Arizona, bringing grace and delicacy to the classic mariachi songs of love, loss, betrayal, and revenge. Female mariachi musicians are nothing new, but Mariachi Pasion is believed to be the first all-female… More >>
  • Best Lowrider

    Sweet Leaf, 1963 Impala SS

    Sweet Leaf is a labor of love for Fernando Moreno of Avondale. It wasn't his first Impala — the first one was stolen before he had a chance to turn it into the lowrider of his dreams — but this one is his sweet convertible ride. Moreno and Sweet Leaf are members of the Imperials Car Club, a local chapter… More >>
  • Best Spanish-Language Journalist

    Maritza Lizeth Félix, Prensa Hispana

    Maritza Lizeth Felix won this award last year, but you gotta know Felix to understand that she doesn't just win awards for her reporting — she sweeps entire categories year after year. And that's exactly what happened during the Arizona Press Club's 2013 awards reception: She snagged just about all the awards among Spanish-language reporters. It's a recognition she's earned… More >>
  • Best Local Protector of the DREAM

    Carmen Cornejo

    Chandler resident Carmen Cornejo is steadfast in her support of the DREAMers, those kids brought to this country when they were young, through no fault of their own, and who have grown up, for all intents and purposes, as American citizens. All they lack is that little piece of paper. President Obama has given the DREAMers a path to near-normalcy… More >>
  • Best Day of the Dead Remembrance

    Guadalupe Cemetery

    Day of the Dead celebrations take place across the Valley at arts centers, city plazas, or at well-known spots like the Desert Botanical Garden. Most have individuals dressed in elaborate costumes and intricate altars, along with face painting, folkloric dancers, and mariachis. But many say that the day of remembrance that takes place at the Guadalupe Cemetery in Tempe is… More >>
  • Best Vintage Mexican Home Goods

    Antique Trove, Stall #7773

    Long before the Mexican Revolution (1910-1921), American turistas regularly invaded our neighbor to the south looking for exotic adventures and souvenirs they could drag home as proof of their traveling derring-do. Until the late 1960s, one of the mandatory stops on the Mexican vacation circuit was Tlaquepaque, a charming little town outside Guadalajara in the Mexican state of Jalisco that… More >>
  • Best Vintage Mural

    Untitled by Roberto Delgado

    In 1988, Phoenix's Public Art Program scored its first commission — a pair of murals by Mexico-trained artist Roberto Delgado. A lot has changed in that part of the city in the last 20-plus years, but the murals — combining elements of the city's ancient irrigation system with modern features from the neighborhood — have stood the test of time.… More >>
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