In the hunt for the latest trendy restaurants, our spotlight often misses neighborhoods that are home to some of the Valley's best kitchens — including those making metro Phoenix's best tacos. Over the next several weeks, we’ll be guiding you toward the Valley’s tastiest tacos, and the taquerías that serve them. Welcome to Taco Summer.
42: La Fiesta
Taquería: La Fiesta, 19 East Main Street, Avondale, and 7707 MC 85, Buckeye
Open Since: 2011
Style: Comida casera, or homestyle Mexican cooking
Signature Taco(s): Tripas, pollo, and al pastor
Martha Chimán met her husband, Lucio Hurtado, many years ago when they were both employees at a tortilleria in Los Angeles. Now, decades later, the couple own and operate two small tortillerias of their own, including La Fiesta in Avondale, and a newer second location in nearby Buckeye.
Chimán and her husband specialize in corn tortillas, which they produce at both locations daily. They supply about 10 local carnicerías and Mexican restaurants with their trademark soft, pliable, white and yellow corn tortillas.
"We're long-time tortilleros," she says in Spanish, with a laugh.
Although Chimán identifies first as a tortilla maker, La Fiesta has probably become better known for its food, she says.
Both locations of La Fiesta are neighborhood one-stop shops, where you can pick up a fresh packet of tortillas, Mexican grocery staples, and carne por libra, prepared meats sold by the pound.
The meat is a very popular takeout item on the weekends, Chimán tells me.
Although you can certainly take your meat to go, at the Avondale location of La Fiesta, the tiny dining area seems like the place be on the weekends. It's there that you'll spot a steady stream of locals, who squeeze into the dining room's old-fashioned booths to chat over breakfast and taco platters.
The steady crowds are not surprising; there is much to love about the taco scene at La Fiesta. You'll usually find nine prepared meats on the menu. Options include carne asada, al pastor, pollo, tripas, lengua, cabeza, carnitas, buche, and chicharrón.
Chimán says one of La Fiesta's best-sellers is the al pastor.
"We use a special marinade for our pastor," she says, keeping the details of her adobo de chile sauce close to her chest.
Sorry, taco hipsters — this is one al pastor that doesn't come sliced straight off the trompo. But the pastor still packs deliriously good flavor into each crisped-up, salty pork shaving.
And if you're a fan of tripas, the ones at La Fiesta are pretty great. Tripas are one of those offal meats that are subject to wide interpretation. You never know exactly what you're going to get when you order a couple of tripas tacos at a new taquería. At La Fiesta, the savory, chewy intestines are sliced into thick tubes, lightly crisped up, and bathed in a beautifully salty red chile sauce. They are hard to resist.
Pollo, often one of the least exciting options on most taco menus, is a highlight at La Fiesta. The meat is soft, tender, and smoky, with no hint of dryness.
Chimán describes the cooking at La Fiesta as comida casera, or homestyle cooking. She knows many of her customers by name, and she seems more interested in talking about how grateful she is to her clientele than in debating the finer points of taco-making.
"We thank God that we have so many people who love our tacos," she says. "We're just so lucky we get to do this every day."
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Our Taco Summer picks so far:
50. Taqueria Don Beto
49. Kiss Pollos Estilo Sinaloa
48. Tacos Tijuana
47. El Burrito Grande
46. El Horseshoe Restaurant
45. Tacos Sahuaro
44. El Pollo Correteado