Tilted Kilt Pub and Eatery
Gone are the days of binge-drinking whatever rotgut tequila could be thrown back with a lick of salt and a suck of lime. Now, we like to taste our tequila -- sipping it like cognac, even. And the best place to savor tequila is Coyote Grill, with an impressive list of 110 varieties, including blanco and plata (not aged), reposado (aged in oak for up to a year), anejo (monitored by the Mexican government to ensure its superior quality), and mescal, a harsh-tempered beast that's not for beginners.

While other restaurants may boast long tequila lists, the Coyote's also got that $145-a-shot super-premium star, José Cuervo 1800 Colección, of which Cuervo releases only a few hundred bottles a year. We can make do with the equally good Herradura's Seleccion Suprema, at an easier-to-swallow $35. And for dessert, the Grill has flavored tequilas -- coquila (coffee, chocolate and cream), rose (strawberry and cream), and almendrado (almond). Now that's tequila worth toasting.

Arriba Mexican Grill
Jamie Peachey
Arriba Mexican Grill has been serving up New Mexico cuisine at its Phoenix cantina for years. This year, its owner took a bold move and expanded to two other Valley locations. They're as packed as the original.

One reason, we suspect, is word of mouth about Arriba's breathtaking carnitas. The grilled piggy pieces come two ways, traditional style with fajita fixings and flour tortillas for wrapping, and spiced with gutsy adobada, tucked in a massive burrito and paired with black beans and rice.

Either presentation, crispy-edged and juicy, makes us smile. Arriba, your carnitas carry us away.

Wright's at the Biltmore
Okay, so we didn't conduct a personal count, but we're taking Wright's word that its wine cellar/private dining room boasts 10,000 bottles. Certainly it looks to be true, with a sea of shimmering bottles just begging to be opened and sampled.

While the wine -- and the resort, built in 1929 and inspired by the desert-design concepts of Frank Lloyd Wright -- may be old, the cuisine is entirely fresh. Chef Rick Boyer's contemporary, lavish style tempts with treasures like grilled veal and sweetbreads with pickled cabbage, pan-roasted sea scallops with celery root risotto and Sevruga caviar, and a chef's five-course tasting menu paired with -- what else? -- wines.

Now that's the Wright way to celebrate wines.

Pepe's Taco Villa
Natalie Miranda
Best Mexican restaurant in Phoenix? Them's fightin' words to most folks. And people here cling to their favorite joints as if they were family members. We've got no problem proclaiming a winner, though. While many Mexican restaurants have a few remarkable specialties, at Pepe's everything on the menu is worthy of award. The place isn't fancy -- just two small rooms behind a nondescript storefront -- but the meals are brilliant.

Silky green chile Colorado is packed with tender beef. Chicken enchiladas are draped in mole, a sensuous sauce deep-toned with chiles and chocolate. Pork tamales are moist and bursting with good piggy flavor. And the tacos rancheros, three tiny corn tortillas stuffed with spicy shredded pork, onion and cilantro, soar when doused with splashes of Pepe's incendiary hot sauce.

Breakfast is served all day, and we love to stop in for the daily specials, too. Pepe's is the best. And anyone who disagrees can just take it outside.

Fine dining has landed at the Scottsdale Municipal Airport, thanks to the Valley's own Channel 3 celebrity Jan D'Atri. This joint's home-style Italian food is so delicious that you'll find us there, even if the only baggage we've got is our childhood. The location's a surprise, until you remember that Scottsdale Airport is frequented by folks who don't want corn dogs, but a maitre d', votive candles, white tablecloths and niceties such as rack of lamb, shrimp and scallop skewers and filet mignon. There's great stuff for us working-class folk, too: terrific panini sandwiches, pasta and sausage. We love the fresh-off-the-bird turkey breast sandwich, grilled with provolone, mozzarella, feta, mushrooms and caramelized onion. D'Atri's pastas fly high, anchored by homemade noodles and stunning sauces. Thanks, D'Atri's, for a fuel bill that's a delight to pay.

San Carlos Bay Seafood Restaurant
How the Sea of Cortez came to splash onto the shores of McDowell Road and the Squaw Peak Parkway, we'll never know. We're just glad that it did, bringing with it the magical cookery at San Carlos Bay. The oceanscape-painted building is deceptively small, yet the kitchen cranks out an impressive variety of seafood specialties, ranging from simple (shrimp cocktail) to sophisticated (crab-stuffed chile rellenos). Whatever the choice, it's all sumptuous and served in authentic Mexican style. For south-of-the-border satisfaction, we always steer toward gorgeous, buttery garlic octopus, shrimp endiablados (very hot and spicy), and whole fried snapper. Wrap the fish in warm tortillas spread with creamy beans and rice, dunk the bundles in zingy salsa, and pretend you're on a seaside vacation.

Best Place To Eat If You're Starting A Diet Tomorrow

Honey Bear's BBQ

Honey Bear's Bar-B-Q
Lauren Cusimano
From the first seductive aroma of smoking meat and simmering sauces, this artery-busting, fat-packing food demands we EAT UP.

Honey Bear's slogan: "You don't need no teeth to eat our meat." That's true. Tender pieces of pork, beef and poultry fall off the bone before we open our mouths. Sure, we could eat light, maybe subsisting on a piece of chicken and a garden salad. But no, we want to pack it in with a massive combo sandwich (a two-fister marrying our favorite meat choices), moist hot links, and gargantuan slabs of pork ribs.

Sides aren't low-cal, either, but they're luscious -- tubs of sweet-tinged "cowbro" beans and mayo-bound potato salad. We finish our feast with enormous servings of hot-from-the-oven peach cobbler and sweet potato pie.

Honey, that's our idea of a healthy diet.

Mention anything involving even the ghost of chocolate, and most people come running. Mention mole, though, and most folks stumble, not quite sure what we're talking about. There are millions of recipes for mole, each as diverse as the genetic code for babies. But generally, mole is a rich, velvety sauce containing a dozen types of dried chiles, nuts, seeds, vegetables, spices, plantains and chocolate. For us, the universal standard for excellence is celebrated at El Tepeyac. Poor souls who've never experienced the kiss of mole poblano should start with El Tepeyac's model. A chicken thigh and drumstick lounge under a pool of silky auburn sauce, dusky with rich chocolate tones and chiles. It's more distinctly chocolate than other versions we've tasted, and that's worth sprinting for.

Flor de Michoacan
Drive around downtown Phoenix on a summer day, and you'll spot several pushcart vendors selling paletas, those distinctly Mexican frozen-fruit bars. But Flor de Michoacán is one of the Valley's few true paleterias, the kind of shop found within a five-block radius of practically any Mexican town. Flor de Michoacán was opened by Nathan and Adam Hatch, two brothers who picked fruit as children in the orchards of Chihuahua, Mexico. During their work breaks, they hung out at their favorite paleteria, and studied the mixing magic of the masters. They've brought this authenticity to a variety of paleta fruit flavors, agua fresca drinks and frescas con crema (sliced strawberries mixed in cream). This shop is as close to Michoacán as you'll ever get in Mesa.

Behold the unassuming fish taco: little more than seafood and tortilla. But in the right hands, a fish taco can be a feast. We worship the masterful mitts of the chefs at Acapulco Bay Company, where the tacos de pescado bring mountains of grilled white fish that's been spiced with slow-burning heat. No goopy sauce to get in the way of the fish, just warm dicings of juicy tomato, bell pepper and onion. Add a splash of potent hot sauce, roll it all up in double corn tortillas, and bite in.

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