Start polishing those cowboy boots and dusting off that big sombrero, because if it's Tejano or norteño music you're looking for, El Capri is waiting. For a $5 cover charge on weekends, you get admission to Tejano heaven. Inside you'll find two massive dance floors packed with couples moving and grooving quebradita-style -- like a Mexican tango -- fun to dance to and even more fun to watch. Plus the bar's got a vast assortment of Mexican and domestic beers, and the service, like the clientele, is strictly Spanish-speaking. Want to sing instead of dance? The always-packed Sunday nights are Noche de Aficionados featuring open mikes with live music.
La Casa Del Mariachi
Love to sing? From Julio Iglesias to Enrique Iglesias, you can give it your best shot -- in Spanish.

Whether you're after some karaoke or real live mariachi, either way you can start warming up your vocal cords for Casa del Mariachi. The new-from-the-ground-up Casa stays true to its name, featuring nightly live variety shows; check out the open mikes on Thursday nights featuring Noche Bohemia and the live mariachi on Sunday afternoons. Watch as dozens of sober and not-so-sober amateurs attempt to serenade you with both good and shaky voices. And take advantage of the well-stocked bar with its assortment of beers and tequilas, no matter what the music is like. Tequila, you'll find, can help you either enjoy or endure.

Love to sing? From Julio Iglesias to Enrique Iglesias, you can give it your best shot -- in Spanish.

Whether you're after some karaoke or real live mariachi, either way you can start warming up your vocal cords for Casa del Mariachi. The new-from-the-ground-up Casa stays true to its name, featuring nightly live variety shows; check out the open mikes on Thursday nights featuring Noche Bohemia and the live mariachi on Sunday afternoons. Watch as dozens of sober and not-so-sober amateurs attempt to serenade you with both good and shaky voices. And take advantage of the well-stocked bar with its assortment of beers and tequilas, no matter what the music is like. Tequila, you'll find, can help you either enjoy or endure.

In Mexico, the streets are full with street vendors, shoppers and folks just out for a stroll. And we get flashbacks of that whenever we're traipsing along 16th Street in Phoenix. The stretch from Van Buren north to Thomas has quickly become a district of one-stop shopping for everything Mexican, with lots of foot traffic at all hours of the day or night. This is where you'll find one of the best Mexican bakeries, as well as a candy and piata shop, bridal stores, automotive repair shops, a Spanish-speaking locksmith, a very large Goodwill, butcher shops and even a grocery (an especially rare find downtown).

This lively street also boasts some of Phoenix's best Mexican eateries. Starting from the south end, you can visit Asadero Hermosillo -- a mesquite-fired grill serving a wonderfully marinated chicken, steak and ribs. Restaurante Hacienda serves authentic Mexican food, as does the Guadalupana, which also serves southern Mexican. Tacos Mexico has live mariachi on weekends and, of course, a great selection of tacos.

In Mexico, the streets are full with street vendors, shoppers and folks just out for a stroll. And we get flashbacks of that whenever we're traipsing along 16th Street in Phoenix. The stretch from Van Buren north to Thomas has quickly become a district of one-stop shopping for everything Mexican, with lots of foot traffic at all hours of the day or night. This is where you'll find one of the best Mexican bakeries, as well as a candy and piñata shop, bridal stores, automotive repair shops, a Spanish-speaking locksmith, a very large Goodwill, butcher shops and even a grocery (an especially rare find downtown).

This lively street also boasts some of Phoenix's best Mexican eateries. Starting from the south end, you can visit Asadero Hermosillo -- a mesquite-fired grill serving a wonderfully marinated chicken, steak and ribs. Restaurante Hacienda serves authentic Mexican food, as does the Guadalupana, which also serves southern Mexican. Tacos Mexico has live mariachi on weekends and, of course, a great selection of tacos.

Chips and salsa. They go together like love and marriage. A horse and carriage. Like Don Quixote and Sancho Panza, Batman and Robin, Britney Spears and her belly button, they're inseparable.

We're addictive dunkers, never able to stop at just one basket. But we're highly particular about our chips. They must be thin, crispy, lightly salted, blooming with rich corn flavor, not greasy, and served warm (cold chips, bleh). We're stuck up over our salsa, too. No puny tomato purée will do -- some pico de gallo is always welcome, but at least one of the dips has to be a flame-thrower.

We've found the perfect combination at Cantina!, the upstairs restaurant next to the Boulders resort (they can't keep us off the pretty patio, sipping margaritas and double-dipping like nobody's business). Chips are yellow and blue corn, airy crisp. Salsas are inspired, both in variety and in macho flavor. We start with the complimentary servings of salsa dulce (mild) and salsa media picosa (regular), both thick with fresh vegetables.

Five others flavors beckon, and they're all dramatic: salsa picante (sweet and spiced), salsa verde (sharp, metallic jalapeos and tomatillos), salsa tejana (gutsy garlic, cumin and spice), salsa arbol (seriously hot) and salsa habanero (bring-us-to-our-knees fiery). For just $5, we get a variety pack, a thrilling taste-bud tour of picante, arbol and verde.

These chips are champs, and these salsas sure sizzle.

Chips and salsa. They go together like love and marriage. A horse and carriage. Like Don Quixote and Sancho Panza, Batman and Robin, Britney Spears and her belly button, they're inseparable.

We're addictive dunkers, never able to stop at just one basket. But we're highly particular about our chips. They must be thin, crispy, lightly salted, blooming with rich corn flavor, not greasy, and served warm (cold chips, bleh). We're stuck up over our salsa, too. No puny tomato purée will do -- some pico de gallo is always welcome, but at least one of the dips has to be a flame-thrower.

We've found the perfect combination at Cantina!, the upstairs restaurant next to the Boulders resort (they can't keep us off the pretty patio, sipping margaritas and double-dipping like nobody's business). Chips are yellow and blue corn, airy crisp. Salsas are inspired, both in variety and in macho flavor. We start with the complimentary servings of salsa dulce (mild) and salsa media picosa (regular), both thick with fresh vegetables.

Five others flavors beckon, and they're all dramatic: salsa picante (sweet and spiced), salsa verde (sharp, metallic jalapeños and tomatillos), salsa tejana (gutsy garlic, cumin and spice), salsa arbol (seriously hot) and salsa habanero (bring-us-to-our-knees fiery). For just $5, we get a variety pack, a thrilling taste-bud tour of picante, arbol and verde.

These chips are champs, and these salsas sure sizzle.

Phoenix is only four hours from the Mexican border. You'd think we'd be swamped with excellent, authentic Mexican restaurants. Not so -- unless your idea of real Mexican cuisine is that bloated chain stuff topped with a tiny paper flag. For the real deal, we go to Acapulco Bay, where we can sample some of the finest comida Mexicana y mariscos found -- dare we say it -- in all of Maricopa County.

It's a long menu, and everything is extraordinary, from the camarónes ahogados (fresh, whole raw shrimp "cooked" in lime juice with cucumber, tomato, red onion and spices) to the parrillada for two (a combo of Baja chicken breast, marinated pork steak, tender carne asada, juicy carnitas, grilled vegetables, guacamole and pico de gallo).

And where else can we get such succulent seafood as whole red snapper, cabrilla, tilapia, shrimp, octopus or lobster tail prepared seven different ways? Our favorite presentation is the garlic sauce, the infernal pepper sauce, the salsa ranchero, the salsa Veracruz, the cracker breaded, the spice grilled, and the crystal, spiked with mushrooms and cheese. Oops -- how many favorites are we allowed to have?

Phoenix is only four hours from the Mexican border. You'd think we'd be swamped with excellent, authentic Mexican restaurants. Not so -- unless your idea of real Mexican cuisine is that bloated chain stuff topped with a tiny paper flag. For the real deal, we go to Acapulco Bay, where we can sample some of the finest comida Mexicana y mariscos found -- dare we say it -- in all of Maricopa County.

It's a long menu, and everything is extraordinary, from the camarónes ahogados (fresh, whole raw shrimp "cooked" in lime juice with cucumber, tomato, red onion and spices) to the parrillada for two (a combo of Baja chicken breast, marinated pork steak, tender carne asada, juicy carnitas, grilled vegetables, guacamole and pico de gallo).

And where else can we get such succulent seafood as whole red snapper, cabrilla, tilapia, shrimp, octopus or lobster tail prepared seven different ways? Our favorite presentation is the garlic sauce, the infernal pepper sauce, the salsa ranchero, the salsa Veracruz, the cracker breaded, the spice grilled, and the crystal, spiked with mushrooms and cheese. Oops -- how many favorites are we allowed to have?

El Norteno
Chris Malloy
Even when we have no money, we still can eat like royalty at El Norteo. The most expensive thing on the menu at this casual, counter-service shop is a Mexican pizza, and for $6.75, it's huge, loaded with ground beef, beans, guacamole, sour cream, tomatoes, jalapeos and onions. Most everything else comes in at less than $5, with flavors and portions worth twice the price.

Who can beat a burro grande, just $4 for a hefty handful of red or green chile, sour cream or guacamole, cheese, lettuce, tomato and onion plus a 44-ounce drink? Actually, El Norteo beats itself, with a staggering display of daily specials. Breakfast is just $1.99 (huevos rancheros, beans and tortillas on Monday), lunch is just $2.99 (like a red or green burro enchilada-style, beans, salad and drink), and dinner is just $3.50 (perhaps beef chimichanga with beans and rice).

That's one hot tamale, for just a tiny little bit of cold cash.

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