Best Mexican Bakery 2002 | La Estrella | Shopping & Services | Phoenix
Selection and ingredients are what make La Estrella stand out as the Valley's best Mexican bakery. Considering how tiny it is, it has an impressively varied selection of breads that are just too tasty to pass up. The pan de huevo is soft and delicious (because of, we think, the powdered milk Estrella adds to the recipe). Plus, hard-to-find pan fino, fleite and resposteria are found here fresh daily. A second location in south Phoenix, on Central Avenue, is also making La Estrella label tortillas and wonderful white masa and serving a small selection of Mexican culinary specialties. And at the original location, there's a large assortment of Mexican household products to go with those loaves, like magazines, medicines, soaps, detergents and CDs, all crammed into the small storefront. To our eyes, La Estrella is a true Panifidora Mexicana.

Lauren Cusimano
Forget the leaden treats served at the state fair. Fry bread here is the real thing -- virtually greaseless, a pillowy puff peeking through the softest veil of vegetable oil. But that's the lightest thing about these two-hand monsters, folded over in fat tacos and stuffed with lots of good, goopy fillings. Favorites include a vegetarian, with smoky beans, green chiles, produce and sour cream; or a chorizo beef combo crammed with truly spicy pork sausage and the usual accompaniments of melted Cheddar, beans and lettuce. When fillings run low, we tear off hunks of plain bread and dip it in thin, fiery hot sauce.

And we can never say no to dessert, fry bread topped with our choice of golden honey, powdered sugar, chocolate and butter. Fattening, but who cares? It's our party, and we'll fry if we want to.

Although Mexico can claim the origin of some really beautiful pre-Columbian art, Fine Art Tattoo can stake a claim to having one of the best selections in the United States -- especially if the artwork you're talking about is a perfect Virgen de Guadalupe tattoo. In its Thomas Road shop, Aztec, Toltec and Mayan art is beautifully displayed, ready for the willing body canvas. Jesus and the Virgin, in various poses, present lots of other options, too. You can also customize a drawing or a photograph, and resident artists Jesus and Gerardo will help bring your vision to your skin.
If your local grocery store isn't fulfilling your culinary needs, you just might want to try a different venue. Like the dog track.

Volcanic rock molcajetes (grinding bowls), imported moles, hard-to-find cheeses and illegal fruits all are part of what makes the Phoenix Greyhound Park Park 'n Swap a fun day at the races. If it's from Mexico, you are very likely to find it here. Especially on the twice-weekly "Mercado" days.

Every Wednesday night and Sunday morning, vendors line the dog track parking lot at Washington Street in Phoenix to fight for your dollar and provide you with the best, most obscure and most unique items. If you're adventurous and willing to go to almost any lengths for good and hard-to-find ingredients, you'll likely find them, along with other cool stuff, like leather belts from Mexico and pirate CDs. Just be warned: There's a lot to look through, so wear comfortable shoes and bring a nice, big bag for all those purchases you'll find yourself making.

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