Best Neighborhood Mexican Restaurant, Tempe

Moreno's Mexican Grill

Sonoran Hot Dog
Heather Hoch
Sonoran Hot Dog
Moreno's is unexpectedly charming when you set foot in this strip mall spot near the ASU campus — faux stone details, cozy booths, and a fresh salsa bar are just a few of the details that make it better than your average Mexican joint. The menu is broader and more interesting, too, with a variety of sopes, tostadas, cheese crisps, and tortas to round out the list of burros and tacos. Better yet, they offer fillings like lengua (tongue), adobada (grilled pork), and cabeza (head) along with the usual suspects. To drink, there are aguas frescas like jamaica and strawberry, ladled out of huge glass jars. And get this — Moreno's features a bacon-wrapped Sonoran-style hot dog, too, eliminating the need to hunt down the regional treat at a food truck. Why go anywhere else when Moreno's seems to have it all?

Best Neighborhood Mexican Restaurant, Scottsdale

Habanero's Mexican Grill

Every neighborhood should be so lucky to have a family-owned Mexican joint like Habanero's, a special little gem in North Scottsdale. Here, owner Arturo Diaz serves up recipes he brought to the states from Jalisco, Mexico, where his parents ran taco stands. And, yes, Habaneros does tacos brilliantly, from carne asada, fish, and excellent carnitas de Jalisco to blackened shrimp with chipotle sauce and pico de gallo. Sink your teeth into a burrito, plump with chorizo, refried beans, and pico, or put some color into your cheeks with fragrant red chile tamales. Or, if you're hankering for straight-up protein, get the parrillada tampiqueña, a meat-lover's fantasy of grilled steak, chicken, chorizo, and carnitas.

Best Mexican Restaurant Decor con Queso

Casa Reynoso

Casa Reynoso
Natalie Miranda
We've lauded Casa Reynoso in the past for its comidas muy auténticas, yummy, old family recipes from the Mexican-cuisine-heavy Globe-Miami area. And, indeed, the tacos filled with beef shredded to near-pâté consistency and not a speck of cheese, the meticulously roasted green chile dishes, and the traditional scorching-hot plates are a dependable comfort in an almost deserted strip mall. But look around a bit, and hope no pickers or dealers will read this section. From hand-tooled leather chairs in the lobby to random macramé fake-plant hangers, serapes, dozens of family photos going waaaaay back (some of those cherubic little girls have got to be cougars by now), and — hey, that's an actual saddle by the cash register — the huge mirror surrounded with incongruous pastel Capodimonte porcelain flowers . . . well, it all makes the original bullfighter painting you'll spy on the way to the restroom seem a little low-key by comparison.
Bill Hutichison won't divulge all the secret ingredients in his Kissed With Fire salsa, but he stands firmly on the belief that roasted green peppers are essential to producing just the right bite. Hutichison traveled throughout the Southwest in pursuit of the perfect pepper until he discovered a New Mexican green variety worthy of his tasty salsa. Loaded with fresh ingredients, this salsa, which comes in both mild and hot, is great on a chip, but its hearty consistency also works well as an accompaniment for eggs, burritos, and even burgers.
Verde
Evie Carpenter
Although we can't prove it unless we start sneaking into some kitchens, it's pretty obvious that a lot of Mexican restaurants get their tortillas straight out of a bag — and some don't even bother to reheat them. What gives, people? There's a lot of competition for good Mexican food in the Valley, and to set yourself apart from the pack, you need to make grand gestures. That's what they do at Verde, a humble little downtown spot serving cheap, casual eats and flour tortillas we're absolutely certain are as fresh as can be. Just take a look in the big front window, where you can see ladies hand-forming and cooking them on a griddle right on the premises. These are a little thicker than the norm, tender, and perfect for scooping up gobs of Verde's fragrant green chile pork — or simply enjoying plain.
Los Sombreros
Courtesy of Los Sombreros
When it comes to names, "corn smut" just doesn't do it for us. "Mexican truffle" sounds a whole lot better. Funny, though, that they're the same thing: huitlacoche, a delicacy that's starting to show up on more local menus as people catch on to its earthy, flavorful allure. At Los Sombreros, it gets a sexy spin in the form of crepes. Here, huitlacoche is wrapped in moist, thin pancakes, and smothered in a sauce of blue and goat cheeses, as well as pomegranate sauce. Los Sombreros serves a lot of killer apps, but this one is don't-miss-it delicious.
Gallo Blanco Cafe
Robrt Pela
Street tacos seem to be Gallo Blanco's thing, but what can we say? The juicy carne asada torta is killer, topped with charred tomato salsa, while the cochinita pibil is a delightful mélange of sweet and savory flavors. And then there's the beautifully sinful Naco Torta, which teams tender grilled rib eye and charred tomato salsa with two oozy fried eggs on top. The tortas here are truly addicting, better than what you'll find at places that specialize in these hefty Mexican sandwiches.
The heck with healthful eating. As long as there are Sonoran hot dogs in the world, we must eat them. Any dog served in a piping hot, freshly baked sweet bun and wrapped in bacon, then smothered in diced tomato, guacamole, chopped onion, and beans is one worth eating. And the best of these can be found at Nogales Hot Dogs, a humble roadside stand with wieners so good we've forgotten all about Coney Island dogs and Chicago dogs and chili-cheese dogs and pretty much every other kind of hot dog we've ever tried.
The Tamale Store
With 23 flavors of tamales, The Tamale Store offers everything you can think of — and if you don't find what you're looking for on the menu, just ask. The Tamale Store will custom-make specialty batches for events. It also offers a special flavor of the month. What is even more fantastic is that it sells and delivers to most of the farmers markets in Central Phoenix.Taste-wise, these tamales really are the best. The Tamale Store does not use lard, so if you order a vegan variety, it really will be delivered vegan. Nothing beats a green chile and corn tamale — well, except maybe a chicken mole tamale or maybe a blueberry cream cheese tamale. Oh, just get over there and discover your own favorite.
Sometimes the urge to seek out good carne asada hits us so hard that we'll drop whatever we're doing to go devour a plate of meat. But things have gotten a lot easier since we discovered Sonora Mesquite Grill, a tiny, super-friendly spot that specializes in the stuff. What's the secret to such juicy, flavorful carne asada? We wish we knew the answer to that, but in the meantime, we'll keep doing our "research" by testing out as many burritos, tacos, and combo platters as we can. Top-notch homemade salsas make it even more appealing.

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