Iruna
We were heartbroken when chef Aaron May closed Sol y Sombra, his swanky tapas spot at North Scottsdale's DC Ranch, but May's Iruña swooped in this summer to ease the pain with a lot of old favorites and just as many delectable new dishes. Stop by this stylin' eatery for a lively scene and a slew of mouthwatering small plates meant for sharing. Go light, with garlic-and-tomato-rubbed pan con tomate, refreshing gazpacho, chilled rice salad with tuna, and a Bibb lettuce salad with Manchego, spiced almonds, and Rioja vinaigrette, or go naughty with savory-sweet pollo colonia (chicken in a spicy glaze), lamb chops with whole grain mustard vinaigrette and fresh mint, and sliced filet mignon with chunky salbitxada sauce, made with tomatoes and Marcona almonds. Whatever you get, be sure there's a glass of sangria in your hand.
Secreto
Jackie Mercandetti
After digging in to lusty plates of stuffed poblanos and chorizo-stuffed pork chops and green chile stew, we're aching for mercy at this charming New Mexican spot in Ahwatukee. The spicy, flavorful fare shifts our taste buds into overdrive. But we always need to rein it in with something sweet, something delicate to soothe our palate at the end of the meal, and that's why we love Secreto's incredible flan. Smooth as velvet, cool on the tongue, and oozing sweet caramelized sauce, it's everything we could hope for in this classic custard dessert. Save room for a few bites, if not the whole thing.
Paletas Betty
Our wish came true! We wished for gourmet paletas and Betty Alatorre arrived on the scene, armed with her grandmother's recipes. You'll still have to hoof it to downtown Chandler to get flavors like mango con chile, naranja (orange vanilla cream) and durazno (peach, ginger, and honey), but, hey, that's better than traveling all the way to Michoacan, the Mexican state where Alatorre was raised — and, coincidentally, the paleta capital. Until now. We're decreeing Chandler the new paleta HQ. Viva las paletas, Betty!
Dulceria Pico Rico
Hey, kids, want to fill that piñata in style? Then steer Mom and Dad to the funky purple building on the east side of 16th Street. In the back of this party store, you'll find aisle after aisle of bulk Mexican candy — peanut-y marzipan, hot chile, and chocolate-covered marshmallows. Forgot the piñata? No worries, there's a large selection of perfectly serviceable papier-mâché hanging from the ceiling, and helpful staff to get them down. Sweet!
Michael Braden's Margarita Sensations margarita mix is used to create the perfect margaritas at nearly three dozen restaurants and gathering places throughout Arizona, including Mountainside Office Bar in Scottsdale, My Florist Cafe in Phoenix, Padre Murphy's in Glendale, and Tiburon Aquarium Restaurant in Litchfield Park.And while it's always relaxing to pull up to a bar and order a freshly blended margarita served in a glass with a perfectly salted rim . . . it can also get pricey. Margarita Sensations margarita mix is available at your local BevMo so you can enjoy delicious and hangover-free margaritas in the comfort of your own home.Just pick up a gallon of Braden's fresh and balanced combination of organic lime juice, filtered water, and 100 percent Weber blue agave nectar. There aren't any artificial flavors or colors or preservatives in this premium mix. At only 100 calories per serving, you can enjoy several of these popular summer drinks guilt-free. Braden recommends pairing his mix with 3 Amigos Organic Blanco Tequila (made from 100 percent agave) for the perfect organic margarita. The beauty of Margarita Sensations mix is that it eliminates the need to add triple sec or any other liqueur to your margarita. It also doubles as a Sweet and Sour mix and can be enjoyed straight as a refreshing limeade or mixed with iced tea for a "Lee Trevino special" — half limeade, half iced tea.The only thing that this margarita mix doesn't have is that too-tart or too-sweet aftertaste found in many mixes.
Without a doubt, one of the finest and smoothest tequilas you can treat your palate to is 3 Amigos Tequila. This premium, 100 percent agave tequila is handcrafted at a family-owned distillery in Jalisco, Mexico. The blue agave plants are harvested by jimadores with a talent for selecting only the healthiest and most perfectly ripened agaves.3 Amigos is an affordable alternative to the high-priced tequilas and rivals their flavor. It comes in several varieties, including Organic Blanco, a USDA-certified organic tequila. They also have 3 Amigos Blanco, which is double-distilled and bottled, 3 Amigos Reposado, double-distilled and aged for 11 months in charred white oak barrels; and 3 Amigos Anejo, aged in oak barrels for two years, giving it a distinct and balanced flavor of agave, oak, vanilla, and a light caramel body.
SideBar
Yes, that is half of a lime, muddled and resting at the bottom of your frosty, salted glass. And trust us, a good amount of lime makes all the difference in this Mexican cocktail. A margarita at this retro (and very metro), dimly lit uptown bar will run you $6 — order one during happy hour (Monday through Friday from 4 to 7 p.m.) and it's $4. The semi-charming (also very metro) bartender pours a heavy-yet-smooth combination of Jose Cuervo Gold, triple sec, and fresh lime juice that he swears will prevent a hangover. Fair warning: The fresh juice won't get you down the flight of narrow stairs and out the exit after you've had a couple.
Scottsdale-based Cruz Tequila has numerous cocktail recipes for its 100 percent blue agave tequilas, whether you prefer blanco, reposado, or anejo. There's the Cruz Refresco with a splash of cola, the Paloma with grapefruit juice, and the self-proclaimed Perfect Margarita with agave nectar. For our discerning tastes, though, nothing comes close to the Cruz Cucumber Margarita. Muddle two ounces of Cruz blanco with one squeezed lime, two cucumber wheels, and one ounce of agave nectar. Shake with ice, add a splash of water, and serve over ice. If you've mixed it right, the resultant beverage will taste like plunging head-first into a blue agave waterfall. Drink responsibly, and save one for us.
Z'Tejas Grill
We've been around long enough to recall when Z'Tejas was barely a chain — just one here and a couple of outposts in Texas. Today, that's changed, with restaurants in five states and four locations in the Valley alone.Good, we say. That just means more Chambord margaritas for the masses. Smoother than a Slurpee and more lethal than just about any cocktail we've sampled, Z'Tejas' frozen marg stands up to any others, just on its own. But pour a shot of raspberry Chambord liqueur over the top, and you've got our idea of heaven. Also our idea of a hangover. But that's okay. We'll just put off the inevitable by ordering another one.
Sky Lounge
A nonstop war for supremacy is waged every weekend among the discotheques of downtown Phoenix. Believe us, it's quite the fight. The club-on-club combat is particularly punchy among the boîtes of Washington Street, with venues like Sky Lounge and Bar Smith battling for bigger turnouts and sheer volume. From what we've seen (and heard), Sky Lounge is the clear winner on both fronts, as its lines are longer and its sounds are doubly deafening. The two-story spot has continually trumped its neighbors and nearby Hispanic hot spots alike for years, thanks to having twice the dancing space as well as a later closing time of 4 a.m. Sky's wide selection of music and quality of turntablist talent is also a big factor. Latin Passion Fridays with Enigma and Waldo is purely about salsa and other sounds of seduction. And sabados are also gigante, as the DJ trio of Daffy, Kyko, and Mario paints from an ear-pleasing palette of cumbia, bachata, and merengue for hundreds of bouncing bodies. It usually results in some seriously sweaty shenanigans on a Saturday night.

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