Best Tortillas 2010 | Verde | La Vida | Phoenix
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.
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.
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.
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.
Patricia Escarcega
The unforgettable carne adovada at Dick's Hideaway is the same recipe that used to be served at the late, great (and soon-to-reopen, in a different location) Richardson's. When that restaurant succumbed to fire last year, we were beyond relieved that our favorite dish could still be had at the Hideaway. Why? It's the kind of food that revives you when you're hungover or fills your belly when you're ready for a night of drinking or simply puts a smile on your face on any otherwise uneventful day. The pork is smoky and tender, simmered in a complex red chile sauce that's blazingly hot but too flavorful to stop eating. To taste it is to become addicted to it.
Allison Young
There are few greater tributes to the glory of pork than how chef Silvana Salcido Esparza does it at Barrio Cafe. Yes, her cochinita pibil is one of her most famous dishes and, no, it can't be bested by anyone around. Slow-roasted for 12 hours — until it's falling apart and truly does melt in your mouth — the pork is smothered in achiote rojo and sour orange, just the way they make it in the Yucatán. If you have the time and appetite, we recommend just ordering the cochinita platter, which is piled with enticing meat. Trust us, you'll go overboard and enjoy every bite. We also like it tucked into small, street-style tacos for a satisfying lunch. Pig out!
We figured we were in for some good tacos as soon as we spotted the salsa bar at this hip little 16th Street hangout. Freshly made pico de gallo, smoky chipotle salsa, luscious cilantro crema, strawberry salsa, and kicky tomatillo salsa were just a few of the offerings, all intended to dress up tacos so good they hardly need any embellishment. Zesty chicken tinga, carne asada, deep-fried dogfish shark, savory Oaxacan black mole, and juicy, slow-roasted cochinita pibil are among the stellar fillings available, tucked into freshly griddled tortillas that you can inhale in just a few bites. Mix and match for maximum enjoyment.
Jackie Mercandetti Photo
This teeny neighborhood joint has been around for more than 30 years, which may come as a surprise to the uninitiated. How can owner Rosemary Salinas get a line of people out the door when her restaurant has no seating (except for a few picnic tables outside), no sign, and a limited menu? The answer's simple if you've ever eaten her food: These burros just rock. It doesn't matter whether you're obsessed with the spicy red chile burro, plump with moist shredded beef, or the amazing green chile version, packed with chunks of pork so tender you hardly need teeth. They're made with excellent tortillas, they're made with love, and they've gained enough word-of-mouth fame locally that we're sure we'll be writing about them forever. (We can only hope.)

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