El Pollo Supremo
Heather Hoch
At El Pollo Supremo, there are only two things on the menu: meat and more meat. You can choose between the standard carne asada or our favorite, the electric red pollo asado. This odd take on traditional grilled chicken gets its neon red color courtesy of achiote paste, and its smoky char from a quick stint on the grill. The pollo asado at El Pollo Supremo is served with a soupy pile of pintos, pickled purple onions, smooth salsa, and your choice of corn or flour tortillas. Whose pollo asado reigns supreme? El Pollo Supremo's, natch.
La Salsita
Tacos may well be the perfect food — but not all tacos are created equal. Pre-formed taco shells? Cafeteria swill. Deep-fried tacos? We'll leave those to Jack in the Box. Street tacos? Now we're talking. Double-lined corn tortillas wrapped around mounds of succulent meat. And at La Salsita, there's way more than the standard chicken, pork, or beef. Skip the machaca and carnitas for a day and instead try the tripas (pork guts), buche (pork stomach), lengua (beef tongue), or cabeza (beef head) tacos. The grilled onion on the side and fully stocked salsa bar can make even the weirdest-sounding meat irresistible. Make sure to load up on the silky smooth avocado salsa, and snag some pickled carrots.
Sonora Mesquite Grill
Sonora Mesquite Grill serves the self-proclaimed "Best Carne Asada This Side of the Border," and we're inclined to agree. Sonoran-style steak marinated and grilled to juicy perfection — the flavor is slightly sweet from the citrus marinade (laced with cumin and chiles) and smoky (from a hot mesquite grill). Create a carne asada sampler platter out of the two-taco plate with a burrito on the side. (Because a burrito on the side is kind of how we roll — get it?) Add some meaty charro beans, chunky guacamole, and a trio of flavorful salsas, and what do you get? An impromptu carne asada feast in the middle of your living room — no hard work or grilling required.
Sonoran hot dog
Heather Hoch
Sonoran hot dog
Food trucks are trendy now, but before gourmet hot dogs and crème brûlée hit the streets, La Frontera Comida Mexicana was on the scene slinging Mexican food out of the back of a food truck. And La Frontera consistently churns out some of the best burritos in the Valley. Grab some cash (plastic will be declined) and saddle up to the huge food truck at 16th and Van Buren streets. The formidable burritos at La Frontera are nearly big enough for two meals, and they're pure carnivorous bliss, packed with your choice of grilled meat — none of that rice-and-beans filler crap — and plenty of pico de gallo to kick up the flavor.
Los Dos Molinos
Lauren Saria
There's a reason Los Dos Molinos is well known for bringing the heat to its New Mexican dishes, thanks in large part to the burns-so-good carne adovada, pork that is slow-cooked in garlic and red chile sauce until it practically melts in your mouth. Order the burrito or even better the carne adovada ribs. The first bite is mouthwatering flavor, followed by a slow burn that builds until you reach a state of capsaicin-induced euphoria. We recommend a pitcher of margaritas at the ready to help you sweat it out, and a round of honey-drizzled sopaipillas to finish it off.
Barrio Cafe
At Barrio Café, you won't find standard, Sonoran-style Mexican fare. Instead of delivering burritos served with cheese-smothered refried beans, chef Silvana Salcido Esparza has created a menu of modern Mexican food for the urban masses. Complex and creative dishes like the cohinita pibil are what keep us coming back for more. The Yucatan stewed cochinita pibil is a mass of saucy pork slow-roasted in banana leaves until fork-tender. Sour orange and achiote paste lends the dish a rich earthiness, and about halfway through the cochinita pibil platter we're taking a mental Mexican vacay without even having to renew our passport.
Mariscos Playa Hermosa
Lauren Cusimano
Seafood in Arizona generally is the butt of a joke rather than the makings of a tasty night on the town. Mariscos Playa Hermosa is here to assuage our landlocked fears of consuming seafood in desert environs. The mariscos at Playa Hermosa are fresh and briny (in a good way). Take your pick of scallops, calamari, octopus, shrimp, mussels, and just about any other sweet seafood gem. We recommend the Caldo de 7 Mares (7 Seas Soup), a mariscos smorgasbord of seven different ocean critters. And if you're been searching for a shrimp cocktail just like they serve in Puerto Peñasco (minus the sand), look no further than the tomato-doused, citrus-spiked seafood ceviche. Minus the sand.
Tortas Paquime
Tortas are the Mexi-fied version of a lunchtime staple — the sandwich — with meat, cheese, and toppings piled high on a toasted telera roll. We're not talking run-of-the-mill cold cuts, though. At Tortas Paquime, they specialize in hot-from-the-grill carne asada, milanesa, and cochinita with fresh avocado, jalapeo, lettuce, tomato, and mayo. Make sure to try the Torta Ahogada — it's dipped in homemade chile tomato sauce to really push your sammich over the top. Add horchata or a bottle of Mexican Coke and snag a couple colorful pan dulces on your way out, and you'll be a convert. Subway never stood a chance.
El Nopalito
Grilled cheese sandwiches were generally reserved for greasy-spoon diners and kids' menus. Then we discovered pambazos, a Mexican take on the tired grilled cheese sandwich. At El Nopalito, order a pambazo and be treated to a huge, soft bun that is similar to the telera used for tortas. This bun is then dipped in a guajillo chile sauce that adds spice and a bright red color. Afterward, your electric-red pambazo is filled with salty queso fresco and grilled. (You can request that meat be added if you absolutely gotta have it.) Top your pambazo with some crisp, cool lettuce and salsa of choice, and you have a grilled cheese sandwich that is anything but boring.
Comedor Guadalajara
Meagan Simmons
Leave the tortilla soup behind. When we're craving Mexican soup (caldos), we look to Comedor Guadalajara to spice up the routine. And we mean literally, as some of their soups are muy picante. During lunch, you'll be treated to a complimentary bowl of soup with your combo, but it's the grande-size serving of caldo de albondigas that keeps us coming back. Perfectly spiced Mexican meatballs float in a flavorful broth packed with veggies. Or try one of their many seafood soups, like the Caldo de Mariscos 7 Mares, a "seven seas" soup loaded with fish, shrimp, lobster, octopus, squid, clams, and mussels. You don't need to wait for a cold day to slurp away.

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