Best Salsa 2011 | La Condesa Gourmet Taco Shop | La Vida | Phoenix
At La Condesa Gourmet Taco Shop, the tacos are pretty tasty, but it's the brilliant salsa bar that keeps us coming back for more. We seriously have dreams of the pecan salsa. A dozen colorful sweet and savory salsas are on full display to enhance your already gourmet eats. Tried-and-true pico de gallo, tomatillo, and chipotle salsas share space with more unusual offerings like cool cilantro crema, peanut salsa, and pretty-in-pink strawberry salsa. The only thing that's consistent across all of La Condesa's many salsas is that they're so good we could be plenty happy with just chips and free rein at the salsa bar.
Molly's Tamales is a small mom 'n' pop shop in the heart of Glendale that features a huge variety of tamales, from the traditional to the more exotic salmon or nopalito. There are even a couple of sweet tamales to satisfy the dessert-lover, like "roxy road" (choco-mallow) or pineapple with raisins. All of Molly's Tamales are made lard- and shortening-free to keep them light, moist, and not too bad for you. Molly's offers a wide variety of vegetarian tamales and even a couple of vegan options, such as the black bean, corn, and chipotle chile. It all may sound hoity-toity for the humble tamale, but the flavor of these masa bombs will more than sway your opinion.
Sarah Whitmire
Carolina's sets the standard for flour tortillas in the Valley. In a land where Mexican food is found on every corner, we use these giant, tender 'tillas as the baseline for excellence. It's really not fair to the competitors. Carolina's has won "Best Tortillas" more times than we can recall, and with good reason. The tortillas are made in-house and roll off the grill warm and tender. These formidable flour discs somehow manage to be so thin they're almost transparent, yet they hold up to even the sloppiest green chile filling, so you don't end up wearing the contents of your burrito. The flavor and tender texture is amazing solo, dipped, topped, or crisped. The reigning champ retains her title.
Patricia Escarcega
Dick's Hideaway's modern New Mexican eats include some pretty amazing chiles rellenos. You won't find any heavy, cheese-stuffed poblano peppers breaded and deep-fried here. At Dick's, the New Mexican take on the traditional rellenos come packed with your choice of five different fillings, and since you get two per relleno plate, you get to mix and match. They still have the standard (cheese-filled), but we recommend the tender, flavorful duck or smoked turkey. Beef tenderloin and pork aren't too shabby, either, smothered in your choice of red or green chile. So take a break from Dick's tasty carne adovada and indulge in a more modern take on the humble chile relleno.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
Allison Young
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.

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