Best Chiles Rellenos 2012 | Los Jarritos Restaurant | La Vida | Phoenix
Katie Walter

If an omelet arrives on your table at this cute and quirky family-owned Phoenix lunch spot, do not send it back. And, by all means, avoid any temptation to pick up a fork. That's your chile relleno, dude. How to enjoy it best? Simply lift and place the soft yellow mass, topped with splotches of melted cheddar cheese and bright red salsa, onto the accompanying platter-size tortilla, wrap it up burrito-style, and take a generous bite. The reward comes almost immediately: the rich flavor of roasted Hatch chile, along with egg and cheese, and the sting of the tomatoey salsa. It might be the best chile relleno breakfast burrito you've had — and probably the only one.

Forget burritos and tacos — it's all about the pupusas. There are a few places in town that make these Salvadoran specialties, but time and time again, Restaurante Salvadoreño #3 serves the very best. A pillowy, soft outer tortilla sandwiches your choice of filling for just $2.15 apiece. For a unique taste from El Salvador, try the loroco pupusa, which features edible flowers that have a mild flavor similar to artichoke. The carne asada, pollo, and revueltas varieties are meaty and filling without being greasy. All the ingredients that Restaurante Salvadoreño #3 uses are high-quality and have rich, fresh flavor, making these pupusas good enough to eat for breakfast, lunch, and dinner — all on the same day.

Chris Malloy

At this no-frills eatery on 16th Street (part of a family-owned mini-chain) you can choose from around 20 varieties of the popular, monster-size Mexican sandwich, each for about five or six bucks. Stuffed with meat, thick slices of avocado, pickled jalapeños, lettuce, tomato, and mayo on soft, round telera bread, we like the milanesa de pollo (breaded chicken), Cubana (piled with ham, pork, and cheese), and the packs-a-punch cochinita featuring slow-cooked pulled pork simmered with achiote, orange juice, and spices. Delicious.

The patio floor is painted bright yellow, and the entire restaurant — inside and out — is covered in fantastic blue murals with sea creatures, lighthouses, and mermaids. It's the perfect over-the-top ambiance for a seafood restaurant that serves delicious dishes, such as an octopus tostada and ceviche with raw shrimp that's been "cooked" in pure lemon juice.

Our favorite is the traditional coctel (cocktail) with shrimp and bits of finely chopped cucumber, onion, and tomato, all floating in a perfectly seasoned shrimp juice extract — not just the salted water you might find at lesser establishments. But the most popular item on the menu is the Super Coctel — an explosion of flavors with shrimp, octopus, squid, sea snail, baby clams, oysters, raw shrimp and ceviche. And their pescado veracruzano is another great catch — a whole tilapia doused with Las Glorias' salsa ranchero and covered with chopped carrots, peas, olives, and fresh jalapeños.
Katie Walter

Tuesdays are our favorite days at this bright and welcoming North Phoenix restaurant serving Jalisco-style Mexican fare. That's when Maria and Mark Altmaier serve up their luscious chicken mole. Simmered for hours and with a list of ingredients that could fill a page or more, the Altmaier's rich, thick, chocolate-tinged sauce can be had over tender pieces of chicken or as chicken mole enchiladas, which also are available on weekends.

Katie Johnson

Psst, want some crazy-good carne asada cooked over an open flame right in front of you? Step right up — to the counter — and order one of three vehicles for its delivery: tacos, a burrito, or a plate. A guy takes your name and hands you a 5-by-7-inch styrofoam tray. Take the tray over to the condiment bar, and pile it high with diced onions and cilantro, Mexican limes, sliced marinated carrots, shredded cabbage, sliced cucumbers, sliced marinated red onion, and any one of the five or six salsas available. You're gonna need this stuff because when your name is called, all you'll get is that delicious asada and its tortilla. It's up to you to do the rest. Not that this medium-rare skirt steak isn't delicious on its own — pleasantly salty, tender, and lightly marinated. The $6 plate of asada makes four decent-size tacos, which should fill you up without breaking the bank.

Lauren Saria

Sure, there are plenty of New Mexican joints we love in the Valley, but when it comes to carne adovada, Los Dos Molinos is one place we keep coming back to. With four locations in the Valley, this family-owned chain from founder Victoria Chavez serves up carne adovada as large chunks of slow-cooked marinated pork, perfectly prepared, tender and moist, and swimming in a red chile stew whose flavor is instantly memorable. The consistency is reminiscent of good mole, and the flavor is nearly as complex. But then there's the spiciness that makes it so excellent — not jolting or tongue-searing, exactly, but deep and kicky enough to remind us why we like spicy food in the first place.

Heather Hoch
Sonoran hot dog

Don't go looking for Nogales Hot Dog during the day — it doesn't exist. Operating only at night in a makeshift setup in a parking lot on the southwest corner of Indian School Road and 20th Street, owner Pablo Perez and wife Monica set up every evening around dusk and sell dogs until around the time the bars close. With a tent, a few picnic tables, and a TV, dog biters can get their bacon-wrapped wiener con todo (with everything) or belly up to the condiment stand where shredded cheddar, crumbly cotija, a considerably spicy salsa verde, and even some sliced mushrooms await. It's a delicious mess, especially after a few beers at one of Indian School's numerous watering holes, where ordering up more than one just goes with the late-night groove.

Natalie Miranda

This Mexican restaurant pours one of the most authentic-tasting glasses of horchata (a blended rice water) we've had in a long time. Unlike most of the horchata you find — dispensed from a machine and almost too sweet to drink without adding extra water — this refreshing beverage has an earthy rice and cinnamon flavor and is scooped out of a giant water jug.

It's the same for the rest of the aguas frescas that complement the tasty meals at Birrieria Obregon. They come in four other made-fresh-daily flavors — cebada (barley), jamaica, limón, and piña. The pineapple and lemon drinks have bits of fresh fruit floating in the glass — further proof that these are authentic, homemade, and not mixed from powder.

If you think a paleta is just another Popsicle, then you need to try one of Betty Alatorre de Hong's paletas. It's anything but your average pop. Betty uses only the finest of ingredients — fresh fruits, fresh cream, and even fresh ground spices — and combines them with a little bit of magic and a lot of love to create a truly unique paleta. We love Betty's take on Mexican hot chocolate, the Sandia with fresh watermelon and basil, and the seasonal Datil made with fresh Medjool dates from Gilbert's Agritopia and sprinkled with toasted almonds. A real treat any time of year.

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