For 10 bucks, you could do worse than the crazy-good grilled chicken meal served at this no-frills Mexican meat shop and market in Scottsdale. Served up hot 'n' ready from a giant outdoor charcoal grill, these boldly seasoned and deliciously smoky whole chickens get packed to-go with corn tortillas, a pint each of rice and hot dog-studded beans, and fresh, spicy salsa. The fowl-focused feast easily will feed more than one person, so if you're going solo, prepare for some tasty leftovers.

San Carlos Bay Seafood Restaurant

As Valley dwellers, we're lucky to never be too far from a place that serves zingy Mexican-style seafood cocktails, stews, and ocean-centric eats. Our hangout, at the moment, is San Carlos Bay — the little house in the shadow of State Route 51 that's been around for over 25 years. Here, you'll find plump shrimp baked with cheese in a deep green poblano cream sauce, a white fish fillet soaked in garlic, and a "super" cocktail loaded with delicacies like sea snails and baby clams. A lazy Susan loaded with sauces at each table makes it easy to give your seafood an extra kick.

Raspados Paradise Mexican Restaurant
Minerva Rincon

Corn gnawed right off the cob is a delicious thing, but even better is a warm cup of grilled white corn kernels, bathed in butter, with just a hint of mayo, and topped with cotija and Valentina. All the taste of an elote, but none of the mess. Nestled in a relatively quiet spot at the very crowded Arizona Mills, Raspados Paradise's coctel de elote gives you a taste of Mexico City, allowing you to walk, eat, and avoid pushy mall vendors while engulfed in edible bliss.

Not needing any help with the heat is the aptly named Shrimp in a Very Hot Sauce, or camarones a la diabla.
Jackie Mercandetti
Not needing any help with the heat is the aptly named Shrimp in a Very Hot Sauce, or camarones a la diabla.

For those without the good fortune of having pozole served up regularly at home, pop into this spartan eatery in Mesa for a soul-soothing bowl of what just might be the perfect Mexican comfort food. Served up as pozole rojo, Taquitos Jalisco's red chile-laced broth features bone-on chunks of beef, puffy, chewy pieces of hominy, and a plate loaded up with cilantro, white onion, shredded cabbage, and slices of lime to flavor your pozole as you please. Served up in a giant bowl, it will feed you today and, most likely, tomorrow, too.

The folks at La Sonorense realize that a thick and chewy flour tortilla is a terrible thing, so they make their tortillas, available from 5-inch taco all the way to 15-inch burro size, into delicate paper-thin and par-cooked disks, selling them out by the two-dozen pack in their tiny, friendly cash-only shop on Central. The best thing about par-cooked tortillas? Getting the thrill of seeing a tortilla poof up into a perfect pillow without all that rolling and flour dust everywhere.

La Sonorense's primary business is to supply local restaurants, and chances are if you've had a fantastic flour tortilla anywhere in town, it is one of theirs. Their corn tortillas are equally delicious, but it's even better to pick up their tortilla masa, sold still warm by the pound, and try your hand at making them at home.

Joyride Taco House
Nikki Buchanan

For those who consider chips and salsa the dynamic duo of Mexican eats, we present Joyride Taco House. In downtown Gilbert, this energetic taquería (from the folks behind Federal Pizza, Windsor, and Postino) serves up a dazzling default fire-roasted salsa and bottomless basket of crunchy housemade tortilla chips, then ups the ante with specialty salsas of bright tomatillo, bold and smoky chile de arbol, slightly fruity guajillo pepita, and charred habanero available for a few extra bucks. Boozy housemade aguas frescas to wash 'em down with? They've got those, too. (And good news: Joyride is expected to open a location on Central Avenue north of Camelback Road in December.)

Barrio Cafe

Purists may argue that on the subject of guacamole, less is more. But then, they've probably never had legendary Valley chef Silvana Salcido Esparza's Guacamole del Barrio. Bulked out with diced tomato, red onion, jalapeño, lime juice, cilantro, and juicy pomegranate seeds, this gourmet twist on a classic is nothing short of sublime – one whose flavorful enhancements might cause even the most hardened of purists to wonder why the avocado-based dip couldn't have just started out this way in the first place.

Los Altos Ranch Market
Timur Guseynov

With the entirety of the Pro's Ranch Market produce department at their disposal, this oasis within the madness of this supermercado is built on the colorful contents of the now-ubiquitous beehive glass jugs. Not only do the friendly ladies behind the juice bar make a mean (sadly, virgin) piña colada, but there is something awe-inspiring in watching 30 gallons of horchata being made in one batch.

Are you a refreshment seeker of the unusual sort? Then you'll want to wrap your lips around the chamoy-coated straw of a bebida exotica at this cheery sweet shop in Mesa. Colorful, bold, and jam-packed with ingredients like fresh mango, tamarind candy, plum syrup, flavored shaved ice, and cinnamon, the 21-ounce liquid invigorators might be creamy and fruity (the Gloria), sour and nutty (the Chamoyada), or devilishly sweet and spicy (our favorite, the Diablito). One thing they never are, though, is forgettable.

Paletas Betty

With her kitschy logo and signature bite mark on every paleta (don't worry; it's a mold, not from her mouth), Betty stays at the top of the frozen-treat business in this town for two very good reasons: The insistence of using all-natural and fresh ingredients and the melding of traditional Mexican flavors with a modern twist.

With her roots in Michoacán, the ice cream- and paleta-churning state of Mexico, Betty Alatorre de Hong fills her paleta molds with a colorful array of the best seasonal offerings of the Valley's farmers, like dates, peaches, and sweet corn, accented with raisins.

One of our new favorites? The very adult-appropriate aged-rum-spiked piña colada. And one more reason to love Paletas Betty? The Perroleta, a dogs-only chicken popsicle!

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