Best Carne Asada 2014 | Asadero Norte de Sonora | La Vida | Phoenix
Chris Malloy

Much of the draw of this 16th Street spot is the whole grilled chickens, which will set you back less than $10 but easily can satisfy a whole family. And they're really good. But it's not the chicken that keeps us coming back. It's the carne asada. Whether we're taking out or dining in, we almost always get an order of Asadero's street-style tacos, which come in a variety of types, including lengua and al pastor. They're all solid options, but the carne asada is the best. The restaurant does an excellent job of producing flavorful, moist grilled steak, and we've yet to find a better option in town. You also can get your carne in burrito form, though we think the tacos allow you to better appreciate the meat inside.

Walk past the display of balloons, down the aisles of hot sauce, chips, and beans. It's then you'll know you've made it to the meat section of El Rancho Market. Every part of the chicken is available — all you have to decide is whether or not you want it marinated. It's beef you want? Take your pick among center shank, short ribs, and liver, and if you're really feeling it, grab some tongue. If making pozole has been on your list of things to do, El Rancho sells the right pork meat for your endeavor. And don't worry, El Rancho's seafood section goes well beyond shrimp and stuffed salmon. Whole octopus, blue crab, and catfish nuggets are a few of the more exciting choices.

Timur Guseynov

From the giant pots to the corn husks and masa you'll need to make tamales, Ranch Market has you covered. The produce aisle offers a bounty of produce both familiar and exotic. And you can get fresh juices, baked goods, rotisserie chicken, and just about anything you can think of, including hard-to-find Mexican spices and cerveza to wash them down with.

Jamie Peachey

There's a reason La Purisima has taken the crown as the best panadería. It's not stuck in a vortex of only spitting out multi-colored conchas, which, let's face it, aren't that great to begin with. No, La Purisima gives customers every reason to drool over the pastries inside the cases. If you've got to cure a molasses craving, you've stepped into the right building. Not only are the pastries sweet, but so are the workers, who know you'll need extra time to decide on the options. Just don't hold up the line by getting entranced by the machine in the back sending out the fresh tortillas.

Sarah Whitmire

Don't even bother trying to convince us that there's a place in town making better tortillas than Carolina's. This restaurant has been doing them perfectly for as long as we can remember. There are lots of Mexican restaurants in town and many of them make good tortillas, but none achieves the level of fame that has come to this Phoenix institution. Carolina's tortillas are made in-house and arrive fresh off the grill nice and hot. We'll never be able to understand how Carolina's manages to make them paper-thin and yet able to stretch around more burrito contents than we ever thought possible. It's a good thing, too, because without such a strong tortilla base, there's no way you'd be able to enjoy Carolina's food without spilling green chile sauce and grease all over your shirt.

Allison Young

We've said it once and we'll say it again: Chef Silvana Salcido Esparza's guacamole is the best in town. True, there's something to be said about a simple, well-executed bowl of creamy guacamole, but we can't help dreaming about the heartier, fancier version found at the chef's famous Barrio Cafe. Her guacamole features fresh avocados, tomato, red onion, cilantro, jalapeño, lime juice, and pomegranate seeds to make for a dip that's anything but boring. The balance between tart and sweet makes it addicting. Yes, the fanfare of the tableside show comes with a larger-than-average price, but we promise you won't regret the extra dollars once you try it.

Best of Phoenix 2014: Legend City / Goat Cheese

In Spanish, its name means "goat sucker," which is meant not as a pejorative but rather a description of the dietary habits of the chupacabra, a mythical creature who's occasionally seen stalking the desert. The name comes from the animal's penchant for killing and drinking the blood of small animals, especially goats.

In terms of legendary creatures, the chupacabra is relatively young. Early sightings occurred in Puerto Rico in 1995, and domestic visits from the little monster also have been reported. The goat-sucker also must be a shape-shifter, because descriptions of it vary. In Russia, it's the size of a bear, with spines from its head to its tail; in Maine, it's more dog-like, with long, sharp teeth and bald, pink skin. And there have been plenty of sightings near metro Phoenix. Always, the chupacabra has a sour disposition and a thing for eating other animals.

Biologists and wildlife management officials consider the chupacabra a contemporary legend and usually explain it away as a rabid dog. A five-year study by scientist Benjamin Radford failed to prove either the animal's existence or the reports that it drains its victims of their blood. Radford concluded that reports of chupacabra — at least in the United States — are in fact dogs and coyotes with mange, which causes their fur to fall out and their skin to bunch up and thicken.

Otherworldly creatures? Mangy dogs? No matter — the chupacabra has gone small-screen, and that makes it real. CNN's Ed Lavandera has discussed the chupacabra on air, describing it as the "Bigfoot of Latino culture." Better yet: The goat-sucker has had a featured role in something called Scooby-Doo! and the Monster of Mexico.

Making good salsa is not easy. Finding the balance of chiles, garlic, and salt while still imparting a memorable flavor is sometimes best left to those who have been doing it for years. The folks at Carniceria Los Piños put out a refrigerator full of three different kinds of salsas and a spicy guacamole every day. Choose from two red salsas — the classic, which leaves a welcomed burning sensation causing you to reach for more, and the totalmente salsa, with its roasted pepper taste. The salsa verde is an all-time favorite, made with fresh tomatillos and excellent on just about anything it touches.

Elote (simply put, corn) has gained favor in respected restaurants, making its way onto menus for about $5. So, sure, you could say it's trendy. But head down to South Phoenix and there lies the mecca of Mexican street foods, with prices equivalent to the streets. Instead of serving corn on the cob, Fruitlicious slices off the corn from the cob and puts it in a cup with a dollop of mayo, lime juice, cotija, and chili powder. It's a mess-free way to indulge in the hot and creamy goodness of an all-time favorite without having to fork out unnecessary money that very well could be spent on the other enticing snacks Fruitlicious creates.

Best of Phoenix 2014: Legend City / Miranda Rights and Wrongs

There are people who believe that Ernesto Arturo Miranda was murdered in a setup by angry cops out for retribution, because he's the reason they have to read you your Miranda rights every time they bust you. Still others think Miranda's death in a knife fight in a seedy Phoenix bar was a grisly fait accompli.

Born in Mesa in 1941, Miranda was trouble from the word "go." His first criminal conviction came in the eighth grade. By the following year, he'd been booked on burglary charges and sent to reform school. Later, after his release, Miranda served time in Los Angeles for various petty crimes and was extradited to Arizona once he was free.

On March 13, 1963, Miranda was hauled into a Phoenix station house on rape and kidnapping charges, having been positively identified by victim Lois Ann Jameson. After two hours of investigation, during which time he was never informed of his rights, Miranda confessed to the crimes.

Sentenced to 20 to 30 years on both charges, Miranda appealed to the Arizona Supreme Court in June 1965. The American Civil Liberties Union and attorneys from the law firm Lewis and Roca represented Miranda, arguing that his Fifth Amendment rights — to remain silent and not to incriminate himself — had been violated.

He won the appeal but lost a retrial and, based on evidence against him, went to prison anyway. Still, his victory was the mandatory reading of rights ("You have the right to remain silent. If you give up the right to remain silent, anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law . . .") by every arresting police officer in the country.

Paroled in 1972, the ex-con made his living selling autographed Miranda warning cards for $1.50 and got busted a bunch more times. After being released from what would be his last prison sentence, Miranda was killed in that knife fight. His murderer has never been positively identified. The lead suspect, a Mexican national named Eseziquiel Moreno, supposedly headed back to Tijuana and escaped prosecution.

According to legend, Miranda's pockets were stuffed with autographed Miranda Rights cards on the night he died.

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