Spicy chorizo, scrambled egg, soft, diced potatoes, and melted cheddar cheese all wrapped in a warm tortilla. Yep, most can agree that nothing gets better than biting into a homestyle breakfast burrito after a long day or night. El Norteño, the quintessential hole-in-the-wall restaurant in downtown Phoenix, on Seventh Avenue and Roosevelt, meets your need for comfort food in a tortilla. Heck, if the urge is there, add beans or maybe even sour cream to the already perfect burrito. If chorizo isn't quite your thing, opt for a burrito filled with ham or bacon instead. The joint is cash only, so come prepared.
There's a reason this little restaurant boasts snaking lines of hungry patrons during the daily lunch rush. It's because smart diners know this lunch-only downtown Phoenix eatery serves seriously satisfying Mexican fare that's always worth the wait. The green chile burrito is one of our favorite dishes, with tender beef smothered in spicy green chile sauce. Big eaters also can opt to have their burrito come chimichanga-style and covered in a layer of cheese and sauce. Just don't count on making it back to the office after eating such a serious gut bomb.
From the outside, this Mexican restaurant looks like nothing much, but don't let the cheesy signage and gaudy paint job fool you. Taco Mich is our go-to spot for tacos, particularly on Friday and Saturday nights. When we need late-night weekend eats, we head here for the best $1 al pastor tacos. Here's how it works: You place your order inside at the counter and the cashier gives you a pink ticket. You take the ticket outside to the grill, where you trade it in for a plate of fresh tacos al pastor. The meat is crispy, flavorful, and studded with pieces of fat. Sprinkle onions and cilantro as you wish to kick things up a notch and be sure to get a few cups of the smoky red salsa offered on the side. It starts out with a nice spice, but builds up to a solid burn as you go.
Enchiladas are not uncommon. Mexican or not, almost everyone knows how to put together the easy dish. So how is it possible for a restaurant to differentiate itself from the competition? For one thing, the use of housemade tortillas. Menuderia Guanajuato lines up six fresh enchiladas rolled with chicken and topped with your choice of red or green sauce, fresh sour cream, and cotija cheese. Most other restaurants forget about the chicken inside, not giving much thought to whether it's moist or flavorful, but not Menuderia Guanajuato. Special care is given to each element wrapped in and topped on those enchiladas. The cotija cheese, sour cream, and even the lettuce (usually just a space filler) all play a role in the six enchiladas hogging all the room on your plate.
Unwrapping a moist, steaming tamale is reminiscent of ripping into a gift as a kid. The excitement that comes from the anticipation of finding out what's inside only intensifies once expectation and reality meet. Tearing into a plump green chicken and cheese tamale from La Tolteca brings excitement that doesn't have to wait until the holiday season. The moist masa engulfs melted Monterrey Jack cheese and sliced green chile accompanied by moist chicken. For those who are more enticed by those things that are sweet, order one of Tolteca's strawberry or pineapple tamales . . . or both. Don't stop with those, they also make red beef and carnitas tamales, all for only $1.99 apiece.
Gallo Blanco, located in the Clarendon Hotel, isn't the hole-in-the-wall kind of Mexican restaurant you usually look to for simple south-of-the-border cuisine. But that's part of the charm of chef Doug Robson's menu — the restaurant's tacos, enchiladas, and tortas compete with some of the best. And when it comes to the Nacho Torta in particular, we're confident in saying it's the best Mexican sandwich in town. The hearty entrée is served on a fluffy telera sourced from La Sonorense bakery and comes loaded with excellent rib eye, the restaurant's addictingly good charred tomato salsa, fresh avocado, and not one, but two over-easy eggs. For smaller appetites, half tortas are available, though we usually go for a whole and save the other half for later.
Every region of this great country has its own way of serving the all-American hot dog. In Arizona and throughout the Southwest, we live and die by Sonoran hot dogs. When guests come into town boasting about the merits of a hog dog "dragged through the garden," we take them directly to Nogales Hot Dog, on the southwest corner of Indian School Road and 20th Street. Open only during the evenings, the hot dog spot — okay, it's really a makeshift stand with a tent and a few picnic tables — serves a prime example of our regional dog. Each wiener comes topped with pinto beans, tomatoes, onions, and a mayo spread. You also can hit the condiment table to add salsas, cheese, and other toppings as you see fit.
For those who find it hard to swallow menudo, pozole is the route to take. Thick chunks of tender, flavorful pork, along with hominy float together in the bowls of fresh pozole at Los Taquitos. The aroma of the steaming soup fills the nostrils, making it hard to resist. Pozole is not found in many restaurants, nor is it readily available any time of the day. It's also not an easy soup to construct, so when we find someone who can put together pozole without skimping on any of the flavors and charging only $6 a bowl, we hold on to them.
No one likes being told that they can order menudo only on weekends. There are times when the day's events call for a soothing bowl of deep red or bright white menudo filled with fresh tripe and soft hominy. Rosita's Place knows about those days and caters to us the way we remember our grandmothers doing when we were young. The time spent on each batch of menudo is evident with the bold flavors that swirl in our mouth. Go ahead, squeeze a lemon wedge in it or toss some onion and cilantro — maybe even oregano — on top, but we guarantee that all you'll need are fresh tortillas to dip in the rich broth.