You can find some of the best red or green pozole in town on an otherwise unremarkable stretch of Van Buren. And you can find it early in the day, as this wonderfully fragrant restaurant opens daily (except Tuesdays) at 9 a.m. Pozole for breakfast? Why not? Especially when it's served spicy and hot with a pile of freshly chopped iceberg lettuce, white onion, and cilantro. Top your steaming bowl of pozole with the shredded green cabbage, chopped white onion, and cilantro provided, and fish out the tender hunks of pork with some of the chicharrones provided. And just in case you need it, every table comes with a small bottle of Mexican oregano. Our guess: With pozole this good, you won't need it.

There's more to Mexican seafood than fish tacos, and if there's one place in Phoenix to experience mariscos, it is El Pacifico, a colorful family-owned seafood eatery in Central Phoenix. This is the sort of place where bringing a group and ordering one of everything is never a bad idea, just so the menu can be fully appreciated. Start with a platter of briny oysters topped with lime-soaked rock shrimp, hot sauce, and avocado; follow up with a tostada piled high with shrimp and fish ceviche and a callo de hacha aguachile; then take a slight break with a fresh coconut stuffed to almost overflowing with a cóctel de campechana (a mixture of shrimp, oysters, octopus, and fish) and tender coconut flesh. Finish off the meal with a fragrant bowl of caldo de siete mares or caldo largo, Mexican seafood soups that rival the best French bouillabaisse in their flavor and variety.

There's value in restaurants that dedicate themselves to doing one thing, and doing it well. When it comes to the tacos at Tacos Sonora Grill, there's only one choice to make: corn or flour tortillas. No matter what your choice, those generously sized tacos (no two-bite minuscule tortillas to be found here) will be filled with carne asada and only carne asada. Tender and juicy, with a good dose of smoke from the charcoal grill, the carne comes in three forms: as a taco, a tostada-quesadilla hybrid, or as a beef-stuffed quesadilla. Try all three for $7.

As much as we like to think we're mavens in the kitchen and can whip up a flavorful marinade on the fly to go with any meat, our grill thanks us every time we get our carne asada from the folks at Carnicería Sonora. Buy it preparada (as in drenched in their own marinade) or try your hand at your own seasoning. Either way, this butcher shop is ready to stock your next tailgate party or afternoon spent grilling on the patio, with a selection of beef, chicken and pork products, prepared salsas, fantastic guacamole made on the premises, and 12-packs of BBQ-appropriate beer. It doesn't get any easier, or better-tasting than this.

Los Altos Ranch Market
Timur Guseynov

Calling Los Altos Ranch Market a grocery store is like calling the Great Wall of China a fence. This massive food emporium contains everything one might need for a fantastic Mexican meal: fresh epazote, dried avocado leaves, freshly made tortillas, masa to make your own tamales, 20 kinds of dried chiles, giant whole beef heads . . . Dig a little through every flavor-packed aisle and you'll be rewarded with whole cacao beans, dry purple Peruvian corn for making chicha morada, and every type of bean used in Latin America.

Nothing makes us think of a childhood spent in Mexico more than entering a panadería, grabbing a round aluminum tray, a pair of tongs, and getting busy picking out favorites from the racks and cases brimming with freshly baked pan de dulce, cookies, and individual cakes. From flaky palmeras and sturdy, nearly overfilled empanadas to airy, fragrant sugar-topped conchas amd crusty-on-the-outside, soft-on-the-inside bolillo rolls, Panaderia y Tortilleria Guerrero nails them all.

2829 North 32nd Street, #30
602-381-3778
La Santisima Gourmet Taco Shop

Nothing pairs as well with spicy Mexican food as a tall glass of horchata. Sure, a margarita will get the job done, but when you're sweating bullets and looking for something to cool the flames in your mouth, there's only one drink that can really meet your needs. When you consider that La Santisima Gourmet Taco Shop (with another location in Glendale) is known for having some of the best salsas in town, it makes sense that the restaurant also has some of the best horchata. It's not your standard pre-mixed agua fresca. The restaurant's version is loaded with fruit and pecans, giving it a depth of flavor that's seriously unique. There's no grittiness to the rice-based drink, just a hint of melon, and a nutty flavor that's perfect when balanced by a salsa-drenched taco or two.

Barrio Cafe

From start to finish, chef Silvana Salcido Esparza delivers Mexican cuisine at its finest at her longstanding Central Phoenix restaurant. You'll want to begin the experience with an order of the award-winning guacamole and finish with the churros rellenos de cajeta de cabra. The dessert comes with two churros dusted in cinnamon sugar. The combination of hot, doughy churros and scoops of vanilla ice cream should be tantalizing enough, but Esparza ups the ante by filling each churro with cajeta de carba, or goat's milk caramel. You're going to want more of this thick, gooey sauce than can fit inside the deep-fried sticks of dough, and luckily, Esparza also drizzles some over the ice cream and the plate. We suggest dipping the churros in the pool of nutty, caramel sauce. We've been known to eat it straight off our spoon when the rest of the dessert's all gone.

Raspados Paradise Mexican Restaurant
Minerva Rincon

If you're still thinking that a raspado is just the Mexican version of a Slurpee, you need to step out of the convenience store and find yourself a real raspado shop. We wish our corner 7-Eleven had chunks of tamarindo swirled into the cups of ice, or thick strawberry or mango syrups with — you guessed it — real fruit in them. But it just doesn't. And until it does, we'll be hitting Raspados Paradise Mexican Restaurant for our icy treats. Just don't judge us for choosing to have it topped with a sweet drizzle of Lechera, sweetened condensed milk.

Paletas Betty

If it seems the paleta game is a one-woman show in the Valley, that's because it is. Drawing from her upbringing in Michoacán, the paleta and ice cream epicenter of Mexico, Betty Alatorre de Hong, has been creating seasonal and addictive frozen fruit treats since 2010, stamping each one with her signature bite mark, earning national press, and even taking the time to create a perroleta for her canine clients. We can't say no to the refreshing pepino paleta, the rum-spiked piña colada, or a classic pure mango paleta, but we like to check back to see what seasonal treats Betty has in her freezer.

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