Tortas are easy enough to find in Arizona. But tortas ahogada? That's going to require a little bit of digging. Fortunately for you (and us), we've done the legwork and have found what may be the best, possibly only, tortas ahogada eatery in the metro area. The Guadalajaran specialty, which literally means "drowned sandwich," takes torta eating to another, albeit messier, level. And at Tortas Ahogadas Guadalajara, this fried pork dish is served between two slices of toasted bolillo bread and drenched in piping hot chile de arbol, a light-but-spicy sauce that may or may not set your tongue on fire. Delicious for many, dangerous for the more sensitive, the tortas ahogada at this Chandler establishment warrant caution as much as they do a tall glass of ice water.

If breathing in the sputtering fumaroles of charcoal-grilled carne asada is your version of heaven, we recommend a lunchtime pilgrimage to Sonora Taco Shop near downtown Phoenix. The tiny restaurant recently underwent a renovation (including a slight re-branding — it used to be known as Tacos Sonora Grill), but the tacos are as good as ever. The spartan menu is devoted exclusively to a handful of popular cuts — carne asada, al pastor, and pollo — but it's more than enough to make your taste buds tingle in anticipation. The carne asada is divine, served blisteringly hot off the grill, and cradled in your choice of flour or corn tortilla. Chase it with a pull from your Mexican Coke bottle for the perfect meal.

Looking for high-quality honeycomb tripe for your weekend pot of menudo? Chicharrón prensado for your gorditas? Suadero beef for your tacos? Carnicería Los Reyes makes it easy to get all those hard-to-find Mexican cuts that you can't locate at your neighborhood big-box grocery store. The service here is friendly, fast, and all the meats are clearly labeled and organized. Plus, the store carries locally made tortillas, and there's a small but well-curated inventory of fruits, veggies, and herbs. Like all good Mexican carnicerías, Los Reyes also carries a fine selection of hot and ready meats like carnitas, barbacoa, and pollo asado, so you don't even have to wait to get home to enjoy your bounty.

A weekend afternoon spent wandering the aisles of Los Altos Ranch Market on Central Avenue is never time wasted. Wander over to the produce section to breathe in the fresh, dewy bundles of hard-to-find herbs like hoja santa. Linger by the cremería, which stocks more than 30 specialty cheeses, for a free sample of queso fresco. Have lunch at the in-house taqueria, where you can order everything from tacos to chile rellenos to carnitas made in house. Wash it all down with a visit to the agua fresca bar, where you can neutralize your heavy lunch with a refreshing cup of fresh watermelon, cucumber, or pineapple agua fresca. And if you managed to spend an afternoon at Los Altos Ranch Market without eating or drinking anything, we congratulate you.

La Reyna Bakery
Natalie Miranda

Even late into the evening, the pan dulce pastries in the bakery cases at La Reyna Bakery are impossibly soft and fresh. This modest neighborhood panadería and repostería produces conchas so fluffy and sweet, they make the dense, grocery-store variety seem like gluten bricks by comparison. Sweet potato empanadas are nutty and tender, and the little Danish-style pastries called manitas are perfect for dunking into your morning cup of coffee or tea. While you're here, stock up on freshly made bolillos, and some of the fluffiest hot dog buns (perfect for your Sonoran dogs) to be found anywhere around town.

No one makes Mexican antojitos ("little cravings") quite like Tim and Kim Cobb, who are best known around the Valley for their popular fleet of United Lunchadores food trucks. At their Calaveras Snack Shop in north Phoenix, you can stop in for a quick sugar pick-me-up in the form of a fresh-out-of-the-fryer churro. As churros go, the cajeta-stuffed churro made at Calaveras is pretty much flawless. The hot, fresh fried dough is beautifully crisp and rolled in cinnamon sugar. Even better, the pastry is filled with molten hot cajeta on the inside. It may sound like a perfect storm for sugar overload, but you certainly won't hear us complaining.

El Migos Water-n-Ice is a small, pleasant ice cream and water shop wedged into a sun-faded west-side strip mall. The shop sells all manner of Mexican snacks, but the house specialty is raspados. The Mexican raspado, in its modern incarnation, is usually composed of a cup of shaved ice bathed in a fruity syrup, and often finished with a dousing of La Lechera condensed milk. Fresh fruit toppings and a sprinkle of salt elevate this simple treat beyond a simple snow cone. Try one of the house Obispos ("bishops") at El Migos, which are essentially raspados topped with your choice of ice cream. As the ice cream melts, the raspado gets frothier and sweeter. The El Migos Obispo raspado is pure indulgence.

Realeza Michoacana

Paletas, the classic Mexican fruit popsicles, used to be the special domain of the neighborhood paletero — the ice pop pushcart vendor whose jingle bells rang merrily across barrios everywhere. Lately, it seems paletas have migrated to the grocery store, where they are strategically located in checkout freezer coolers. But why risk grocery store freezer burn? Realeza Michoacana on 16th Street has been making their own paletas on site for something like 20 years now. And the flavor selection is breathtaking: Mango and chile, bubblegum, pistachio, piña colada, tamarind, and guava are just some of the shop's specialty flavors. Fresh, sweet, and surprisingly bulky, these paletas will never go out of style.

If you've not yet experienced Mercado de Los Cielos at Desert Sky Mall, it's time to take a field trip. What was once a Mervyn's department store has been transformed into a lively Latino marketplace, the kind of place where you can buy a wedding dress, sign up for a new cellphone plan, and sit for a medical consultation with a Mexican herbalist, all without having to set foot inside the actual mall. Still, by far the best reason to visit the Mercado is to eat at its food court, a sprawling collection of food stands serving everything from Mexico City-style pambazo sandwiches to seafood platters of fresh oysters. The hardest part about eating at the Mercado is finding an empty table — the food court is a west-side weekend destination for families, and fills up quickly. Aim for a weekday supper, where you can have your pick of Mexican tortas, quesadillas, seafood, and pretty much anything else your heart and stomach desires.

Sushi Sonora

One of the best places to experience the strange and wondrous alchemy that is Mexican sushi is also one of the oldest Mex-sushi spots around town: Sushi Sonora. Try the restaurant's take on the cielo, mar, y tierra (a surf-and-turf roll made with shrimp, steak, and chicken), or the deep-fried beauty that is the cronchi roll, which is stuffed with shrimp, imitation crab, and cream cheese. Still, if you want to experience Mexican sushi at its fullest, wackiest expression, you'll want to try the Percheron, a massive roll that's named after the famously oversize draft horse. It's an appropriate moniker for this bulky, tinfoil-wrapped roll, which is crammed with carne asada and bacon and capped with enormous amounts of melted cheese. If you survive the Percheron, you can officially proclaim yourself a Mex-sushi veteran.

Best Of Phoenix®

Best Of