Best Al Pastor 2018 | Tacos Calafia | La Vida | Phoenix

It's well worth driving from all corners of the Valley for a taste of Tacos Calafia's Baja-inspired tacos — especially the al pastor. The chile-sluiced pork is rich and extra savory, and skillfully paired with oozing melted cheese and some of the restaurant's house-made, ultra-fresh guacamole salsa. Try it in the house al pastor mulita, which features two freshly pressed corn tortillas stuffed with gently charred slivers of the sweet-savory pork.

Jackie Mercandetti Photo

On an average weekend morning, a short line trails out the front door of Hola Cabrito in south Phoenix. What's all the fuss about? It's Hola Cabrito's wonderful birria con consomé, a light stew of chile-rubbed goat meat roasted to a tender finish, then dampened with a meaty, flavorful clarified broth. You can also order your birria tatemada, or charred lightly on the grill, if you prefer. No matter how you take your birria, Hola Cabrito's rendition is deeply flavorful. It's served with a short stack of freshly pressed corn tortillas that you can use to make birria tacos right at the table.

Katie Johnson

There's a reason why the parking lot in front of Ta'Carbon is always packed to the gills. The Sonoran-style menu features some of the city's best tacos, including standards like mesquite-grilled carne asada, barbacoa, and al pastor. And you'll definitely want to drop in for the taqueria's healthy selection of top-notch offal tacos. Try Ta'Carbon's lush, melty lengua (beef tongue) tacos, and crispy tripitas (beef intestines) tacos. Of course, if they're available, you'll want to try the huevos de becerro (calf fries) tacos at least once. They have a soft, eggy quality and subtly mineral flavor that is surprisingly delicious.

If you're looking for your next favorite bowl of hangover menudo, look no further than Menuderia Guanajuato. This mom-and-pop restaurant delivers a truly wonderful menudo rojo, which comes generously furnished with melty, extra-savory slivers of tripe and pancita (stomach). The meat is steeped in a fragrant red chile broth with hominy (you also can request it without hominy). The fragrant stew is flecked with fresh cilantro, and comes with your choice of bread or freshly pressed corn tortillas. There aren't many better ways to spend a Sunday morning than nursing a hot bowl of this comforting stew.

Metro Phoenix isn't home to a surplus of pozolerias, restaurants that specialize in the quintessentially Mexican pork hominy stew. Thank goodness, then, for Pozoleria Mexican Food, an east-side counter-service restaurant where you'll find some of the best homestyle pozole in the city. There are three varieties to choose from — white, red, and green — and all three are superb. The most popular variety, though, is the red, which features a deeply flavorful and spicy red chile broth. No matter which one you select, it's topped with a crisp chicharrón and some fresh avocado.

Jacob Tyler Dunn

Elote callejero, or street corn, is a classic Mexican street snack that's become subject to countless interpretations. The version of elote cajellero at Otro Café, though, is one of the best in town. Chef Doug Robson's rendition involves a simple, wood-grilled ear of corn, which is lightly dressed in a salty, savory blend of mayonnaise and cotija cheese. A light dusting of paprika adds a tinge of peppery heat and smoke. Every bite is crisp and juicy, a potent reminder of why elote remains one of Mexico's most classic and ubiquitous street foods.

Sushi Sonora, one of the first Mex-sushi restaurants in metro Phoenix, makes the kind of cheesy, deep-fried rolls that Mex-sushi fanatics daydream about. The menu is huge, but don't miss the Dinamita ("dynamite") roll, a tempura-battered and deep-fried roll stuffed with cooked shrimp, cream cheese, and avocado. The most indulgent thing on the menu is probably the Percheron roll, named after the much-loved, oversize draft horse. The sushi roll, which resembles a small burrito, is stuffed with carne asada, pollo, bacon, and avocado, all of it glued together with enormous amounts of melted cheese. Your taste buds may never recover.

In a city chock-full of bacon-wrapped hot dogs — the unofficial street food of the Arizona-Sonora borderlands — Lupita's Hot Dogs is a standout purveyor. The bacon-wrapped dogs are grilled to a juicy consistency, and topped generously with well-seasoned beans, onion, tomato, mayo, and melted cheese. The dogs are safely encased in a soft, lightly sweet toasted split-top roll. There's also a full toppings bar where you can heap even more fixings onto Lupita's formidable Sonoran dog.

This modest west-side marisqueria brings the flavors of Sinaloa's famed resort city to the Arizona desert. The menu is enormous, spanning botanas frias (cold snacks), seafood cocktails, aguachile and ceviches, and surf-and-turf parrilladas (beef and seafood served on a small tabletop grill). Don't miss the discada de mariscos, a sizzling seafood platter of well-seasoned calamari, shrimp, sea snail, and octopus topped with grilled onions and peppers. Boldly flavored and scrupulously fresh, the seafood dishes at Mariscos El Malecón de Mazatlan make it a must-visit for dedicated mariscos aficionados.

Pete Salaz

Nopales are a staple ingredient of Mexican cooking, yet the cactus pads are still something of a rare find on many Valley Mexican menus. Not so at Centrico, the Mexican cafe inside the historic San Carlos Hotel in downtown Phoenix. The kitchen serves up a terrific steak and nopales taco. The grilled skirt steak is chopped up into blistering nubs, topped with juicy strips of grilled cactus punched up with chipotle salsa, and served over buttery flour tortillas. It's a great taco, one that skillfully makes use of grilled nopal to add a pleasingly smoky and tart dimension to a familiar dish.

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