Mercado de los Cielos
Lauren Cusimano

Serious fans of Mexican cooking will want to make a pilgrimage to El Mercado de Los Cielos, a lively food court located inside Desert Sky Mall in west Phoenix. The sprawling boutique marketplace is home to more than a dozen Mexican food stalls, selling everything from thick, sturdy Mexico City-style machete quesadillas to Sinaloan-style Mexican sushi. Enjoy whipped fruit licuados from La Carreta de Lily; carne asada tacos from La Cosinita; and the enormous seafood platters at Mariscos La Phoenikera. If you're craving it, chances are you'll find it at El Mercado de Los Cielos. And when you're done eating, you can easily spend an hour or two browing the wares of dozens of local merchants.

This tiny, unassuming south-side panadería is well-stocked with a fresh assortment of baked goods, including Mexican breads, cakes, and pastries. Stop by for notably fresh and fluffy bolillo rolls, pillowy conchas, creamy tres leches cake, and some of the best fruit-stuffed empanadas in the city. Looking for a quick birthday cake? Panadería y Pastelería La Mejor carries an assortment of grab-and-go cakes and cupcakes. On the weekends, the kitchen makes a terrific white corn menudo, which you can enjoy in the shop's small dining area. The panadería offers great value, too — a dozen fresh Mexican pastries will set you back less than $10.

No matter what kind of Mexican candy you're on the hunt for, chances are you'll find it at Dulceria La Bonita, a wholesale candy retailer that is open to the public. Behind its nondescript exterior, this candy warehouse is stocked with a vast assortment of Mexican candies, snacks, toys, and party decorations. Among the bulk items, you'll find iconic Mexican brand candies like Tres Reyes, La Imperial, De La Rosa, and Lucas.

Palabras is a unique gathering place in central Phoenix, a bright, energetic space that caters to the community while providing an invaluable resource for the city's large Spanish-speaking population. The book selection veers toward titles in Spanish and English that promote diversity and social and cultural awareness. There's other merchandise for sale, too, including shirts, home goods, and work by local artists. Palabras offers far more than just what it sells, though. The space is home to programming like POC (people of color) open mics, language classes, and writing nights for both Spanish and English writers. We're lucky to have it in the Valley.

Mercado Mexico

We love accenting our home with beautiful Mexican handicrafts; what we don't love is when those "Mexican handicrafts" are actually mass-produced in a factory overseas. Fortunately, we have stores like Mercado Mexico in the southeast Valley, where the real thing is available (and at great prices, to boot). There's a little bit of everything here, from piñatas, colorful blankets, and Dia de los Muertos figurines to vibrant dishware, rustic pottery, and outdoor decor. We often lose track of time roaming the aisles of Mercado Mexico, looking for that next perfect acquisition and admiring the craftsmanship of our neighbors to the south.

Q Lounge

By day, it's an award-winning barbecue joint. Once the sun goes down, however, things really get cooking. Four nights a week, the northwest Phoenix location of Bobby-Q transforms into high-energy nightspot Q-Lounge, boasting two dance floors, cheap drinks, and a mix of Latin Top 40, cumbias, reggaeton, and hip-hop. Chicos and chicas alike flock to the spot, especially on the weekends, to shake their culos or pop bottles in the VIP section. Things get particularly lit on Friday nights, when a live ensemble performs in one room while DJ Nicasio holds it down in another and bartenders pour drink specials. (Ladies also get in free before 11 p.m., which is also a plus.) The biggest night of the weekend happens every Saturday during the Sabados Latinos session, when the joint offers a puro pinche parii with DJs lighting up the sound system, go-go girls shooting confetti cannons, and patrons going hard on the dance floor. It's muy loco and makes for a helluva night out.

Best Insta-Worthy Mexican Restaurant

Taco Chelo

Taco Chelo
Melissa Fossum

Described as a collaboration between chef Suny Santana, designer Gennaro Garcia, and restaurateur Aaron Chamberlin, Taco Chelo in downtown Phoenix is the most stylish and Instagram-worthy new taqueria in town. Gennaro, a versatile artist and designer who works in several mediums, has fashioned a dining room full of color and Mexican-inspired motifs. Check out the turquoise bar trimmed with striking calavera-inspired tile work. Of course, you'll probably want to strike a selfie pose in front of the restaurant's cheeky neon sign ("Taquero Mucho"), which is mounted onto an artfully faded brick wall. It's a perfectly Insta-worthy selfie background.

Best Of Phoenix®

Best Of