Centrico
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.

Best Tortilla Chips at a Grocery Store

Food City

Food City

What makes the tortilla chips at Food City so special? The magic is in their consistency — no matter which of the more than 20 Valley locations of Food City you visit, you can leave with the satisfaction of knowing exactly what to expect: a bag of thin, shatteringly crisp tortilla chips. Nicely salted and always fresh, the tortilla chips are the kind of snack food that tends to disappear quickly at family barbecues and picnics.

This friendly south Phoenix coffeehouse offers a small but strong menu of flavorful and unique Mexican-inspired coffee and tea drinks. Lattes (available hot or iced) are delicious, including cafe con leche, made with Nescafe and espresso. Don't miss the Caramelo Mio, a smooth, velvety drink made with Mexican caramel. The Agave Mesquite, featuring locally made mesquite syrup, has a deep, earthy sweetness. The coffeehouse also offers a small selection of pan dulce and light breakfast and lunch snacks, along with a small menu of refreshing limonadas.

Dilla Libre
Gypsy Restaurant Group

Looking for the most irresistible churro in town? Head to north-central Phoenix to feast on the signature dessert at Dilla Libre: a cajeta-stuffed churro. The churro is fried to order and tossed in a blend of brown sugar and cinnamon. It's served with a berry dipping sauce on the side, which adds a sweet and tangy element to an already delicious dessert. Crisp, sweet, and slightly chewy, it's a churro that will likely set off every pleasure point in your brain.

Paletas Betty

You can't beat the paleta selection at Paletas Betty, which specializes in producing handmade Mexican ice pops using high-quality fresh fruits. The shop avoids concentrates, powders, and premade juices, and you can definitely taste the difference. Some of the shop's top sellers include sandia (watermelon), pepino (cucumber), and fresa con crema (strawberry and cream). You'll also find unique blends like mango con chile and a creamy arroz con leche (rice pudding). Paletas Betty also sells its own take on Mexican aguas frescas, called Agua Vita, a refreshing blend of white tea with fresh fruit.

You haven't really lived until you've eaten a Mexican raspado, which is kind of like a regular shaved ice on steroids. You'll find excellent raspados at this small, north-central Phoenix restaurant and sweets shop. The selection of fruity flavors is extensive, ranging from standards like tamarindo, strawberry, and coconut to salty-sweet blends like diablitos (a spicy and tangy mix featuring chamoy and hot sauce). The raspados are topped with big chunks of fresh fruit, along with garnishes like shredded coconut and sweetened condensed milk. You'll also find seasonal flavors, including a wintertime eggnog.

This friendly south Phoenix carnicería offers an excellent selection of high-quality meats. The meat case is packed tightly with a neatly labeled assortment of Mexican sausages (including homemade longaniza and chorizo), beef, chicken, various steak cuts, pork, tripe, and pretty much everything else you need to make carne asada, menudo, pozole, or whatever happens to be on the menu. Carniceria Los Amigos also carries harder-to-find meats, including godorniz (quail) and buche (pig stomach). Even if you're not planning a family barbecue, you may want to swing by for a quick taco or burrito infusion. The carnicería sells some excellent carryout barbacoa, carne asada, carnitas, and pollo asado.

Los Altos Ranch Market
Timur Guseynov

There are seven locations of Los Altos Ranch Market in metro Phoenix, including the flagship market on south Central Avenue. In terms of selection and quality, Los Altos Ranch Market's inventory of Mexican and Latin American products and produce is unbeatable. This location features an in-house cremería (creamery) where you can shop for an assortment of fresh cheeses; a tortilleria and panadería where you can pick up fresh tortillas, breads, and pastries; and a sprawling food court where you can dine in or carry out Mexican entrees like pollo asado, chiles rellenos, burritos, and taco meats. A trip around the produce section is a highlight of any Los Altos Ranch Market visit; fresh herbs and fruits not widely available in other Valley grocery stores, including the likes of hoja santa and epazote, are always on hand here.

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.

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