Best Restaurant for Oaxacan Specialties 2018 | Las 15 Salsas Restaurant Oaxaqueno | La Vida | Phoenix
Jackie Mercandetti

Traditional southern Mexican cooking is still hard to find in the Valley. Thank goodness for Las 15 Salsas, a colorful Sunnyslope restaurant that specializes in homestyle Oaxacan fare. Appetizers include Oaxacan treats like memelitas con queso, thin corn patties topped with heaps of queso fresco and salsa. There's a whole menu of tlayudas — crisp, pizza-shaped tortillas lightly smeared with asiento (pork lard), refried beans, queso fresco, lettuce, and your choice of meat, including options like cecina (thinly sliced marinated beef). Other highlights include thick, dark mole negro; empanadas stuffed with melted Oaxacan cheese and squash blossoms; and a wonderfully cheesy, banana leaf-wrapped tamal Oaxaqueño.

Lauren Saria

The paths to breakfast burrito nirvana at Phoenix Burrito House are many, but however you choose, you'll end up in the same place. Machaca provides the fastest, warmest, and most direct route. The strings of beef have a robust animal flavor, the element that unites the many others jammed to dangerous capacity within the hot flour walls of this football-size meal. A toasting brings out nuanced flavors from the tortilla, and heady warmth. Salsa is cool and fresh. Potatoes are warm and give minimal resistance to your eager chomping. And the best thing about this breakfast roll-up might be its sheer size: There's enough there for breakfast, yes, and part of lunch.

Jacob Tyler Dunn

Although many chefs are content to smother tortilla chips in red sauce, chef Doug Robson of Gallo Blanco takes a different approach with his chilaquiles recipe. Served as a short stack of oven-crisped corn tortillas, the Gallo Blanco chilaquiles are pasted together with a blend of melted Chihuahua and Oaxaca cheese, and then topped with two fried eggs. The tortillas soak up the kitchen's lovely, fire-roasted tomatillo salsa. To eat it, you slice into it like a round cake. The Gallo Blanco take on this classic Mexican brunch staple is decadent and not to be missed.

Chris Malloy

The salsa bar at Casa Corazon in central Phoenix is a thing of beauty. You'll find nearly a dozen house-made salsas and fresh taco garnishes, enticingly well-organized and bearing unique flavors that will have you making return trips during your visit. Don't miss the creamy, blended pineapple salsa, or the bracingly fresh serrano pepper salsa. For extra heat, try the smoky morita salsa. It doesn't hurt that the restaurant makes its own fresh tortilla chips, which is further incentive to make multiple trips to the salsa bar.

Jackie Mercandetti Photo

The cheesy rajas, beefy desebrada roja, and peppery picadillo get top billing at Tacos Chiwas, midtown Phoenix's beloved Chihuahua-style taqueria. But it would be a mistake to leave without trying the restaurant's excellent frijoles charros. Whole pinto beans are simmered in a broth flavored with bacon, hot dog slices, onions, and fresh cilantro. The result is a velvety, richly layered stew that's a meal all on its own. Beans are a staple of most Mexican restaurants, but they're rarely as memorable and delicious as they are here.

Guacamole doesn't get much more flavorful, fresh, and baroque than the rendition you'll find at this popular taco shop. La Santisima's ultra-fresh, chunky guacamole features a base of freshly smashed avocados, cilantro, onion, and tomato. Diced jicama adds texture and crunch, while diced mango and cranberries add pops of fruity sweetness. It's served with a side of thin, crisp tortilla chips, perfect for shuttling the creamy and delicious pastiche into your mouth.

The flour tortillas at La Sonorense Tortilla Factory in south-central Phoenix are fashioned out of four basic ingredients: flour, shortening, salt, and water. They are pressed into thin, par-cooked disks, which means they puff up enticingly when you warm them up over fire. Thin and pliable, La Sonorense's tortillas have the kind of richly buttery profile that makes them good enough to eat all on their own. Not surprisingly, many metro Phoenix restaurants and food trucks source their tortillas from La Sonorense. You can enjoy these terrific tortillas anytime by dropping into the factory's storefront on Central Avenue and grabbing a dozen (or two).

Charles Barth

Why are the nachos at Cocina 10 so good? They start with a base of thick, hot tortilla chips, which are layered with refried pinto beans and glued together by melted Cheddar and Oaxaca cheese. They're topped with cilantro and fresh pico, and finished off with a thin lashing of sour cream and a sprinkling of cotija cheese. A fresh mound of guacamole is served on the side, which you can dig into at your own pace. Every crisp mouthful is palpably crispy, fresh, and delicious. And if you want to turn up the flavor even more, top off your nachos with some of the kitchen's slow-cooked barbacoa.

Have you ever eaten a machete? These Mexico City-style quesadillas are about 2 feet long and hand-molded to approximate the size and shape of the namesake blade. They're thick and sturdy, built on house-made corn tortillas and stuffed with cheese-smothered fillings that include chicharrón prensado (rendered and pressed pig skins); sesos (cow or pig brains, depending on availability); buttery, wilted flor de calabaza (squash blossoms); and huitlacoche, the earthy, inky-black corn fungus that has been a culinary staple in Mexico since pre-Colombian times. No matter what you order, these machetes will forever change the way you look at a quesadilla.

Patricia Escarcega

This family-run east-side taquería offers nine mouth-watering taco options. You'll find popular standards like carne asada, pollo asado, and al pastor, as well as harder-to-find offal like buche (pig stomach). The carne asada is a highlight, the steak chopped up into bubbly, slightly crisp nubs. Don't miss the chicharrón tacos, served homestyle and soupy; the melty slivers of pork skin are irresistibly tender and spicy. And though it might seem like one of the least exciting options on the taco menu, the pollo asado tacos are a revelation. The chicken, finely chopped and aggressively seasoned, is skillfully crisped so that none of the flavor or juice is lost to the griddle.

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