Best Torta 2018 | Los Reyes de la Torta | La Vida | Phoenix
Tirion Boan

The Mexican torta is a little under-appreciated in metro Phoenix, where norteño-style tacos and burritos prevail. You can remedy this injustice with a visit to Los Reyes de la Torta, a local micro-chain that specializes in Mexico City-style sandwiches. There is nary a bad torta on the menu, but a highlight is the mammoth Torta King Carlos V, which is stuffed with a thin pork sirloin, breaded chicken, sausage, ham, and an egg omelet. It's lubricated with melted cheese and dressed with avocado, chipotle sauce, and a smear of beans. The ultra-savory bundle of meat and cheese is tucked into a buttery, fluffy telera roll, which is nicely crisped up on a griddle. The Torta King Carlos V, in other words, is a sandwich for royalty.

Tortas ahogadas are the marquee specialty at Tortas Ahogadas George, a casual counter-service restaurant located in a Tolleson strip mall. Owners Jorge and Maritza Santoyo, natives of Guadalajara, Mexico, make these "drowned" torta sandwiches in traditional Guadalajara fashion. Thick, crusty birote bread is sliced and stuffed with chopped, fried pork topped in a sweet tomato sauce and a smear of refried beans. The sandwich is then submerged in a fiery, lip-numbing red salsa. This porky, spicy flavor bomb is so drippy, it's served over a plastic-lined basket designed to contain the inevitable overflow of sauce. But it's so flavorful that you likely won't regret the inevitable mess you make while eating it.

Katie Johnson

This popular roadside taco stand is the unofficial late-night restaurant of Charlie's Phoenix, the country-themed gay bar and nightclub near the corner of Camelback Road and Seventh Avenue. Crowds line up nightly for the taqueria's juicy carne asada tacos, which are sold for a whopping $1 a pop. The steak is beautifully charred, chopped to smithereens, and deposited on a lightly greased corn tortilla that's topped with the requisite chopped onions, cilantro, and house-made salsa. You'll want to order at least two or three of these beauties. Remember to bring cash — no plastic is accepted at this taco stand.

Jacob Tyler Dunn

This cheery south-central Phoenix Mexican restaurant specializes in juicy, mouth-watering chicken tacos. The chicken tacos are made from pollo asado that's been marinated for 24 hours in a secret Sinaloa-inspired spice blend. The meat is finely chopped, delivered on corn tortillas in slightly smoky, blisteringly-hot, meaty nubs. The result is pollo asado tacos that are well-seasoned, intensely flavorful, and all-around unforgettable. Don't miss the signature Kiss taco, two smallish corn tortillas topped with grizzled bits of chicken blanketed in melted white cheese.

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.

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