Best 'Berto's 2019 | Filiberto's | La Vida | Phoenix

For lifelong Arizonans, the suffix "-berto's" is code for tasty, fast Mexican food. But not all Roliberto's and Julioberto's are created equal, and each location has its own level of cleanliness, plus unique menu offerings with varying degrees of quality and tortilla-to-meat ratio. In crowning the king of all 'Berto's, none is more deserving than Filiberto's at 17th and Glendale avenues. This establishment typifies the 'Berto's experience, offering everything from street tacos and verde chicken plates to enchiladas and veggie burritos. The food sets a culinary baseline among the plentiful 'Berto's chains, but it's the little things that make this Filiberto's special, like the uncommon salsa bar, the TVs playing daytime talk shows, and the arcade machines. Plus, this 'Berto's is housed in an old Wendy's, and that's an irony more delicious than all the cheese crisps ever. This is our 'Berto's — there are many like it, but this one is our favorite.

Chris Malloy

The recipe behind the signature taco of this Broadway Road food truck, the tacos ahogadas, took co-owner Alma Kerby 10 years to perfect. Three taquitos shaped like rolled-tortilla cigars submerge in a thin tomato broth peppered with jalapeno. Melted cheddar clings to the yellow lengths. The broth is nimbler and more refreshing than heavy, and the tacos have a nice, not-yet-sogged crisp that gives way to decadent beef inside. The Drowning Taco, both the business and the dish, are a nice addition to the local truck scene. So, too, are the more standard flour tortilla tacos, packed with the likes of creamy cabeza and char-tipped carne asada, all lavishly topped with cilantro and an avocado-based salsa.

Meagan Simmons

In the mornings, a landscape of tomatillo salsa, chilaquiles, and egg-and-longaniza-packed burritos spreads across town. For a Mexican breakfast with uncommon range and heart, look to south Phoenix stalwart Comedor Guadalajara. Here, soft shards of tortilla fill a velvety salsa rojo. Menudo is available by the cup or bowl Friday through Sunday. Bowls here are tripe-heavy, with knobs of hominy and a soul-filling comfort to the chile-tinted broth. Eggs come more ways than you can dream, including beside steak, with various salsas, with nopales, with machaca, and, of course, packed into burritos. They even come in breakfast chimichangas. Whether you're craving something to kick your hangover or a simple plate of huevos rancheros coated in classic ranchero-style sauce, a serious breakfast awaits at Comedor Guadalajara, and has for more than 50 years.

Felicia Campbell

After midnight, nothing beats grease and options. This La Frontera truck has both, offering mariscos cocktails and hamburgers out of its mobile kitchen. If you've had a long night and want something marine-light, a dependable ceviche tostada will set you back just a few bucks (and comes with chips and salsa). If you're craving a bite on the heartier side, the Sonoran hot dog — streaked with avocado sauce and mustard, smothered with beans and cheese — is one of the most underrated in town. Add potatoes to your dog if you're smart. Add a side of nachos if you're hungry. Or, you can keep things on the oceanic side with a giant shrimp and octopus burrito, or a perfectly built classic fried fish taco that goes beautifully with either of the two milder salsas.

Wedged into ice, the many deep bowls of the La Santisima salsa bar serve as a reminder that the word "salsa" means "sauce," a word with open-ended possibilities. Here, some salsas are powered by your standard tomatoes and tomatillos, your toasted chiles and crushed garlic. But what makes this salsa bar glorious are the next-level options. Thin, hot salsa with a jolt of tamarind. Creamy salsa, cool and kicking with the flavor of cashew. Even strawberry salsa, fragrant and unexpectedly brilliant alongside this shop's chicken with Oaxacan black mole or achiote-perfumed cochinita pibil. The salsas at La Santisima are so good that what you order almost feels secondary. The highlight of the meal comes before, as you're waiting for your order, once you step up to the chilled bar with a cup and the colors spread before you like a treasure map.

Allison Young

Guacamole is essentially a combination of mashed avocado mixed with salt and some assortment of vegetables, and maybe a citrus. But what determines a good order of guacamole definitely lies in how you combine these ingredients. Local legend Silvana Salcido Esparza knows exactly how, and has since 2002. Chef and owner of Barrio Café (and Barrio Café Gran Reserva in the Grand Avenue Arts District), Esparza has taken this chip dip to the next level. Guacamole del Barrio is avocado, salt, cracked pepper, lime, and dicings of tomato, onion, jalapeno, and cilantro. And, of course, there's the now-signature topping of pomegranate seeds. The house guac is served all day and prepared tableside during dinner service — which is absolutely part of the experience.

Sarah Whitmire

Tortillas are kind of like pizza — they're usually pretty good, especially when they're fresh, recently warmed, and either stored in a little plastic container on the restaurant table or wrapped in a dish towel on the kitchen counter. Tortillas are usually good, but sometimes they're great. When Carolina's Mexican Food was established, the Valenzuela family initially focused on burritos, tamales, and of course, house-made tortillas. They learned the recipes from their parents and passed them down to their kids, and, in a way, metropolitan Phoenix. Carolina's even started with a tortilla-maker, Elvira Castellanos de Abril, in 1968. These tortillas are found in the majority of dishes on the Carolina's menu, from the wrapping of a burrito to soaking up some menudo on Saturdays. The little folded tortilla is always there — and has been for decades.

Jackie Mercandetti

Established in 1981, the four Valley locations of Los Taquitos offer what you would expect from a fast-casual Mexican concept — burritos, street tacos, tostadas, and something for the kids. But what you might not anticipate is the level of quality delivered by these modern-yet-cozy eateries. Propelled by generations-old family recipes, Los Taquitos' menu lists some next-level items (that shrimp burrito, good heavens), but even the chips offer the perfect restaurant-grade crispiness, crunchiness, and saltiness. And they're not too thin, either. This is why the Super Nachos are on the menu's list of specials. Think those crispy, salty chips topped high with say, carnitas, plus pico, sour cream, guac, and shredded cheese. These aren't goopy ballpark nachos, but more a medley of some of Los Taquitos' best menu items.

When you think of pizza, you probably think of dough topped with tomato sauce, melted cheese, and some toppings like pepperoni or mushrooms. You'll think differently once you try one of Nando's Mexican Café's signature tortilla pies. The Pizza Blanco is spread with spicy cream cheese and topped with grilled chicken, tomato slices, green chiles, green onions, and Monterey Jack cheese. Not to be outdone, the Mexican Pizza is layered with guacamole, green chiles, tomatoes, shredded cheese, and green onions, then topped with chicken or beef. We'd like to thank Nando's and its four locations for expanding our concept of pizza.

Quesadillas are an easy, quick dish, but once you come within range of the black Ni de Aqui, Ni de Alla food truck, ordering the cheesy entree is all you can think of doing next. And our advice? Go for the Morena quesadilla — two hefty triangles of carne asada and almost-fluid mozzarella cheese, wrapped in a crispy tortilla kissed sporadically by the grill's heat. You feel this heavy plate in your wrist when picking it up, and the first bite is just as cheesy, hot, and protein-heavy as you had hoped. Even after the 'dilla cools down a bit, the rest is congealed, chewy, and extra flavorful, not unlike delicious leftover pizza.

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