The special at this new east Phoenix taqueria may be charcoal-grilled carne asada. The birria may be the menu item that really catches your eye, or maybe the vampiros, al pastor, or hot dogs. But though the menu is lean on seafood, don't sleep on the ceviche. Tacos Culichi pays homage to Chef Adan Pulido's hometown of Culiacán, near the coast of Sinaloa, one of Mexico's great seafood regions — and he makes ceviche like somebody who has a bond with the sea. It is an austere but flawless version: chopped shrimp, tomatoes, cucumber, and red onion, all piled into a knoll on a crisp, wavy corn tostada. It shatters as you bite. Citrus-charged shrimp bursts. Bracing flavors rush you and juices coat your lips.

Dulce Churro Cafe
Meagan Mastriani

For years, we thought we didn't like churros. But as it turns out, we'd only ever had bad ones. The churros at Dulce Churro Cafe aren't good — they're fantastic. Start by choosing your shape; Dulce makes loops, bites, and sticks fresh when you order. Then, you can customize your treat with dips (like mango, chocolate, or caramel), glazes (like icing or strawberry), and toppings (like sprinkles or almonds). Your churro will show up piping hot and perfect — just crispy enough on the outside, yielding to a soft interior. We respect the wide variety of add-ons, but for our money, one of Dulce's churros simply coated in cinnamon sugar is all we need to be in dessert heaven.

Paletas Betty

There aren't a ton of advantages to living in a desert climate, but one is that it's almost never too cold to enjoy a delicious frozen treat. We love stopping by Paletas Betty when we're hanging out in Downtown Chandler, an increasingly trendy area full of bars, restaurants, and shops. Traditionalists can opt for a mocha, vanilla, strawberries and cream, or mango paleta, and more adventurous types can try flavors like arroz con leche (rice pudding with freshly ground canela) or pina con chile (pineapple mixed with handmade chile powder). There's also a selection of beverages, and even paletas for dogs. Whether it's June or December, a treat from Paletas Betty always hits the spot.

This food cart spotted in downtown Phoenix and Roosevelt Row is known for late-night Native American cuisine at various locales. The Rez, an Urban Eatery also can be seen at farmers markets and food festivals serving up frybread — even vegan and gluten-free varieties — plus Navajo burgers, blue-corn nachos, tamales, tacos, crepes, stew, and the menu item we're here for, its signature aguas frescas. Friday and Saturday nights mean aguas frescas till 4 a.m. — more or less. If you see a green jug, spring for the iced cups of the fresh lime-green concoction (though flavors do vary). It's a fun, complex mix of honeydew, basil, pineapple, jalapeno, and some other flavor that's just ... green.

Taco Chelo
Melissa Fossum

If you'd like to have a seat and watch the denizens of Roosevelt Row walk by, one of the best spots is the patio wrapped around Taco Chelo. Picnic table-style seating allows you to focus on the main drag or quiet neighborhood (depending on which side of the table you occupy) while enjoying tacos, chips, and something to drink. That drink? It'll have to be the frozen house margarita — or Consuelo's Margarita. It's a simple mix of Jose Cuervo Tradicional, meaning 100 percent blue agave-rested tequila, plus triple sec, lime, and agave. You can add flavor, but original is best. It's blended with ice to create what we like to call the adult squishee. It's tart, it's sweet, and it melts fast, so anticipating a second round is not all that uncommon.

Two friends got together and decided to push a family booze recipe to make a living — that's the fascinating story behind Mezcal Carreño. The 90- to 92-proof mezcal originated in Oaxaca, Mexico, with the Carreño family, mezcal-makers since 1904. The mezcal recently began distribution in the United States, starting first in Phoenix. Overseers Ivan Carreño and Abel Arriaga of Mezcal Carreño are the friends behind the distinct, bubble-textured bottles, and if you happen to catch them at a food festival, they will gladly give you a quick history. Oh, and a sample of their mezcal, of course, if you're not already a convert.

Spread comfortably through a simple, house-like structure on South Central Avenue, Azukar Coffee has every element of a superlative coffee shop. There is natural light, color from turquoise tabletops and florid paintings, and a deep sense of warmth that flows from more than simply the rush of hot caffeine to your head. Owner-operators Sandra and Norberto Flores greet you warmly when you step in — and then patiently guide you through the unconventional offerings if you please. Cajeta coffee beverages. Iced lattes with piloncillo. Pastries like pan dulce to go with your drink. Regulars post up at tables, break out laptops, and get to work. It’s easy to lose yourself and kick back with a mesquite-syrup latte, life’s bummers dissipating like steam from your cup. If you haven’t made it out to this 2-year-old spot yet, get going.

A local market for unique Mexican meat, marinades, and authentically made salsas, tortillas, guacamole, and the like since 1995, Carniceria Sonora provides helpful customer service and above all, fresh and delicious products. Showing up to a poolside cookout with Sonora's freshly made tortillas and an assortment of preparada meats (marinated in a family recipe of herbs, citrus, and spices) instantly will make you the hero of the party. Having access to this family-owned market and its authentic offerings is tantamount to having a loving grandmother, uncle, or neighbor whose sole joy in life is to prepare food according to the age-old tradition of their homeland. If you don't have that relationship with someone, rest assured (and give thanks) that Carniceria Sonora welcomes you, lovingly, at any of its locations.

Una de esa, una de esta, y otra de esa ... pues dame tres conchas de chocolate también — it's easy to get carried away picking up pan dulce at La Purisima Bakery 2. A dozen becomes two dozen quickly. Maybe it's the intimate setting, or the always smiling, charismatic women. If anything, the well-lit pastry cases filled with a picture-perfect variety of conchas and galletas have you reaching for more than your wallet and waistline bargained for (it's well worth it, though). We won't name any names, but we'll guarantee these conchas are never dry like some of the Big Brand's conchas — nothing's worse than a dry concha. Oh, you can't forget the homemade tortillas gracefully sitting on top of the cases. You're definitely leaving with the whole panaderia. While you munch on your puerquito, be sure to scroll through La Purisima's Twitter page, because yes, your local panaderia has a lit social game and dank taste in memes.

When we visit Mexico, we take evening walks on the boardwalk along the beach. Those walks always include a snack or a treat — anything from ice cream to tacos. Food vendors are a staple in plazas and boardwalks in Mexico, and those evening treats are what La Carreta de Lily is all about. You can go for the fruit option — mango with chamoy, fruit cocktails, or strawberries with cream. There's ice cream in a variety of flavors, served on its own or as a topping. Or be adventurous and try the mixes like Tostito chips with Mexican-style street corn. La Carreta de Lily has the answer for your every sweet or savory craving.

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