TEG Torta Shop
Chris Malloy

Sometimes, we want a big meal. Other times, not so much. At TEG, (formerly called Tortas El Guero), we can get a fantastic sandwich that matches our appetite. The restaurant sells tortas in mini, regular, and super sizes; all come with fries, and we haven't met a bad choice yet. The Alambre comes with carne asada, bacon, onion, green bell peppers, and melted cheese. Another favorite is the Pacifico, which stacks pork leg, ham, pineapple, and chipotle. There are vegetarian options as well, like the Calabacita (zucchini, spinach, red bell pepper, and cheese) and the Poblana (poblano chile, mushrooms, and spinach). Order one of TEG's aguas frescas or milkshakes to wash down your torta, and you've got the makings of a great meal, no matter how big your appetite is.

Street food is all the rage, but once you've had a piping hot spoonful of Mexican street corn, or elote, done right, you won't mind participating in this trend. Fans of corn, both cobbed and cupped, will enjoy most anything from Elote Man AZ, a Mexican food truck serving a variety of street corn. Try it Mexican style, with mayonnaise, cotija cheese, chili powder, lime juice, and Valentina hot sauce, or go plain with just butter, salt, and pepper. But snack fans will opt for orders of elote mixed with generous sprinklings of Doritos, Tostitos, Takis, or Flaming Hot Cheetos — or maybe one with all four, called the Quatro. And for a sweeter side, try the Churroelote, that being cinnamon-coated corn.

Hot Dogs El Caprichoso
Patricia Escarcega

Brats, sausages, hot dogs, and the whole extended family of casing-wrapped meats take some incredible forms — but after eating a Sonoran hot dog at El Caprichoso, there is no doubt as to which is supreme. This Sonoran dog is magic. The color on the bun is astounding. It is near-white in some parts, near black where the soft-but-chewy dough touched the griddle during its heavy toasting. The bun practically swallows the hot dog inside, and tomatoes, cheese, beans, and crema finish the job. This is a hot dog so lavished with toppings that you can't see the hot dog. This is a hot dog with the joy and splendor of a desert dusk. This is a hot dog that returns in hunger flashes and happy dreams.

Tacos Chiwas

Even with the reputational boost they get from being in this local favorite's name, tacos aren't the best thing on the Tacos Chiwas menu. One of the items that eclipses even the tripas and lengua tacos is the gordita, fresh and pillowy, soft as a daydream, available in four versions. Made of flour and shaped more like a pita sandwich than the cakelike corn gorditas you can find elsewhere in town, these gorditas easily rank among the best bites of Mexican food you can find in Arizona. They are homestyle yet sophisticated, utterly comforting, the fragrant pocket leading smoothly into the hearty, flavor-packed fillings. Don't overlook the picadillo gordita, probably the most underrated of the four. It has a simple, warming goodness that perfectly synchronizes with the greater heartbeat of Nadia Holguin and Armando Hernandez's beloved eatery.

Mariscos Playa Hermosa
Lauren Cusimano

Is there any restaurant, mariscos or otherwise, more colorful than Mariscos Playa Hermosa? With its glowing neon beer signs, loud tabletops and decor, multicolored patio seating, and hot pink chairs — the backs of which depict a perfect Mexican village — we don't think so. As ogle-worthy as the dining room is the menu, a bible of spicy seafood and Mexican staples. Full-color photos of dishes like the filete al ajillo and aguachiles help newcomers decide what to order. And if you're looking for heat, for spice, try the El Peligroso — a very shareable bowl of shrimp, scallops, and octopus soaking and smothered in some of the hottest sauce and broth you can stand.

Tacos y Mariscos El Sinaloa
Chris Malloy

A $10 aguachile from this stationary food truck comes heaped with raw, gray shrimp recently coated in citrusy juices. Lifting the teetering mass from its fiery red pool of chiltepin, lime juice, and Clamato, you have no chance. No chance of keeping the curls of purple onion, cucumber wedges, and tomato chunks on that tostada. No chance of quelling that bright, beautiful heat that lifts the marine spirit of the shrimp. No chance of experiencing anything but true love for how this spirit is accented and highlighted even further by citrus, allium, and the surprisingly perfect briny touch of Clamato. No chance of anything but dissolving into the scene — the radio tunes blaring, the kitchen clatter filtering from the truck, the customers fishing Jarritos from ice chests, the sun a hot object overhead. For a minute, our star seems like nothing next to this bright, searing aguachile.

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.

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