Best Nachos 2020 | Cocina 10 at Crescent Ballroom | La Vida | Phoenix

Minimalism is a fine concept when applied to art, design, or fashion. Not nachos, though. We expect excess and decadence when we order nachos. The ones that emerge from the kitchen of Crescent Ballroom's Cocina 10 almost overflow the plate. The light, thin tortilla chips come smothered in a pile of refried beans, three types of cheese, cilantro, pico de gallo, guacamole, and sour cream. You know that sad, bare patch of chips that's often found on an order of nachos? Doesn't exist at Cocina 10; toppings are plentiful. We like to eat on the open-air second floor, which adds a lovely view of downtown to the nacho-consuming experience. We also recommend adding carne asada to your order; again, when it comes to nachos, less is not more.

Jackie Mercandetti Photo

After a lifetime of eating specimens made on lesser tortillas, tasting a quesadilla made by Nadia Holguin and Armando Hernandez is like going from black-and-white to color, acoustic to electric. The tortilla? Handmade from freshly ground local grain, warm and fragrant and perfectly browned. The cheese? Molten, oozing. The meat? If you go pork, it'll be fall-apart shreds boosted by a steady, beautiful chile heat. There are a handful of elite tortillas in metro Phoenix. Tacos Chiwas has one of them — and all the added touches are just as impressive. For the money, this quesadilla is one of the top bites of food in town.

Take birria. Subtract broth (or simply put it on the side). Add a crisp, hot tortilla and lots of gooey cheese. This is a recipe for quesabirria, a food that has mushroomed in popularity among eaters of Mexican food from coast to coast. The several versions at Birrieria Tijuana, a truck operating out of a north Phoenix parking lot, are worth the trek and a meal at tables just feet from car traffic. Tortilla half-moons crackle as you bite in, oozing cheese. Long-stewed beef has a satisfying melt almost on a cheesy level, and intensity to match, all rounded by chopped herbs and lime juice. There's a reason everyone sitting in this parking lot is beaming.

Charles Barth

Too much of the "best taco" talk around town neglects to consider the actual best taco: the generously heaped, three-sauced wonders plated by Edson Garcia, who juggles 17 tasks at once inside his far west Valley hidden gem. Tacos here are deeply considered, to the point that their basic components are remixed. The al pastor uses pork belly, shards of marinated pineapple, and pineapple vinegar. Horchata is served in a giant stein, impossibly lush. This intensity and quality extends to all Garcia touches. A native of Veracruz, the man deserves a place in Arizona's taco pantheon. A few bites of carne asada or shrimp, and you'll believe.

Patricia Escarcega

We don't know exactly when Taco Tuesday became a thing. But one day per week when taco consumption is encouraged, arguably even required? We're not mad about it. Plenty of taco joints run specials on this holy day, but of those our favorite is Taqueria El Fundador, where most of the taco varieties are just $1 each on Tuesdays. These tacos are filled with warm, perfectly spiced morsels of meat and piles of onion and cilantro (we're partial to the al pastor). Of course it doesn't have to be Tuesday for us to crave what Taqueria El Fundador's got going on; the eatery, which is celebrating its 35th anniversary this year, does hearty burritos, gooey quesadillas and yes, tacos, six days a week (it's closed on Sundays).

Juan Cornejo and Juan Cornejo Jr. have brought their fun, flavorful, intensely personal brand of Sonoran backyard cookout to Roosevelt Row. The elder captains the kitchen, where barbacoa softens, vampiros crisp on the plancha, and ruby sheets of carne asada sizzle like mad on charcoal grills. A perfume fills the restaurant. The salsa bar beckons. Soccer plays on the corner TV. It's all comfortable and welcoming, and that's before you even get to the food. It's some of the best Sonoran-style eating in town, even some of the very tastiest Mexican. Sleepers like cabeza and tripa can star. So, too, can a simple carne asada burro or humble side of beans. The Cornejos have an amazing thing going.

Jackie Mercandetti Photo

The chimichanga is one of the only zones of the Rito's menu where prices sail north of $10. But even though you can get happily full for half of that here, you will be elated to gnash into its burro deep-fried to a saucy crisp. Saucy, yes, because the right move is to go enchilada-style, meaning a chimichanga smothered in chile sauce and blanketed with melted cheese. Rito's, of course, is for old-school eating. Its category of "yellow-cheese" Mexican has been disparaged by other chefs. But conceptual, high-minded cooking feels overly dainty when you're two bites away from finishing a green chile enchilada, full, and wishing you had a thousand more.

Lauren Saria

PHX Burrito House is the kind of place where even the potato is expertly considered, providing soft bites that break up richness, jive with cheese, and pair nicely with a fragrant flour tortilla. You would be wise to include the humble potato in your build-your-own breakfast burritos at this eatery, which is truly a house. The best burrito here, the machaca, comes with them, forming a jalapeno-charged package big enough for two meals. Where most options here are meaty and intense, a shrimp burrito displays lightness and freshness. Other places are divier or flashier, but PHX Burrito House wraps its namesake food better than anyone in the Valley.

Chris Malloy

People loiter outside El Norteño, the humble Mexican-food shack at the corner of Seventh Avenue and Roosevelt Street. Are they waiting to order? Have they already ordered? Is this where the line starts, sir? Eventually, you piece together that you must enter a small vestibule (only one person at a time, especially these days) to place your order. On the wall inside is a massive menu that vaguely resembles the periodic table of the elements. You could eat here twice a week for a year and still not try everything. So, we'll make it simple for you: Go with the chorizo egg burro, and add potatoes. It's about $6 with tax, and, depending on how you see your day going, constitutes either a big breakfast or two small ones. Join the loiterers. When your order's called, apply the spicy salsa that comes in little tubs in your brown bag to every bite. And remember to bring bills — El Norteño is cash only, and closed on Sundays.

In a metropolis brimming with Mexican eateries, the best tamale happens to be cooked in a Salvadorian restaurant. This may not sound right, but it's true. The banana-leaf-wrapped tamale at Reinas De Las Pupusas Restaurant is a gastronomic masterpiece. Chef Dolores Garcia deftly calibrates the simple flavors and tucks the package into hot foil. The melted cheese that glues the corn together? Mozzarella. The flavors? Deeply herbal, a faint earthy perfume, almost akin to the profile of an excellent green tea. Order a few yourself (they're only $2.50 each) and you'll be hooked.

Best Of Phoenix®

Best Of