Best Chimichangas 2022 | Rito's Mexican Food | La Vida | Phoenix
Jackie Mercandetti Photo

To the first person who saw a burrito and thought, "I should deep-fry this and top it with a bunch of stuff," we salute you. Their creation is one of our favorite Mexican dishes, and there's no better place to get one than at local chain Rito's. Rito's serves up enormous chimis with crispy, flaky exteriors, topped with sour cream, guacamole, shredded cheese, and diced tomatoes. You've got your choice of fillings: The red chile beef is a longtime Valley favorite, but we love the shredded chicken with green chile sauce and pico de gallo as well. Order them enchilada style (with red or green sauce) for even more flavor.

When trying to find Topo, just look for a giant, cowboy hat-wearing gopher with glowing yellow eyes. The landmark in Gilbert's Heritage District is hard to miss. At this outdoor counter-service joint, the menu is small but mighty. Order the Topo Loco Burrito for a tin-foil-wrapped explosion of flavor. This burrito comes stuffed with chicken or pork, beans, sweet corn, hot sauce, cilantro, cheese, tomatillo crema, and crunchy Fritos chips. The textures contrast each other perfectly, making each bite a creamy, crunchy, messy mouthful. We recommend clearing your palate of all that savory goodness by finishing your meal with Topo's prickly pear soft-serve ice cream.

Lauren Saria

It's often the little things that make Phoenix Burrito House feel special. Like the fact that it takes up an unassuming, converted old house. Or the old loteria art that decorates the walls. Even the mere availability of those large-sized Mexican Cokes makes a difference. It's that very idea that makes their breakfast burritos equally great, and arguably the star of a stacked menu. It's the quality of the meat, from the extra-crispy bacon and the perfectly spiced chorizo, to the overall size and proportions. And, of course, something has to be said for the pinto beans, which are as close to performing a magic spell on your breakfast as humanly possible. Is it the most imaginative burrito you'll ever eat? Probably not, but these are breakfast burritos that we're talking about, and what these bad boys lack in innovation, they more than make up for in overall quality and a kind of down-home connection that all the truly best foods foster. Food should be about community and connection as much as the way the potatoes are perfectly cooked — that's why PBH feels like the breakfast burrito for this city.

Tamales are traditionally a holiday treat, made around Christmastime. But we're glad we can grab this comfort food practically any day of the year at The Tamale Store in north Phoenix. The bright, airy space has a little bit of everything: plenty of seating, shelves featuring Tamale Store-branded salsas and other items, flat-screen TVs, and a mercado area offering frozen tamales to take home. The daily lineup of fresh tamales varies a bit, but we're always happy when the Tex-Mex (ground beef and Monterey Jack cheese), pork red chile, or Arizona cornbread with Colby Jack are options. All of the tamales are soft and delicious — never stale or bland. We like to pick a couple and stick them in a combo meal, pairing them with great side dishes like elote and potatoes with chorizo.

Tirion Boan

No less a personage than Guy Fieri agrees that the sandwiches at Los Reyes de la Torta are something special. They start with a soft bolillo roll, and then the sky's the limit. The Del Rey is the most popular sandwich, according to the website, and we can confirm it's pretty great — a mix of ham, mozzarella, pork sirloin, breaded beef, and sausage-chorizo omelet, plus tomato, caramelized onions, fresh avocado, and chipotle sauce, it vanquishes all appetites. We're also partial to the Hawaiian, a sweet and savory dish made with ham, pineapple, and pork sirloin, topped with melted mozzarella, queso fresco, and a chipotle dressing. With 15 tortas to choose from made with fresh, quality ingredients, there's a sandwich to everyone's liking.

Melissa Fossum

Gaze at a mural of Frida Kahlo and sip on a cold margarita while you devour a quesadilla or three at Taco Chelo. These handheld creations are different from the large ones you're used to, made on your choice of a small corn or flour tortilla folded in half. And like so much in life, the simpler these quesadillas are, the better. The cheese blend melts into the tortilla creating a perfect bite, warm and melty with nothing but queso and carbs. Add carnitas or veggies to the little snack if you'd like, but know that the classic dipped into some red or green salsa is just as good.

Chilaquiles are a traditional Mexican breakfast food featuring tortilla chips lightly fried and simmered in a sauce, then used as a base for various toppings. At popular Arcadia eatery The Bread and Honey House, the chilaquiles are a delicious mess, a huge portion of tortillas made soft and mouthwatering by fresh guajillo- and pasilla-roasted salsa. They get topped with crema fresca, cotija cheese, sliced onions, and cilantro, plus one egg your way (we like 'em scrambled). The Bread and Honey House gives you a huge portion of chilaquiles, but if you're still looking for more sustenance, try adding a protein like carnitas, bacon, or our pick, savory chorizo. It'll fill you up and make your taste buds sing, a perfect start to your day.

Tirion Boan

Metro Phoenix is filled with roadside stands with colorful tents churning out excellent bacon-wrapped hot dogs. But if you're looking to sit down at a restaurant and enjoy a Sonoran-style dog, that's a little harder to find. Enter Emilio's Tacos & Hotdogs. Located on 19th Avenue in a former Dairy Queen, a small team of servers and cooks work the drive-thru window, fry churros, fold burritos, and top baskets of fries with carne asada, guacamole, cheese, and a rainbow of salsas. Best of all, they roll hot dogs in bacon, top them with savory pinto beans, a smattering of tomatoes, and a heavy-handed drizzle of mustard and mayonnaise, then serve them piping hot. Get messy at one of the wooden tables inside the small, brightly colored restaurant, or sit outside on the covered patio. Whether you're from Tucson and miss the Sonoran hot dogs available at BKs or El Guerro Canelo, or you've tried these messy creations on the streets of Sonora, Emilio's dogs stand up to the best.

Jacob Tyler Dunn

There's a difference of opinion in the street-corn-lovers community: Do you like your corn in a cup (which is called esquites), or still on the cob (elote)? Popular central Phoenix eatery Gallo Blanco caters to the cob crowd. Its version of the Mexican snack food is one ear of corn smeared with just the right amount of mayo, then generously dusted with cotija cheese, chile piquin, and smoked paprika. You can slice the kernels off the cob, or dig in face first — hey, that's what napkins are for. The elote is perfectly roasted, fresh, and crisp, and the ideal start to a great Gallo Blanco lunch or dinner.

Taco Boy's two Valley locations serve some of the best tacos in town, no question. But when we think about meals we've had there, the dish that sticks in our mind, that we crave, that we tell others about, is ... the beans. Seriously. Think of the many bland piles of refried beans you've eaten in your life, then imagine the opposite of that. Taco Boy's beans are dark, with a smoky flavor. They're mostly smooth, with just a tiny bit of texture. They're incredible fresh or reheated. And they're the perfect side dish to the main offerings at Taco's Boy — we particularly love the al pastor and the carne asada. The Phoenix outpost has a few beer options in bottles, but if you head to Tempe to try the beans and their sidekicks, you can pick a beverage from the beer wall, which offers 20 taps of frothy refreshment.

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