Best Mexican Seafood 2023 | Mariscos Playa Hermosa | La Vida | Phoenix
Lauren Cusimano

Ask anyone in town for a Mexican seafood recommendation, and Mariscos Playa Hermosa will likely be their response. And for good reason: This colorful spot has earned its place at the top of the Phoenix mariscos mountain. The massive selection of always-fresh seafood spans cold ceviches and aguachiles to bacon-wrapped shrimp, saucy seafood entrees and whole fried fish. Seafood dishes pair perfectly with drinks such as the Spicy Mami, a watermelon and chiltepin blend; the La Ofrenda, a black-colored margarita; or the absinthe mojito. Bring a crowd and plan to share at this high-energy spot. On weekends or occasions, plan ahead and reserve a table because although Mariscos Playa Hermosa is large, big groups often fill up the space with birthday parties and celebrations.

Who said the pick for ceviche had to be Mexican? His sojourn to the West Valley now complete, Chef Oscar Graham recently opened Tumi 2.0 in the space that once housed the original Contigo Peru, and he's brought his wild, eclectic Peruvian ceviche with him. No shade thrown at the scads of excellent ceviches around town, but there's an extra little thrill to citrus-cured seafood when it's piled with slivered onions, slabs of sweet potato, crunchy cancha and boiled corn kernels the size of marbles. Of course, all the whiz-bang in the world doesn't mean a thing if the flavor isn't there, but Graham's ceviches are perfectly balanced. His signature ceviche, the Orgía de Mariscos (it means exactly what you think it means), adds a healthy dose of pisco to a tart and explosive mix of finfish, bivalves and shellfish perked up with Peruvian rocoto chile.

Jamie Peachey

The family-owned bakery has been making breads, burritos, cakes and pastries for 40 years at locations in Glendale and Phoenix. The bakery case is a delight for the senses, with twisted, glazed and sprinkled sweets. Behind the counter is an array of conchas, the light-as-air Mexican sweet breads that are painted with crunchy, colorful flavored sugars. Beyond cranking out primo pastries, we appreciate the bakery's Phoenix Suns pride. When our NBA team again found itself in the playoffs this year, we stocked up on purple and orange conchas for our watch parties and could rock some hand-drawn swag, like a "Vamos Suns" T-shirt featuring Go the Gorilla riding next to a concha in a convertible. The Suns may not have taken the championship, but those conchas, and the swag from La Purisima and artist Jon Garza, helped soften the blow.

Tirion Morris

Horchata isn't generally hot pink, but at Emilio's Tacos & Hotdogs, the strawberry-packed version is worth straying from the original. The classic rice, vanilla, milk and cinnamon mixture is blended with fresh strawberries and ice for a treat that lands somewhere between a smoothie and a dessert. A swirl of red strawberry syrup solidifies the argument for the latter. Grab this pink drink on the run by passing through Emilio's drive-thru or head inside the tiny, colorful joint and pair this treat with some tacos, carne asada fries or one of the top Sonoran hot dogs in town.

We came late to the aguas frescas party. But now that we're here, we're all in. The blend of water and fresh fruit juices is delicious and blessedly cooling during our many months of blistering heat. Our preferred source for ice-cold refreshment is one of Tortas Manantial's four Valley locations. If mainstream flavors are more your speed, options like strawberry, watermelon or pineapple (our personal favorite) are the way to go. But you'll be rewarded with a surprising and tasty flavor experience if you branch out to choices like soursop, guava or cucumber lemon. We're certain that after you've tried a few drinks from Tortas Manantial, you'll join us at the aguas frescas party.

Meagan Mastriani

In our opinion, churros are like pizza: Even the mediocre examples can still be enjoyable. But if a bottom-of-the-barrel churro is a $5 Hot-and-Ready from Little Caesars, the churros at Dulce Churro Cafe are a wood-fired pie with fresh mozzarella and hand-torn basil made by a master pizzaiolo. Your order at the two Dulce Churro Cafe locations starts with a piping hot churro that's perfectly crisp on the outside and soft on the inside. You can get it in a loop shape, in one long cylinder or in little bites. From there, get as crazy as you want. Strawberry glaze. Served with vanilla soft serve ice cream. Topped with sprinkles. Accompanied by a mango- or cheesecake-flavored dip. Whatever you choose to do to jazz up your churro, it'll be a winning combination.

Allison Young

Alebrije Neveria poses the question, why isn't cereal always used as an ice cream topping? At this North Phoenix dessert shop, the Cereal Bowl comes with vanilla or strawberry ice cream swirled with a choice of cereals, topped with even more Fruity Pebbles, Cookie Crisp or Frosted Flakes for the ultimate breakfast-lovers' delight. Continue the breakfast-meets-dessert theme with a classic banana split or opt for a Fresas Alebrije, the shop's namesake creation made with fresh strawberries, cream, pecans and vanilla ice cream. Sweet and creamy not your thing? Try a tart and tangy raspado with tamarind, mango, chamoy or cucumber. Classic options including mangoneadas and piña coladas are on the menu along with a selection of savory bites such as esquites, elotes and Tostilocos at this colorful, family-run ice cream shop and snack bar.

Hipster coffee boutiques with their industrial vibe, serious baristas and sea of laptops are multiplying faster than you can say "locally roasted." The antidote to all that sleek, chic coffee geekdom is Mis Raíces, which translates to "my roots." Here, old-fashioned conversations happen in Spanish or English or both, everyone is all smiles and the atmosphere is full of colorful decor and delectable drinks based on Mexican dessert flavors. And oh, those flavors: traditional sweets like cajeta, flan, horchata and mazapán are always available, and specials such as pistachio cold foam are spectacular as well. Owner Clara Sánchez named the place after her upbringing in Guadalajara, Jalisco, and treats every customer like a guest in her home. She eagerly asks if guests like their drink and beams when they express appreciation. Smoothies, shaken espressos, tea, lemonade, bagels and pastries also are available, so it's a perfect place to settle in for a bit, put away that laptop and indulge in her hospitality.

Margaritas are dangerous, y'all. Those tart little numbers go down so easily, and before you know it, your head feels funny and your wallet has taken a major hit. We can't help with your alcohol tolerance, but we know where you can go to get margs on the cheap. Local chain Someburros seems to be taking over the Valley — a dozen locations already, plus more on the way — and one of the reasons we love them is their happy hour specials. From 3-6 p.m., margaritas of the original and strawberry varieties are a measly $3, as are domestic and imported beers and a selection of snacks such as mini chimichangas, Mexican pizzas, nachos and cheese crisps. So the next time you feel like indulging in a margarita (or two, or more) without a huge tab, find a Someburros. But please, get a safe ride home.

Pete Salaz

Margaritas are deceptively simple. The basic recipe is tequila, triple sec and lime juice, so what could go wrong? Unfortunately, a lot, given the multitudes of margaritas Valleywide that range from watery to overly puckery to fizzy, among other fatal flaws. That's why Centrico's are so stellar. This cheery, bright, bustling modern Mexican restaurant on the ground floor of the San Carlos Hotel mixes honest, fresh, perfectly balanced versions that are not too tart or sweet, thanks to an expertly blended sour mix. And while the drinks provide a buzz, the tequila doesn't wallop their smooth, enjoyable flavor. It's also appealing that the cocktails are available in several variations, including the sandía (watermelon), prickly pear, jamaica and more, so you won't get bored. Best of all, these delightful drinks are ideal with the roster of exquisitely executed Mexican classics, whether you're doing some day drinking with a plate of chilaquiles or sipping one with a plate of birria beef, chicken or chile verde enchiladas.

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