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This already beloved traveling taco stand changes its menu monthly (or so), with themes rooted in Mexican cuisine — and a few distinctions thrown in. Founded by owners Lawrence Smith and Aseret Arroyo during the pandemic, Chilte Tacos channels the varied traditions of Arroyo's experience with Sinaloa cooking. Smith (who was an NFL player with the Indianapolis Colts before going to culinary school) has cooked in impressive kitchens himself, including Elements, Ghost Ranch, and Match. One past theme was birria, which saw birria matched with tacos, ramen, and fufu — and they've tucked that tender birria into tortillas blackened by squid ink to create quesabirrias, something we'll never forget. They've served hot chicken tortas, bulgogi tacos, and chapulin tamales too. What they cook varies as widely as their location, which ranges all over town.

Day of the Dead festivals, inspired by the Mexican holiday Dia de los Muertos, pop up around metro Phoenix every fall. Add in Cinco de Mayo, and you've got a whopping couple of days when Mexican culture seems to be on everyone's mind. Works by Phoenix artist Lalo Cota, who was born in Navojoa, Sonora, Mexico, pretty much assure that those who see them will have Mexico on the brain a lot more often. You can't drive far in downtown Phoenix without seeing a mural he's painted alone or with one of his many collaborators. Many feature skulls or other iconic Day of the Dead imagery, or cars that embody Chicano lowrider culture. He's got mural art inside the new Barrio Café Gran Reserva and outside Carly's Bistro — plus dozens of other places. Seeing walls painted with Cota's signature skull-faced characters reminds people of Phoenix's relative proximity to the border — and the fact that being close to Mexico is a good thing, worthy of celebrating with more than just a few days of partying.

Jackie Mercandetti
Not needing any help with the heat is the aptly named Shrimp in a Very Hot Sauce, or camarones a la diabla.

For those without the good fortune of having pozole served up regularly at home, pop into this spartan eatery in Mesa for a soul-soothing bowl of what just might be the perfect Mexican comfort food. Served up as pozole rojo, Taquitos Jalisco's red chile-laced broth features bone-on chunks of beef, puffy, chewy pieces of hominy, and a plate loaded up with cilantro, white onion, shredded cabbage, and slices of lime to flavor your pozole as you please. Served up in a giant bowl, it will feed you today and, most likely, tomorrow, too.

Courtesy of Los Sombreros
If we came across blackened, bloated corncobs infected by huitlacoche in the wild, it's doubtful our first instinct would be to put them in our mouth. But to whoever first mustered up the cojones to pop a couple of these nightmarish kernels, we salute you. Los Sombreros follows in these brave footsteps by celebrating the earthy, mushroom-like flavor of these "Mexican truffles." Thin crêpes are filled with sautéed "corn smut," veggies, and queso, then drizzled in crema and pomegranate sauce. The delicate and exotic flavors meld together to create one heck of an appetizer. Try it once and you'll see why it earns its other moniker, "Mexican caviar."
Jackie Mercandetti Photo
Payton Curry called his pop-up restaurant at The Welcome Diner a therapy project. His therapy became culinary-inspired healing for the 2,800-plus diners who showed up between April 1 and a cosmic final cleanup on July 5 — fittingly, the day of the now-famous haboob. Curry created his daily menu based on what was fresh and available each morning from local purveyors. Scoring a spot inside the nine-seat diner ensured a dream eating experience: watching the chef and his dessert-creating wife, Shantal, prep, cook, and banter with guests. At the outdoor picnic tables, the collegial atmosphere was extended by an attentive, knowledgeable staff, something often missing from a pop-up. The FB&J sandwich is now legendary — lightly seared foie gras with a hint of rosemary and strawberry jam on toasted brioche. Handmade fettuccini appeared one night with lamb, sheep's milk cheese, chickpeas, and golden raisins. It appeared on another as the foundation for a vegetarian dish topped with tomatoes, sweet corn, squash, and sorrel.Bacon-wrapped rabbit on a bed of pickled zucchini, radish, cherry tomatoes, and golden raisins, and squab with morel ravioli, greens, and pecans were one-night stands, savored for the moment and longed for until Payton pops up again we hear you can catch him these days at FnB in Scottsdale.

Best Sports Bar, Downtown Phoenix: Alice Cooper's Town

Best Gay Bar: Amsterdam

Best Lesbian Bar: Amsterdam

Best Martini: AZ 88

Best Bookstore: Barnes & Noble

Best TV Newscaster: Beverly Kidd

Best Pop-Up Restaurant: Black Chile Mexican Grill

Best Downtown Lunch: Black Chile Mexican Grill

Best Take a Foodie: Black Chile Mexican Grill

Best Happy Hour, Central Phoenix: Black Chile Mexican Grill

Best Happy Hour, Downtown Phoenix: Black Chile Mexican Grill

Best Neighborhood Bar, Central Phoenix: Black Chile Mexican Grill

Best Neighborhood Bar, Downtown Phoenix: Black Chile Mexican Grill

Best Upscale Mexican Restaurant: Black Chile Mexican Grill

Best Margarita: Black Chile Mexican Grill

Best Vintage Clothing: Buffalo Exchange

Best Spa: Camelback Inn

Best Hiking Trail: Camelback Mountain

Best Independent Film Theater: Camelview 5

Best Neighborhood Mexican Restaurant, South Phoenix: Carolina's

Best Coffee House, Tempe: Cartel Coffee Lab

Best Neighborhood Bar, Tempe: Casey Moore's Oyster House

Best Venue to See National Acts: Celebrity Theatre

Best Ice Cream: Cold Stone Creamery

Best Dive Bar: The Coach House

Best Music Festival: Country Thunder

Best Vietnamese Restaurant: Cyclo

Best Italian Deli: DeFalco's Italian Eatery

Best Indian Restaurant: Delhi Palace

Best Latin DJ: DJ Kyko

Best Hip-Hop DJ: DJ Madd Rich

Best Steak House Durant's

Best Place for a Twilight Drink: Elements at Sanctuary

Best First Friday Hangout: Firehouse

Best New Restaurant: Firehouse

Best Happy Hour, Scottsdale: Firehouse

Best Sports Bar, Scottsdale: Firehouse

Best New Nightclub: Firehouse

Best Dance Floor: Firehouse

Best Weekly Dance Night: Firehouse

Best Neighborhood Bar, Scottsdale: Firehouse

Best Place to Find a One-Night Stand: Firehouse

Best After-Hours Scottsdale: Firehouse

Best Place to Be Seen: Firehouse

Best Arts Festival: First Friday

Best Gastropub: Four Peaks Brewing Company

Best Happy Hour, Tempe: Four Peaks Brewing Company

Best Sports Bar, Tempe: Four Peaks Brewing Company

Best Brewery: Four Peaks Brewing Company

Best Local Beer: Four Peaks Brewing Company

Best Politician: Gabrielle Giffords

Best Sports Bar, South Phoenix: Gallagher's

Best English Pub: George & Dragon

Best Sunday Brunch: The Good Egg

Best Antiques on a Budget: Goodwill

Best Comic Book Shop: Gotham City Comics

Best Happy Hour, North Phoenix: Half Moon Sports Grill

Best German Restaurant: Haus Murphy's

Best Art Supply Store: Hobby Lobby

Best Barbecue Restaurant: Honey Bear's

Best Morning Radio Show: JohnJay & Rick KISS 104.7

Best Alternative/Rock Radio Station: KEXX 103.9

Best Hip-Hop Radio Station: KISS 104.7 FM

Best Country Radio Station: KMLE 107.9

Best Happy Hour, Southeast Phoenix: Kona Grill

Best News Radio Station: KTAR 92.3

Best Jazz & Blues Band: KYOT 95.5 FM

Best Sangria: La Grande Orange

Best Graffiti Artist: Lindsay Monti

Best Neighborhood, Mexican Restaurant,Scottsdale: Los Olivos

Best Vegan Restaurant: Loving Hut

Best Coffee House, Downtown Phoenix: Lux

Best Neighborhood Mexican Restaurant,Tempe: Macayo's

Best Venue for Local Acts: Marquee Theatre

Best Hangover Breakfast: Matt's Big Breakfast

Best Pool Hall: Mill Cue Club

Best Wings: Native New Yorker

Best Sports Bar, Southeast Valley: Native New Yorker

Best Slice of Pizza: NYPD Pizza

Best Italian Restaurant: Oregano's

Best Mural: Oregano's

Best Chinese Restaurant: P.F. Chang's

Best Restaurant for Kids: Peter Piper's Pizza

Best Pet Groomer: PetSmart

Best Hotel Pool: The Phoenician

Best Way to be Gluten-Free: Picazzo's Organic Italian Kitchen

Best Vegetarian Restaurant: Pita Jungle

Best Mediterranean Restaurant: Pita Jungle

Best Gourmet Pizza: Pizzeria Bianco

Best Place for a First Date: Postino Winecafe

Best Wine Bar: Postino Winecafe

Best Japanese Restaurant: RA Sushi

Best Blues Club: The Rhythm Room

Best Irish Pub: Rosie McCaffney's

Best View: Rustler's Rooste

Best Seafood: The Salt Cellar

Best Neighborhood Bar, Southeast Valley: SanTan Brewing Company

Best Sports Bar, North Phoenix: Santisi Brothers

Best Sports Bar, West Valley: Santisi Brothers

Best Specialty Cocktail: Santisi Brothers

Best Neighborhood Bar, North Phoenix: Santisi Brothers

Best Neighborhood Bar, West Valley: Santisi Brothers

Best Culinary Festival: Scottsdale Culinary Festival

Best Mall: Scottsdale Fashion Square

Best Latin Night: Sky Lounge

Best Hamburger: Smashburger

Best French Restaurant: Sophie's Bistro

Best Cupcakes: Sprinkles

Best Health Food Store: Sprouts

Best Coffee House, South Phoenix: Starbucks

Best Coffee House, North Phoenix: Starbucks

Best Coffee House, Central Phoenix: Starbucks

Best Coffee House, West Valley: Starbucks

Best Coffee House, Southeast Valley: Starbucks

Best Coffee House, Scottsdale: Starbucks

Best Sushi: Stingray Sushi

Best Casino: Talking Stick Resort

Best Bakery: Tammie Coe Cakes

Best Hot Dog: Ted's Hot Dogs

Best Place to See a Comedy Show: Tempe Improv

Best Country and Western Nightspot: Toby Keith's I Love This Bar & Grill

Best Place to Buy Wine by the Bottle: Total Wine & More

Best Golf Course: Troon North

Best Neighborhood, Mexican Restaurant, North Phoenix: Valle Luna

Best Neighborhood, Mexican Restaurant, West Valley: Valle Luna

Best Neighborhood, Mexican Restaurant, Southeast Valley: Valle Luna

Best Place to take a Scenester: The Vig

Best Place to Be Seen: W Hotel Scottsdale

Best Local Band: Whiskey Six

Best Thai Restaurant: Wild Thaiger

Best CD Store: Zia Record Exchange

Best Happy Hour, South Phoenix: Zipps Sports Grill

Best Happy Hour, West Valley: Zipps Sports Grill

Best Sports Bar, Central Phoenix: Zipps Sports Grill

Best Neighborhood Bar, South Phoenix: Zipps Sports Grill

The 99-cent fish taco night at Las Glorias Grill in Phoenix is a long-standing and deservedly popular Wednesday tradition. The tender whitefish is grilled rather than deep-fried, then folded inside a warm corn tortilla, garnished simply with crumbly white Mexican cheese, lettuce, and a surprisingly light sauce. Two or three will fill you right up. A Corona or two at a buck-fifty a pop, and a decent tip for the very friendly servers and, what, you're out a whopping $7. We promise, you'll be back for more next time you're near the neighborhood.

We have plenty of guilty pleasures, but one thing that makes us feel no guilt whatsoever is an ice-cold paleta on a toasty Arizona afternoon. Sure, you could call them Mexican popsicles, but paletas are truly a class unto themselves, so much more fun than their American counterparts. Flor de Michoacan carries around two dozen flavors, including tamarind, pistachio, and coconut, along with classics like strawberry cream, lemon, and pecan. We're always tempted to order one of each, except that they'd all melt by the time we got home. Better to just grab a seat here and indulge, one by one. Besides, the vibe's just so charming, with giant fruit painted on the windows and walls done up in hot pink and blue stripes. It makes us feel like a kid all over again, which has us wondering — is the fountain of youth perhaps frozen into a pop?

As we began to see hibiscus pop up as a trendy ingredient in hot spots from San Francisco to New York City, we were reminded of where we saw it first: Mucho Gusto. This cute Tempe cafe has consistently great specialty margaritas, none of them better than one infused with hibiscus. We especially like it in the drink's frozen incarnation. The flower's tropical lushness is good on ice, but heaven in a blend.
Even before reggaeton became all the rage in the Valley, Club 95 was playing hot tracks by reggaeton artists like Daddy Yankee, Don Omar, and Ivy Queen. The station also sponsored various reggaeton nights around the Valley, adding even more muscle to the growing music scene. Club 95's DJs also spin Mexican regional and Spanish pop, but in the past year, the format has become more reggaeton. The "Latino Vibe" is still there, though, and the Phoenix flavor comes through in the Spanglish that saturates the frequency. Club 95 DJs like Mikey Fuentes, Jose El Cubanito, Diamond Boy Luis, and the stunning Jackie Morales are local celebrities in the Latino world, showing up at different station events and promotions, and fielding on-air phone calls from listeners and fans. So despite the fact that Club 95 plays very little (if any) mariachi and accordion music, the station is clearly a bridge between cultures in the Valley, and hands down the most popular station among the young, hip Latino/Latina crowd.

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