Best Champion of Latino Culture 2023 | Arizona Latino Arts & Cultural Center | La Vida | Phoenix

With more than 42% of the population of Phoenix identifying as Hispanic or Latino, there's never been a time when Latino arts and culture have been a more integral part of the essence of the city. Founded in 2009, the Arizona Latino Arts & Cultural Center's stated mission is to "celebrate and promote the Latino presence in Arizona through arts, education and advocacy." How do they pursue that mission? Through events like dance performances, art exhibitions, street festivals and more. You can take an art class or make a purchase at the center's La Tiendita gift shop, but if you really want to support ALAC, you can vote yes in November 2023 on a $500 million general obligation bond program, $21 million of which is set aside for a building for the nonprofit organization, giving it a long-overdue permanent home from which to continue its essential work.

A First Friday wouldn't be complete without a stop at Xico Inc., an arts nonprofit housed in a historic building in downtown Phoenix. You may see a Día de Los Muertes-themed show or a collection of work by Latina and Indigenous women artists. But Xico is much more than a gallery stop. It was founded as Xicanindio in 1975 with the goal of promoting and supporting Latino and Indigenous artists, and almost 50 years later, it's still fulfilling its mission. It's worth stopping by more than once a month to hear an artist talk, take a class and generally bask in the creative atmosphere. Earlier this year, Conde Nast Traveler magazine named Xico a must-visit destination during a trip to Phoenix. We couldn't agree more.0x000A0x000A

Benjamin Leatherman

Club DWNTWN is one of the city's hottest spots for Latin, banda and cumbia, located on Central Avenue just south of McKinley Street. Yes, DWNTWN has all the prerequisites you'd need from your club of choice: drink deals, special events and actual human DJs spinning everything from the aforementioned standouts to reggaeton, merengue and Top 40. But it's the size of the club, and that sense of intimacy that's fostered, that really makes DWNTWN feel special. It's a nightclub like they used to be before giant, distinctly corporate spots started popping up — a gathering of your friends and neighbors in celebration of drink and music. It's a place not just to get lost in the moment but to connect back to the culture and people that make this city feel special, even if it's only for the duration of a few songs. DWNTWN is small, but it's got a giant sense of heart and an even bigger role in downtown nightlife.

The Duce

There are plenty of places to go for a night of vigorous salsa dancing. But if you really want to take salsa seriously, there's nowhere quite like Latin night at The Duce. For several years now, the multifaceted entertainment hub has held its Latin night on Thursdays, with lessons at 0x000A8 p.m. and social dancing at 9 p.m. You're never just blindly figuring out the moves on your own; The Duce invites some of the best dancers in the city and state to teach you how to properly cut a rug. In that way, this Latin night is about attracting people of all backgrounds and skill levels and teaching them something fun and new. From there, the social dancing part lets you apply those lessons in a fun, stress-free environment where the only real requirement is that you just let loose and feel the moment. That right there is what we love about Latin night at The Duce: It's a true, unassuming celebration of this robust tradition and the power it has to connect people to each other, the city and much more. Just wear sturdy shoes and drink plenty of water.

Tirion Boan

It's not just us who love the burritos at Testal. The James Beard Awards, known as the Oscars of food, named the Grand Avenue restaurant a semifinalist in its highly competitive national contest this year. The important thing to know about Testal is that the burritos probably aren't what you're used to. At the Chihuahuan-style restaurant, the burritos are small and open-ended. Does that mean they're messy? Absolutely. But having the bright red birria oil drip down your arm as you hungrily devour the delicacy is part of the fun. There are plenty of fillings to choose from, and we're partial to the rajas, a spicy mix of roasted poblano peppers, cream and cheese. Meat-filled options such as the red sauce pork Colorado and carne asada are also excellent choices. Start off with an order of chips to try out multiple different house salsas and cool off with a pinole, a creamy sip made from oats and corn. On certain evenings, the small patio takes on a life of its own with live music, DJs, karaoke and other entertainment.

Best Transition to Brick and Mortar


Allison Young

Beloved food truck Chilte set down roots earlier this year at the recently revamped Egyptian Motor Hotel on Historic Grand Avenue. Its permanent location is hip, eclectic and comfy. It matches the rock 'n' roll vibe of the motel while still feeling distinct, and distinctly Chilte. Owners Lawrence Smith and Aseret Arroyo have grown the menu with the added space, offering bold new options like prawns in chocolate aguachile and a seasonal quesadilla with grasshoppers. Chilte's hand-pressed squid ink tortillas, stuffed with birria, are served alongside a savory miso consommé. And, with a full bar program, cocktails add another punch of flavor. We're partial to the Carajilllo, a coffee-based creation with notes of chocolate, orange and lavender. And we're by no means the only ones who love Chilte; Bon Appétit magazine recently named it one of the best new restaurants in the U.S.

Patricia Escarcega

At the end of a strip mall off Thomas Road, Presidio Cocina Mexicana churns out some of the best burritos, chilaquiles and breakfast tacos in the city. The small restaurant features a long row of bar stools overlooking the open kitchen and coffee bar. Booths and a few stand-alone tables line the rest of the narrow space, and on weekend mornings, almost every seat is filled. This restaurant serves Michoacán-style fare, which materializes at brunch in the form of spicy salsas, hearty tamales and warming pozoles. Start your day with a steaming bowl of rich, red-tinted soup or opt for the classic huevos rancheros, served with creamy refried beans, fried potatoes and chorizo, and spicy ranchera salsa. Pair it all with a hot caramel latte or a cool and creamy horchata at this upbeat and welcoming spot.

Dominic Armato

Tacos Veganos looks like any of the modern taco spots in town. There's a quick service walk-up counter, a menu shown on flatscreen TVs hanging overhead, fridges filled with bottles of Jarritos soda, modern industrial decor painted bright hues and groups of friends sharing buckets of Modelos. But what sets this place apart is that the menu is entirely plant-based. Vegan food is a centuries-old tradition in Mexico, and this trendy taco spot blends the old and the new perfectly. Try the always-Instagrammable birria tacos waiting to be dunked in bright red consommé and scooped up with birria ramen noodles, or the colorful margaritas with Tajin rims and fresh fruit toppings. Dress up your dinner with an array of fresh and satisfying salsas for a meal that does not miss the meat.

Chris Malloy

Stop in during the multiple happy hours at Casa Corazon for one of the best after-work treats in the Valley. The Mexican restaurant, located inside its recognizable and adorable historic house on 16th Street, offers happy hour discounts from 3-6 p.m. every weekday. During those three wonderful hours, chips and bean dip are free, tacos are $4, beers are $5 and wine and margaritas are $6. Load up on tacos filled with carne asada, chicken and al pastor, or up the ante with the Tacos de Canasta al Vapor. In this dish, the whole taco is dipped in a red chile sauce and filled with melted cheese, shredded beef and red onions. These tacos, plus their discounted prices, will make happy hour-loving hearts sing at Casa Corazon.

Sara Crocker

There's no denying that Phoenix is a taco town. From Surprise to Queen Creek, Fountain Hills to Tolleson, the simple taco reigns supreme over the Valley food landscape. Fast food tacos. Vegan tacos. Bougie, overpriced tacos. Tacos served in high-end resorts and from the side of food trucks. Even with endless options, we seem to end up at El Rinconcito Del D.F. most often. It's not for the ambiance, which mostly resembles a church basement. No, the food is the singular draw here, and what a draw it is. The tacos come in two sizes, topped with onions and cilantro. The chorizo emits a pleasant heat without going overboard. Al pastor is perfectly marinated and spiced. Cabeza is rich and tender. They come accompanied with red and green salsas and a few lime wedges. It's all sublime washed down with an ice-cold Mexican Coke or Jarritos snatched from the fridge case.

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