Eat This Now

11 Great Chips and Salsa Combos in Metro Phoenix

The chips and salsa at Vecina.
The chips and salsa at Vecina. Jackie Mercandetti Photo
Admit it: Sometimes, you look forward more to a restaurant’s chips and salsa than its actual menu items. That’s okay! Complimentary or not, a good order of chips and salsa can be poetry. Here are 11 restaurants in the Valley doing the combo correctly.

Vecina

3433 North 56th Street

It’s no secret we are fans of Vecina, a new restaurant in Arcadia serving some top-notch ceviche and cocktails. So, it’s no surprise to share this: It also has great chips and salsa, and they’re $5 during happy hour. While we like the roasted tomato salsa, the creamy habanero salsa is incredible. The secret ingredient is butter … and maybe love? Chef-owner James Fox has been making this salsa for more than 10 years and served a version of it at his wedding.

click to enlarge The complimentary chips and salsa come soon after the menus are slapped down. - LAUREN CUSIMANO
The complimentary chips and salsa come soon after the menus are slapped down.
Lauren Cusimano

Arriba Mexican Grill

Multiple Locations
Arrive at Arriba Mexican Grill, or just Arriba’s if you’re a frequent guest, and some complimentary chips and salsa come soon after the menus are slapped down. The chips are perfect restaurant-style, ultra-thin, salty, pretty warm at first. Served right alongside them is a dish of chunky, mild to medium salsa, and a creamy bean dip. But here’s you're last pro tip: Ask for a side of the hot salsa, and a server will bring you a cup of bright red sauce with an extra kick.

click to enlarge Takeaway chips and salsa from Carolina's. - LAUREN CUSIMANO
Takeaway chips and salsa from Carolina's.
Lauren Cusimano

Carolina’s Mexican Food

1202 East Mohave Street

Though this Carolina’s location in south Phoenix may look scrappy, in the best possible way, the food churning away from that pickup counter is truly next level. That includes an order of chips and salsa. The corn tortilla chips paired with a four-ounce hot sauce, or just a handful of sauce-filled Solo dip cups, are less than $2. One bite into that ultra-crunchy chip, coated in that extra-hot salsa, and you’ll be hooked, joining the other lunchers in line at the 1986-established location of Carolina’s on a daily basis.


click to enlarge The pillowy flour chips and salsa dish from Aunt Chilada’s. - AUNT CHILADA’S
The pillowy flour chips and salsa dish from Aunt Chilada’s.
Aunt Chilada’s

Aunt Chilada’s

7330 North Dreamy Draw Drive

The original Aunt Chilada's sits pretty just off 16th Street north of Glendale Avenue, back-dropped by Piestewa Peak. The best way to enjoy that view is on the patio, with a frosty margarita (or water, whatever) and the family-owned restaurant’s chips and salsa. The special detail here is: The chips are made of flour. Each piece is soft, crumbly, and delicious, and holds the thick salsa full on to the lips and mouth. Pro tip: Don’t expect these chips at the Tempe location. The flour treatment is only at the Dreamy Draw spot.

click to enlarge Asadero Norte De Sonora brings the heat. - LAUREN CUSIMANO
Asadero Norte De Sonora brings the heat.
Lauren Cusimano

Asadero Norte De Sonora

122 North 16th Street

The salsa at Asadero Norte De Sonora is a little thinner, a little hotter, and overall, just a little more vivid red. Okay, full disclosure, this salsa is hot. The chile de arbol blends well with the fruity peppers, making the thin, rectangular tortilla chips mere sauce vessels. An order of the chips and salsa is complimentary — a server brings them over once you have a seat in the bright, petite, ultra-homelike dining room. Munching on salsa-coated chips, knowing your beef head taco and Mexican Coke is on the way, there’s no better place in town.

click to enlarge Gallo Blanco has one of the best salsa lineups in town. - CHRIS MALLOY
Gallo Blanco has one of the best salsa lineups in town.
Chris Malloy

Gallo Blanco

928 East Pierce Street

Executive Chef Doug Robson runs both Gallo Blanco and Otro Café, and both have excellent chips and salsa, so this is somewhat of a double entry. Walking into Gallo in the historic Garfield District (or Otro in uptown), know you’re about to have an experience. Try an order of La Charola, the centerpiece of which is Gallo Blanco Guacamole. La Charola also comes with thick corn tortilla chips, pico de gallo, fire-roasted salsa, and the always great salsa of the day.

click to enlarge Spring for the spicy molcajete salsa at Crescent Ballroom. - LAUREN CUSIMANO
Spring for the spicy molcajete salsa at Crescent Ballroom.
Lauren Cusimano

Cocina 10

308 North Second Avenue

Confess. You have tickets in hand for an act at Crescent Ballroom, but you’re more excited about the opportunity for ordering the chips and salsa. Cocina 10, the Crescent Ballroom kitchen, turns out all kinds of “Arizona road food,” and the chips are a major part of this. The warm tortilla chips are served with two squeeze bottles of salsa — chile de arbol (the red) and tomatillo (the green). To take it one step further, try the chips and spicy molcajete salsa. Debates still rage on which of these three salsa options is best.

click to enlarge As many bowls of chips and dishes of salsa you can handle. - LAUREN CUSIMANO
As many bowls of chips and dishes of salsa you can handle.
Lauren Cusimano

Mi Patio Mexican Restaurant

3347 North Seventh Avenue

The family-owned Mi Patio has been around since 1984, the dining room aesthetic classically kitschy and open daily from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. During that window, you can be served with as many bowls of chips and dishes of salsa as you can handle. Mi Patio is known, far and wide, for super-fast chip service. Warm bowls of tortilla chips come right away, and to make them somehow better, give them an extra dusting of salt. The ultimate salsa? Ask for a side of the seafoam-green Baja sauce. You’re welcome in advance.

click to enlarge It's the happiest hour at Taco Guild. - LAUREN CUSIMANO
It's the happiest hour at Taco Guild.
Lauren Cusimano

Taco Guild

546 East Osborn Road

Taco Guild definitely has an atmosphere as an 1893-built former chapel. And while there’s no perfect seat, it’s just a little more fun to sit at the bar. Why? A piping hot bowl of tortilla chips comes spinning out at you once you’re seated — complete with four sauces. And they just keep coming. All are best enjoyed during Confession Hour (all day Monday, and 3 to 6:30 p.m., then 9 to close, Tuesday through Sunday).

click to enlarge Scratch-made tortilla chips, and a pair of house salsas. - CHRIS MALLOY
Scratch-made tortilla chips, and a pair of house salsas.
Chris Malloy

Jalapeño Bucks

3434 North Val Vista Drive, Mesa

This place self identifies as “New Wave Mexican Soul Food & BuzzSaw Brand BBQ,” meaning there are barbecue plates, plus quesadillas, burritos, and yes, chips and salsa. Jalapeño Bucks in northeast Mesa fries its own tortilla chips in increments of small, medium, and extra-large. And that’s not even the best part. Diners may choose from five signature salsas — mild, mango, and sweet green, followed by Hot Mexican Red and Hot Gringo Green. They have fun.

click to enlarge But also order a side of Buffalo sauce. - LAUREN CUSIMANO
But also order a side of Buffalo sauce.
Lauren Cusimano

The Dirty Drummer

2303 North 44th Street

Sports bar, burger palace … chip shack? Many of the starters at The Dirty Drummer are good, made with care on the grill behind the bar, but the chips and salsa are quick and easy. Crunchy, deep-yellow tortilla chips come with chunky salsa, or Navarro’s Hot Sauce. But pro tip: Ask for a side of the house Buffalo sauce. Dip those salted chips and scoop up the sauce for a yummy-sound reaction. You won’t regret it.

Editor's note: This story was originally published on January 16, 2020. It was updated on February 24, 2021.
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Lauren Cusimano is Phoenix New Times' food and drink editor. She is a journalist and food waste writer based in Tempe. Joys include eating wings, riding bikes, knowing everyone at the bar, talking too much about The Simpsons, and falling asleep while reading.
Contact: Lauren Cusimano