Welcome to the 2018 edition of The Essentials, our catalog of indispensable and quintessential Phoenix food and drink. From now until May, we'll be sharing 50 dishes, drinks, and food experiences that make up the culinary backbone (and personality) of metro Phoenix. This list is highly eclectic, mixing classics with newer and lesser-known favorites. But all The Essentials have one thing in common: We think they're required eating (and drinking) in metro Phoenix.
13: Flour tortillas from La Sonorense Tortilla Factory
If you've eaten a burrito in metro Phoenix, there's a good chance you've eaten a tortilla that was made at La Sonorense Tortilla Factory in south Phoenix.
This longtime south Phoenix tortilleria and bakery, which has been operated by the Hernandez family for more than 30 years, produces upwards of one million flour and corn tortillas a week. The small factory and bakery is a top supplier of Arizona restaurants and resorts, including Someburros, Phoenix City Grille, and countless neighborhood Mexican restaurants and food trucks across the city.
On the shelves, you'll find everything from 5-inch corn tortillas made for street tacos to 15-inch burrito-size numbers. There are even enormous, pillowcase-size "cheese crisp" tortillas, which will look familiar to anyone who grew up on classic Arizona-Sonora restaurant grub. La Sonorense also carries fresh-baked pan dulce, and a small selection of hot carryout items, including pollo asado and chicharrón.
Apart from being a top commercial producer, La Sonorense is also popular with neighborhood families, who swing by the factory's small, cash-only storefront for a dozen (or two) freshly made tortillas. If you swing by La Sonorense in the morning, the tortillas will be fresh off the conveyor belt, still warm in their plastic wrappers.
People come from far and wide for La Sonorense's tortillas, Dulce Alvarez told me recently. Alvarez is the friendly face behind the counter on most mornings. She says some customers buy the tortillas in bulk, freezing any surplus for later use. As we chatted, Alvarez rang up the order of a regular customer who had traveled from El Mirage to south Phoenix to pick up a couple dozen tortillas.
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It's worth the 30-mile drive for their made-from-scratch flavor, the loyal customer told me, carrying an armful of tortillas out the door.
The hallmark of La Sonorense is its flour tortillas, which are made using only a handful of ingredients: flour, shortening, salt, and water. They are pressed into thin, par-cooked disks that puff up when you warm them up on the comal. Their flavor is straightforwardly rich and buttery, and their thin, pliable texture places them squarely in the Sonoran school of tortilla-making.
It's a tried-and-true recipe that's impossible to resist. And it's kept tortilla-lovers coming to La Sonorense for more than three decades now.
La Sonorense Tortilla Factory, 5403 South Central Avenue, 602-276-5132, Monday through Saturday 6 a.m. to 7 p.m., Sunday 7 a.m. to 2 p.m.
The Essentials So Far:
50: Soul food platter at Lo-Lo's Chicken & Waffles
49: The Bear at Short Leash Hot Dogs + Rollover Doughnuts
48: Grilled squid and other specialties at Andreoli Italian Grocer
47: I-10 Nachos at Cocina 10
46: Coffee made from ROC2 beans
45: The Haturo Sub Sandwich at Cheese 'n Stuff
44: Zookz at Zookz
43: Jade Red Chicken at Chino Bandido
42: Tasting menu at Quiessence at The Farm
41: Single-origin Papua New Guinea Bar at Zak's Chocolate
40: Green chile at Casa Reynoso
39: Brûlée burger from Paradise Valley Burger Company
38: Hand-pulled noodles from China Magic Noodle House
37: Carne adovada sliders at Dick's Hideaway
36: Crispy Pig Ear and Amaro cocktails from Crudo
35: Chile-laced specialties from Cafe Ga Hyang
34: Martinis at AZ88
33: Nooner at Duck & Decanter
32: Eggs Maximilian at Harlow's Cafe
31: Beef Tacos from Asadero Norte De Sonora
30: Orange Blossom from Huss Brewing Company
29: Rye bread from Yasha From Russia
28: Scotch Beef and Mashed Potatoes from Tarbell's
27: Griddled Corn Cakes and Ramona Farms Super Food Salad at Phoenix City Grille
26: Soup from Reathrey Sekong
25: Lamb tongue sandwich at Haji Baba
24: The Special at Grand Avenue Pizza Company
23: Red chile at Elmer's Tacos
22: Marranitos at La Purisima Bakery
21: Kronuts from Karl's Bakery
20: Beef pies at Chou's Kitchen
19: Bavarian pretzels & schnitzel at Haus Murphy's
18: Red chili burro and sopapillas from Los Dos Molinos
17: Camelback Soda at The Sugar Bowl
16: Brisket Sandwich at Chelsea's Kitchen
15: Taco Hazz from Ta'Carbon
14: Barnone at Agritopia
13: The Jazzy at Emerson Fry Bread
12: Flour tortillas from La Sonorense Tortilla Factory