La Tolteca in Phoenix: What We Bought, What We Skipped and What We're Still Lusting Over

The Spot: La Tolteca, open Monday through Saturday from 9 a.m. until 8 p.m. and Sunday 9 a.m. until 7 p.m.

See Also: - La 15 y Salsas Spices Up Sunnyslope with Oaxacan Eats - House of Rice in Scottsdale: What We Bought, What We Skipped, and What We're Still Lusting Over - 10 Best Burritos in Metro Phoenix

What We Bought: La Tolteca has seen us through some near-empty wallet times. The large plate of chilaquiles for $6.99 is an unbeatable deal and is sure to carry you through the day with mounds of leftovers. Admittedly, we've spent less time in the bakery, carniceria and other market portions of La Tolteca than its dine-in counterpart. However, we've begun to see the error of our ways.

La Tolteca certainly isn't a big one-stop grocery store, but what there is to buy is made well. The bright, pastry case wafts an addicting sugary smell when opened. Everything from pineapple upside-down cake and Mexican-style cheesecake is under $1 per serving. If you're in a crunch for dinner for the family, the meat counter offers an insane $10.99 deal of one whole, roasted mesquite chicken, a pint of rice, a pint of beans, two corn tortillas and salsa from the bountiful salsa bar. Since two tortillas might start a maiz war, we recommend you splurge two dollars and buy a dozen more freshly made corn or flour tortillas to supplement.

What We Skipped: After a large helping of pastries and chilaquiles, chicarrones (or Mexican pork rinds, essentially) were kind of out of the question, especially at $7/pound. That also means no Takis or big bottles of Jarritos soda for under $2. Surprisingly enough, we also passed on the guacamole at La Tolteca, not because of the price ($3.69/8 oz.), but because it looked kind of plain--pretty much just smushed avocados.

What We're Still Lusting Over: We know where to go when we need tamale basics like husks ($2.99), salsa standards like chile de arbol ($2.99) and unique sweets ingredients like tamarindo ($1.59) and jamaica ($3.99). What we really can't wait to try on our next visit is the tres leches cakes, which come in either one (arguably two) serving ($3.49) or a whole cake ($26.99). The spongey cake, expert frosting job and natural fruit and chocolate decorations have haunted our food dreams since we left.

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Heather Hoch is a music, food, and arts writer based in Tucson. She enjoys soup, scotch, Electric Light Orchestra, and walking her dog, Frodo.
Contact: Heather Hoch