In the hunt for the latest trendy restaurants, our spotlight often misses neighborhoods that are home to some of the Valley's best kitchens — including those making metro Phoenix's best tacos. Over the next several weeks, we’ll be guiding you toward the Valley’s tastiest tacos, and the taquerías that serve them. Welcome to Taco Summer.
49: Kiss Pollos Estilo Sinaloa
Taquería: Kiss Pollos Estilo Sinaloa, 306 West Yavapai Street
Open Since: 2015
Style: Chicken tacos with a Sinaloan-Californian pedigree
Signature Taco: The Kiss Taco
The first thing you probably should know about Kiss Pollos Estilo Sinaloa is that you don't come here for a quick hit of carne asada, al pastor, or anything resembling a combo platter. The kitchen ascribes to the philosophy of doing one thing, but doing it very well.
What Kiss Pollos does very well is the chopped chicken taco, a Sinaloa-California invention that the restaurant offers in several configurations.
"We only do one thing, so we're able to give it a lot of extra love and attention," says co-owner Jose Leon.
Leon and his wife, Diana, hail from Compton, California. They decided to move to Arizona to open a business and enjoy the lower cost of living. Leon says that their recipes are inspired by the food they grew up eating both at home and during their frequent travels to visit family in Sinaloa.
The standard order is probably the Kiss Taco, made with beautifully seasoned, flame-broiled chicken that's been chopped to smithereens, topped with melted cheese, and served on a couple of corn tortillas.
It's simple, homespun and easy on the wallet — exactly what you want when you only have a few bucks for lunch, but you don't want to settle for freeze-dried, reconstituted drive-thru fare.
Leon, a very friendly host who chats with guests, says that most of his clientele consists of neighborhood folks, personnel from the nearby hospital, and downtown workers venturing south for something new.
He knows that some people think of the south-central neighborhood where Kiss Pollos is located as a little "sketchy."
It's worth casting off any fears or prejudices for a taste of these tacos, though. You'll hardly care where you are when you take a bite out of something like the Kiss Papa taco, which is essentially the house taco topped with soft scraps of diced and griddle-crisped potatoes.
There's also the simple yet magical Flip Taco, whose looks will probably not impress anyone on your Instagram feed. But this dullish-looking taco is a treat,a sort of slim, wafer-taco sandwich that's built on a small, dried-out, crunchy corn tortilla, then lightly layered with salsa, a smear of refried beans, melted cheese, a sprinkling of pork and chicken, then topped with a soft, pliable corn tortilla. It's texture-rich and delicious.
Leon says that he loves being part of the Phoenix taco community, and the restaurant has developed a small but loving following around the neighborhood. His restaurant is giving back some of that love by donating the money pinned to the St. Jude statue that sits on the restaurant's counter (the statue was a gift from his sister) to the St. Jude's Children's Hospital.
If you want to partake in the good food and love at Kiss Pollos Estilo Sinaloa, you should know that the restaurant has a small crew and business hours can vary. Call ahead to avoid disappointment, or check the Kiss Pollos Facebook page for more information.
Our Taco Summer picks so far:
50. Taqueria Don Beto
Keep Phoenix New Times Free... Since we started Phoenix New Times, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Phoenix, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Phoenix with no paywalls.