BEST MEXICAN RESTAURANTS – PHOENIX, ARIZONA
CAROLINAS’S RESTAURANT & TORTILLERIA
1202 East Mohave, Phoenix, AZ (602) 252-1503
This restaurant and tortilleria is situated in a hard-scrabble neighborhood on Phoenix’s Southside and doesn’t waste much effort on fancy ambiance. But check out all the rave write-ups in local weeklies and magazines along with signed photos of Los Lobos and Paul Rodriguez that line the restaurant’s white-washed walls. Founder Carolina Valenzuela still runs the kitchen–and her food is awesome! Peruse the posted menu as you stand in line to order and you’ll find burros, tacos, menudo as well as take out orders of tortillas and homemade enchilada sauce. There are self-serve soft-drink machines on a counter next to containers that squirt out delicious red salsa when you press the pump. The claim that Carolina’s has “the best tortillas in town,” is mightily warranted. Order the traditional giant-size Sonoran-style flour tortillas with a meal or to take home steaming hot and fresh by the half dozen or more. LATINOPIA RECOMMENDS the excellent red chile burro, the savory meat guisada mildly tempered with red chile is scrumptious!
2814 North 16th Street
Phoenix, AZ 85006
Located just south of the intersection of Thomas and 16th Street, this small, busy and homey restaurant features the work of local artists on the walls and offers cuisine from Southern Mexico (the Yucatan) including classic cochinita pibil and traditional moles. Chef Silvana Salcido Esparza’s comida chingona–her trademark– includes innovative estremesas such as a delicious spinach crepe that blends the savory with the sweet, with lots of garlic. Guacamole is mashed and mixed tableside. Main dishes include fish, chicken and steak deliciously prepared with delicate flavor combinations that use ingredients like
pomegranate and almonds–expect no big chile kick. Over 200 kinds of tequilas line the bar wall, and a tall margarita of Corralejo, agave nectar and lime is slightly sweet, slightly tart and very delicious. It’ll cost you–$9.75 for that bit of heaven in a big tumbler. The food is not inexpensive–be sure to ask for the exact cost of the evening specials; though not listed, they can be twice the cost any other item on the menu!)
LATINOPIA RECOMMENDS: the excellent margarita and the tasty green pork posole, with its light broth, tender bits of meat and the cabbage and cilantro served on top.
MUCHO GUSTO TAQUERIA
AND MEXICAN BISTRO
603 West University Drive
Tempe, Arizona 85281
Located in adjacent, Tempe, Arizona, a few blocks from Arizona State University, this modest taqueria, with its indoor seating and outdoor patio, features an exotic array of fish, shrimp, chicken and steak tacos with accompanying salsas as well as banderillas (kabobs) and featured entrees such as Oaxacan Tamales, Garlic Amarettto Shrimp and the ever popular Chimichangas. A full bar affords margaritas and other tequila concoctions as well as beer and wine. Geared to a relaxed university clientele, the menu’s empanadas, green chile pozole and tortilla soup go beyond the university crowd and make a visit worthwhile. LATINOPIA RECOMMENDS: the simple but deliciously effective fish tacos and the equally rewarding machaca tacos.
FRANK AND LUPE’S OLD MEXICO RESTAURANT
4121 North Marshall Way
A bit of New Mexico in Scottsdale, Arizona, this modest restaurant is th twin sister of the original Frank and Lupe’s in Socorro, New Mexico. As you might expect New Mexican cuisine soars here, everything from chimichangas, to sopapillas to tamales to Lupe’s extraordinary enchilada plate, as well as
ribeye steaks and carnitas. The restaurant has a full bar with a wide selection of tequilas. LATINOPIA RECOMMENDS the carne adobada, juicy and tender beef, simmered in a rich New Mexico red chile sauce.