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Favorite Central Phx hole in the wall Mexican?

Hi all:

I've been mostly out of the area for the last 5 years (long story about the "mostly"), and now I'm trying to build up a list of reliable non-fancy Mexican joints near our house--say roughly between 32nd St and I-17 and from MacDowell up to Bethany Home.

Our current defaults are La Barquita (south side of MacDowell just west of 24th St) and Tacos Mexico (east side of 16th St, near Oak). We also like Pepe's Taco Villa on Camelback (near 23rd Ave), but don't end up going there as often as the other two places.

Just thought I'd poll the board to get your picks for places where the food is great, even if the ambiance is a little on the funky side. Bonus points for places with housemade corn tortillas and rellenos that don't taste like year-old fryer oil.

Mil gracias!

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  1. Juan's at 16th and Thomas is very good and a little hole in the wall.

    Rosita's on McDowell around 23 Street or so is also good.

    2 Replies
    1. re: Seth Chadwick

      Visited Rositas for the 2nd time yesterday and had the taco/enchilada combo plate. It reminded me that I should go back more often and explore their varied offerings.

      Their standard salsas that came with the chips were a notch or three hotter than most in town. A good thing. I wish that translated over to the enchilada sauce, which was decent, but ho hum. Not bad, but I found a new standard in New Mexico that all other red/green smothered enchiladas will be comapred against and most don't stand a chance!

      Anyhow, this is one of my fave places for Mex in PHX.

      1. re: tastyjon

        tastyjon, What is your gold standard place in NM? I travel over there quite a bit and have a few I enjoy as well. - Doug

    2. Rosita's Place is one of my favorites also,try the cheese enchiladas with the green sauce.2310 E. McDowell
      La Hacienda at 16 th. and McDowell is good for green chile,lots of good items on the menu.
      La Casita Del Mar on 32nd.St. north of McDowell has good homemade food,lots of soups and seafood items and cakes and pastries.This place is in a dicey neighborhood but the food is good.

      6 Replies
      1. re: twodogs

        La Tolteca at about 9th St. and Van Buren is a tried and true option, as much a grocery as it is a restaurant. Bustling, friendly, savory, cheap, flavorful -- not the greatest food in town, but overlooked, underrated, and taken for granted. Yummy el pastor, enormous burritos, excellent green salsa w/avocado chunks, and if you're into it, a bakery section with all the usual sweet Mexican suspects.

        I've not been to the Phoenix location, but Tacos Mexico at Priest and Southern in Tempe is muy pecoso y autentico. South of your grid is El Portal near 2nd Ave. and Grant, serving among other stuff delicious, hearty cocido every day of the week.

        For gringo fresh Mex that's not totally gringo-ized, I like Chico's Taco's at 7th St. and McDowel (NW corner)l. Run by the same family for several years at least -- little turnover -- my favorites are the chicken pasilla burrito and the (forget the name) grilled chicken achiote salad, And I am not a salad guy. Plus, you can get anything you want at Alice's .. err, the Ranch Market at 16th and Roosevelt -- NW corner -- a cornucopia of delightful tastes, smells and flavors, like birria, chilis, tortas, barbacoa, jamaica ...

        1. re: misohungrychewlow

          Not sure I've ever noticed La Tolteca, but I don't travel that stretch of Roosevelt too much. Chico's sounds interesting, as about the only time I have pasilla sauced food is when I make it myself. We have a mini-"knockoff" of Ranch Market near us (Phoenix Farms, 19th Ave & Osborn) where we occasionally get deli takeout, so I'm familiar with the model. Though I've never really made a systematic comparison, the Ranch Market delis do appear to have a broader selection of dishes. Now I have some incentive to check out the southeast quadrant of central Phx.

          1. re: hohokam

            Chico's is one of my standards when in the area, hungry and don't want to explore.

            It's like a Baja Fresh, but with much better grub. Very clean and corporate looking - but not a national chain. You order at a counter. You get a number. There's a salsa/toppings bar (better than most). A fill your-own-drink area. You seat yourself, bus yourself... it's pretty simple but delivers good eats. A good place to eat, but not really a dining destination. As an aside, they always seem to have a collection of aviation related trade magazines floating about - which I like to leaf through while snacking.

        2. re: twodogs

          Ha! We almost checked out both La Hacienda AND Rosita's last night. My SO was creeped out by the stuff around La Hacienda (strip club, nightclubs), which I thought was odd, given that we actually ate out in Maryvale (sketchier 'hood in my opinion) last weekend.

          Anyway, we continued on towards La Barquita and briefly considered stopping at Rosita's (2 doors away from LB). LB's kitchen was closed by the time we got there, so we then continued to push eastward on to Red Devil, which is very near La Casita del Mar.

          I went to Juan's once several years ago, but don't really remember much about the food. Guess it's time I give it another chance.

          Thanks to you both for the tips.

          1. re: hohokam

            Between the two,I would take Rosita's over La Hacienda,they have different things on the menu but I like Rosita's the best, parking is behind the restaurant and they have a security guard on duty back there.La Hacienda has a taqueria in the back most evenings and you can get "street" tacos there.

            1. re: hohokam

              More than a few years ago I lived in Coronado and dined at Hacienda regularly. They won Phoenix New Times Best (Chicken) Mole about a year after opening, it was my favorite dish there. Like Carolina's, I ignored the neighbors.

          2. El Nopalito
            2831 N 24th St (NE 24th St/Thomas)
            Phoenix, AZ 85008

            No ambiance to speak of, but a great place to fill up on $.99 tacos (served with onion and cilantro) and a host of other delicious items.

            1 Reply
            1. re: azhotdish

              Si si! I tried El Nopalito several years ago and remembering liking what I had (enchiladas suizas, I think). I keep meaning to go back, but it seems like my timing is always off. Perhaps I'll try to time my next Home Depot run to coincide with mealtime.

              And as I recall, you're right about the ambiance, but I don't mind as long as the food is still good. ;-)

            2. i'd add la guadalapana on 16th street south of thomas. the first time i went there they didn't even have a menu in english ;) they have since added one and you'll notice pigeon, i mean squab on the menu ;)

              not really a hole in the wall, a teeny step up but i love la pinata. i'll also add marisco's ensenada to the list - fantastic octopus tacos!!!

              don't forget carolina's on mohave and about 10th-ish street..and el comidal or comidar on central and mohave - also good....

              4 Replies
              1. re: winedubar

                it's a bit further south but i've become a huge fan of the green chile at rito's on 14th st and roosevelt

                1. re: winedubar

                  I was going to mention La Pinata (19th Ave. and Osborne). I have a coworker who comes to town every month or so from Florida and she always wants to go there. Also Sylvia's, at 19th Ave. and Missouri -- it is inconsistent, but the green chile burrito is good most of the time.

                  1. re: kittyfood

                    Actually, Sylvia's is on 7th Ave and Missouri, not 19th... but does have excellent food.

                  2. re: winedubar

                    I second Carolina's. Great enchilada's

                  3. Thanks y'all. Looks like I've got my work cut out for me.