Psst... We're working on the next generation of Chowhound! View >
HOME > Chowhound > Phoenix >
May 15, 2010 08:25 AM

If I could have just one Mexican place in Phoenix, what should it be?

Have just one place I can go to for Mexican food and then I have to get out of Phoenix. What should it be?

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. Too vague. Where are you staying? What variety of Mexican? Do you want full service? I think you'll get more replies if you supply some detail.

    3 Replies
    1. re: johnseberg

      I want to go to my grave knowing I've have the best Mexican food in Phoenix, prefer full service.

      1. re: observor

        I don't think I'm qualified to choose, but, I would say that all of the contenders are mentioned in this thread:

        1. re: observor

          We ask for more specific information because your request is akin to visiting Toronto, say, and asking for the best American food they have. They might ask you, 'what does American food mean to you?' Because we have steak houses, New American, California bistro, nine different kinds of barbeque, a dozen regional variations on pizza, and so on. You may be in the mood for New England chowder and they send you to a Carolina barbeque joint and you are then dissatisfied -- this is why Phoenix posters are inclined to answer questions like yours with more questions.

          What does Mexican mean to you? It is a large place with many regional variations. Because if you want the best tortas that's a different answer entirely than the best tortillas which is a different answer than the best carne asada, which is different than the best mariscos. If you wanted the best chilaquiles in town I wouldn't even send you to a Mexican place, I'd send you to Pavle at FnB.

          Long and short: there probably isn't one restaurant that you can call the best Mexican in Phoenix. johnseberg has linked a thread with many popular choices above; if you have questions about the strengths or weaknesses of any of those, I'm sure you'll get a lot of commentary.

          7133 E Stetson Dr, Scottsdale, AZ 85251

      2. Los Dos Molinos. There are a couple of locations, but for the real experience go to the one on Central. Be sure to have a pitcher of margaritas!

        1 Reply
        1. re: skirk

          Isn't Los Dos Molinos New Mexican? Or at least, aspires to be?

        2. C'mon, Phoenicians -- let's help out here! Such a big city, boo hoo ... Ask a New Yorker for the best pizza in his little village of 20 million and he'll give you a one-word response.

          Me? My answer changes from time to time but right now it's La Condesa (two words) on 16th Street.

          4 Replies
          1. re: misohungrychewlow

            Asking a New Yorker for best pizza is one thing; that's going to be a New York pie, pure and simple. There's so many variations on Mexican in these parts that it will make your head spin. The more I think about it, the harder it gets to single out THE best Mexican restaurant. I guess on merits of food alone that it would go to Barrio Cafe. However, I lived within easy walking distance for two years and never made it there, so I guess that shows what I really thought of my first visit. Tradiciones is pretty high up there too for the whole (rather kitschy) experience, but the only thing I've enjoyed enough to get multiple times is the parrillada. So that leaves us with only several hundred more Mexican joints scattered across this town...

            The most common style around here is by far Sonoran, rich with red sauce and shredded yellow cheese. Sadly, it's also fairly pedestrian as far as Mexican goes. Carolina's over behind the airport rental car complex does it better than anyone. It's the quintessential Mexican dive. The place looks like it saw its last coat of paint some time around the Carter administration. The tables are all collected from different closed down fast food restaurants. You get your food in a styrofoam box or wrapped in foil, served on a plastic tray with cheap plastic cutlery. But you aren't going there to be swathed in fine linens and coddled into a state of sheer bliss, you're going there for good cheap Mexican and BOY are you going to get it. They also happen to serve the best tortillas in town. If you're flying out, buy three dozen. When you get to the car, immediately stick two dozen in your checked luggage, and keep one dozen for your carry-on. If you try to carry on all three dozen, you MIGHT have two tortillas left by the time you reach your destination. They're that good. Rosita's Place on McDowell east of 24th Street earns high marks too.

            Some other ones on my possibly-maybe list are La Condesa, America's Taco Shop, and Garcia's Las Avenidas, which is not to be confused with the Garcia's chain. Las Avenidas is the original, still owned by the family and quite tasty, the rest are a regional chain that should be avoided at all costs. I'm a bit reluctant to put Garcia's Las Avenidas on here just because it's much like other things native Arizonans grew up with: I have fond childhood memories of the place, it's still as good as I remember, but your mileage very well may vary.

            1602 E Roosevelt St, Phoenix, AZ 85006

            Rosita's Place
            2310 E McDowell Rd, Phoenix, AZ 85006

            America's Taco Shop
            2041 N 7th Street, Phoenix, AZ

            1. re: JK Grence the Cosmic Jester

              That's a good analysis.

              One additional note, for those looking for the quintessential Mexican in Phoenix, please, please PLEASE do not go to Tradiciones. Tradiciones is like the Mexican version of Hard Rock Cafe, and that stupid mariachi band can drive a deaf Mormon to drink.

              1602 E Roosevelt St, Phoenix, AZ 85006

              Hard Rock Cafe
              201 E Washington St, Phoenix, AZ 85004

              1. re: JK Grence the Cosmic Jester

                I just saw on azcentral that Julio G's on Indian School has closed. The article mentions an affiliation with Garcia's Las Avenidas. How similar are the two?

                Julio G's
                7633 E Indian School Rd, Scottsdale, AZ 85251

                Garcia's Las Avenidas
                2212 N 35th Ave, Phoenix, AZ 85009

              2. I'm taking this question a little differently. Not really asking for the best - which as others have said is impossible - but just the one place. Here's my short list:

                Los Reyes de la Torta
                America's Taco Shop
                La Condesa
                Phoenix Ranch Market
                Barrio Cafe

                If I just had one meal it would probably be either the enchilada/taco combination plate at Carolina's or a Torta Cubana at Los Reyes. I'd have to flip a coin on those two.

                America's Taco Shop
                2041 N 7th Street, Phoenix, AZ

                14 Replies
                1. re: Phoenix99

                  From your list, I'd have to pick the green chili burro at Rito's. Simple, and completely delicious.

                  1. re: MesaChow

                    I would have thought the finest Mexican food experience in Phoenix wouldn't be a five dollar burrito at a peeling-paint shack.

                    1. re: observor

                      But you never said "finest" in your original post...just "best". Two very different things.

                      1. re: crsin

                        Not necessarily different things. I mean, if the food is splendid, the surroundings aren't that important, but a five dollar burrito combined with lukewarm surroundings doesn't sound like the most outstanding Mexican food experience I could have.

                        1. re: observor

                          Here is where the intramural squabbling starts -- to me, Rito's green chile might as well come from a can and is suitable if you like to drink your liquid burro rather than eat it with your hands -- the store-bought tortilla it is served in is even less worth the time, money or calories. Carolina's is a better choice for this style of food. Many will vociferously disagree -- such is life. Go to La Condesa or several other joints recommended here and you will do fine. You'll still be wondering whether you had Phoenix's best ...

                          1. re: observor

                            Well, again, you should probably be more specific in exactly what your looking for if you're just going to end up being combative when somebody offers their opinion.

                            Sounds like you should add "a pleasing, sit-down atmosphere with items that cost more than $5" to your original query.

                          2. re: crsin

                            Actually, the original post didn't say either finest or best just where you'd go for one Mexican meal in Phoenix. Again, an entirely different question. Also, I wouldn't order the green chile burrito at Rito's, I'd order it chimichanga style. Then, you really have something.

                            1. re: Phoenix99

                              When I first saw OP's question I thought of this thread which discusses the folly of attempting to name the "best" restaurant (although, OP did not say "best", subsequent posts indicate that's perhaps what he's looking for). This came about when someone asked for the "single best restaurant in Phoenix":


                              I forgot about the thread when I decided to join in the fray here. But thinking about it more, it is totally true that some days I'm in the mood for a $4.55 burrito. One day I may want to get dressed up and go to La Hacienda. Another day I may feel like having a Mariachi band serenade me while I eat, or have tableside guacamole from Barrio Cafe, or chicken mole from Pepe's Taco Villa, or something so spicy it makes my teeth want to melt at Los Dos Molinos......this list could go on (and on, and on....)

                              There is no one 'answer', we're just all expressing our opinions here based on previous experience and what we feel at the time the question is asked.

                          3. re: observor

                            I should have clarified a bit.....Rito's is not the Valley's finest Mexican food experience, but when I read that list this morning, that's what I would have eaten if I had my choice (as Phoenix99 mentioned the Torta at Los Reyes). Having eaten a lot of Mexican food here, if I had only 1 meal before I had to leave, that's what I would eat. But your question is different.....

                            For your criteria, I'd pick Barrio Cafe from the above list. Or perhaps Carolina's -- which is not quite as divey as Rito's (but not much less divey, either---plenty of commentary on that on this board). Los Dos Molinos is a great experience too.

                            Full disclosure: I haven't yet been to America's or La Condesa.

                            Good luck - and let us know where you decided, and how you liked it.

                            1. re: MesaChow

                              How is it that you have not been to America's? La Condesa is fairly new so we can understand that, but ATS has been around since last year and you should go. Go Tuesday. You get an extra taco for free when you buy three. Two Carne Asada and two Al Pastor and you're set. Then stop at La Condesa on the way home for a Queso.

                        2. re: Phoenix99

                          carolina's is pretty damn awesome! I second that.

                          La condesa is great too but not to come all the way to Phoenix for IMHO. Personally i wouldn't go back to America's either. Not that it wasn't good it wasn't anything to write home about and it's pricey.

                          Los Dos doesn't even fall in the category of the the other's, it's the BEST in town.

                          1. re: drewb123

                            I would like to retract my comment about La condesa. I have not been. I was thinking on the place on 7th ave??? drawing a blank but starts with a C

                            1. re: drewb123

                              Los Compadres?

                              Sylvia's La Canasta?

                              Mariscos Chihuahua (actually at 5th Ave & McDowell, now defunct)?

                              Sylvia's La Canasta
                              5504 N 7th Ave, Phoenix, AZ 85013

                              Mariscos Chihuahua
                              1834 W Indian School Rd, Phoenix, AZ 85015

                        3. As others have said, it's nearly impossible to give a "right" answer to that question -- one person's pick will likely not be the same as another's, and it all depends on what you want out of the experience.

                          That said, I'm moving out of town and the one Mexican place that I "must" go to before I go will probably be Gallo Blanco. Then I will have to make up my mind whether I want vegetable tacos, or the carne asada torta. And whether or not I want corn. Or whether I should go for lunch and have an agua fresca, or dinner and have a margarita. And I should probably have some guacamole....

                          On the other hand, a friend has suggested the possibility of dinner at Barrio Cafe before I go and I'm certainly open to that. Still, I haven't eaten at Barrio in AGES, whereas I eat at Gallo Blanco fairly regularly, so if I could only recommend ONE, GB gets my vote.

                          Gallo Blanco Cafe
                          401 W Clarendon Avenue, Phoenix, AZ 85013

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: Bax

                            I'd choose Gallo Blanco also, even though I've only been for breakfast. Here is my post reporting on it and on Barrio Cafe. I would not recommend Barrio Cafe unless one has a big sweet tooth (and I didn't even get to dessert):


                            Gallo Blanco Cafe
                            401 W Clarendon Avenue, Phoenix, AZ 85013