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

o
observor May 15, 2010 08:25 AM

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

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  1. johnseberg RE: observor May 15, 2010 09:02 AM

    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
      o
      observor RE: johnseberg May 15, 2010 09:24 AM

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

      1. re: observor
        johnseberg RE: observor May 15, 2010 11:44 AM

        I don't think I'm qualified to choose, but, I would say that all of the contenders are mentioned in this thread:
        http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/694528

        1. re: observor
          themis RE: observor May 15, 2010 03:28 PM

          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.

          -----
          FnB
          7133 E Stetson Dr, Scottsdale, AZ 85251

      2. s
        skirk RE: observor May 15, 2010 01:31 PM

        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
          grrlscout RE: skirk May 17, 2010 03:07 PM

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

        2. misohungrychewlow RE: observor May 15, 2010 11:53 PM

          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
            JK Grence the Cosmic Jester RE: misohungrychewlow May 16, 2010 03:57 AM

            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.

            -----
            Tradiciones
            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
              ipsedixit RE: JK Grence the Cosmic Jester May 16, 2010 06:41 PM

              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.

              -----
              Tradiciones
              1602 E Roosevelt St, Phoenix, AZ 85006

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

              1. re: JK Grence the Cosmic Jester
                johnseberg RE: JK Grence the Cosmic Jester May 17, 2010 01:14 PM

                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. re: misohungrychewlow
                johnseberg RE: misohungrychewlow May 16, 2010 08:54 AM

                Fine. Los Dos Molinos (three words).

              3. p
                Phoenix99 RE: observor May 16, 2010 08:43 AM

                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
                Carolina's
                America's Taco Shop
                La Condesa
                Rito's
                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
                  m
                  MesaChow RE: Phoenix99 May 16, 2010 09:11 AM

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

                  1. re: MesaChow
                    o
                    observor RE: MesaChow May 16, 2010 03:22 PM

                    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
                      c
                      crsin RE: observor May 16, 2010 04:00 PM

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

                      1. re: crsin
                        o
                        observor RE: crsin May 16, 2010 04:08 PM

                        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
                          misohungrychewlow RE: observor May 16, 2010 10:57 PM

                          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
                            b
                            boingo2000 RE: observor May 17, 2010 10:40 AM

                            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
                            p
                            Phoenix99 RE: crsin May 17, 2010 06:50 AM

                            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
                              m
                              MesaChow RE: Phoenix99 May 17, 2010 07:27 AM

                              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":

                              http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/7034...

                              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
                            m
                            MesaChow RE: observor May 16, 2010 04:02 PM

                            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
                              p
                              Phoenix99 RE: MesaChow May 24, 2010 04:43 PM

                              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
                          drewb123 RE: Phoenix99 May 25, 2010 01:44 PM

                          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
                            drewb123 RE: drewb123 May 26, 2010 01:59 PM

                            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
                              hohokam RE: drewb123 May 26, 2010 02:26 PM

                              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

                              1. re: hohokam
                                drewb123 RE: hohokam May 27, 2010 04:49 PM

                                yes los compadres!

                        3. b
                          Bax RE: observor May 17, 2010 03:35 PM

                          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
                            susancinsf RE: Bax May 26, 2010 12:34 PM

                            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):

                            http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/6773...

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

                          2. yamalam RE: observor May 17, 2010 04:29 PM

                            I agree: Barrio Cafe or Gallo Blanco.

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

                            2 Replies
                            1. re: yamalam
                              p
                              Phoenix99 RE: yamalam May 17, 2010 04:47 PM

                              I think we've established there is no right or wrong answer. It just depends what you are in the mood for from one of the excellent spots already mentioned. Last Friday I was downtown working and the Torta Cubana from Los Reyes de la Torta really sounded good. Sometimes the actual doesn't live up to the thought - happened to me once at Rito's by the way - but this time my sandwich was even better than I'd remembered. Couldn't have been a better experience over all but there have been other times when Carolina's really hit the spot. For that matter, there's an internal battle with myself over which Carolina's as I am convinced the food is just slightly better at Carolina's North, the service alot faster there and the seating comfort has no comparison. Other the other hand, the original has a certain ambiance that the "new" one will never have.

                              1. re: Phoenix99
                                tattud_gurl RE: Phoenix99 May 24, 2010 12:45 PM

                                Julio G's sucked when it was open.

                                I vote for Carolinas.....simple, dive place

                            2. JerryMe RE: observor May 17, 2010 05:34 PM

                              Well, for margaritas - Via Del Losantes on North Central. I like their chips and salsa.

                              Tamales at Carolinas altho SO swears by the machaca.

                              Azteca on 7th Avenue for green chili.

                              Carne Asada at America's

                              Bean and cheese taco at Dos Tacos (35th Ave and Camelback). Salsa bar that I've never seen duplicated anywhere. Service can be slow for a gringo.

                              Sierra Bonita on 7th Street - last time I was there it was a wicked chili rellano.

                              Rosita's! I'd forgotten about Rosita's - full service and I've never had a bad meal yet, altho I haven't been in awhile.

                              Went to Tradiciones - had a full fish to make into tacos - SO didn't like them but I thot they were great and all of the sides were excellent.

                              Playa de Hermosa - Roosevelt and 16th Street - we gorged on seafood (ceviche!)and sides (chips and salsa!) and SO even ate up all the leftovers on the spot.

                              If you want the best, then best open your belly, cuz' everyone has a favorite, must have, but I hope you're not disappointed in whatever you have.

                              Gawd - now I want Mexican food . . .Pizza comin' over to watch the Los Suns spank the Fakers. (This post might get removed - too bad)

                              Enjoy - and get out before it gets hot (the weather, not the salsa!)

                              -----
                              Tradiciones
                              1602 E Roosevelt St, Phoenix, AZ 85006

                              1. bortukan RE: observor May 18, 2010 10:49 AM

                                No one's mentioned Los Sombreros yet, which is constantly vying with Barrio Cafe for "best fancier Mexican food." It's especially good for meat dishes, I think. I can't decide which of the two restaurants I prefer; I'd suggest checking the online menus and choosing the one that appeals most to you.

                                As for "everyday" Mexican, my heart belongs to Restaurant Mexico for its lighter, no-yellow-cheese-puddles style. I have trouble deciding between the Clare burro (beans, avocado, and green sauce) and the Friday lunch special, cheese chiles rellenos. It's a full service restaurant, but very casual, like most Mexican places in the Valley are.

                                -----
                                Restaurant Mexico
                                423 S Mill Ave # A, Tempe, AZ 85281

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: bortukan
                                  misohungrychewlow RE: bortukan May 18, 2010 02:43 PM

                                  I like both of these places a lot. It's hard to choose just one ...

                                2. o
                                  observor RE: observor May 18, 2010 04:12 PM

                                  I am surprised that if you could have one Mexican experience in Phoenix many of you would go for the more casual places instead of the upscale fare at Barrio Cafe.

                                  4 Replies
                                  1. re: observor
                                    hohokam RE: observor May 18, 2010 04:55 PM

                                    I'm surprised that you're surprised.

                                    1. re: observor
                                      johnseberg RE: observor May 18, 2010 05:10 PM

                                      I went to Barrio Cafe for the first time with high expectations, ordered their signature cochinita pibil, and was very satisfied. I think their desserts are also very special. After visiting several more times, the charm just seemed to wear off. I had at least one issue with both food and service, and I just can't seem to fit them into my schedule anymore. Meanwhile any number of dives I go to crank out the same old food, and my appreciation for it just seems to grow. Maybe I eat way too much Mexican food, and when I want to go somewhere more upscale, I rule it out.

                                      -----
                                      Barrio Cafe
                                      2814 N 16th St, Phoenix, AZ 85006

                                      1. re: johnseberg
                                        hohokam RE: johnseberg May 18, 2010 05:30 PM

                                        Barrio is pretty much out of my rotation too. The noise, the wait, and most importantly, inconsistency (and occasional ineptitude) from the kitchen eventually made the whole experience feel like a disappointing waste of money.

                                        My meals at Los Sombreros, arguably the same level/style of cuisine served at Barrio, were more consistently tasty and well executed. And when compared to food I'd had at Asi es La Vida during its heyday and at Coyoacan (RIP), the food at Barrio simply paled. These days, Gallo Blanco is my choice for non-hole-in-the-wall Mexican. The execution has been spot on when I've eaten there, and I can get out for about half the money and one tenth the hassle that eating at Barrio entails.

                                        But, you know, who am I to say that Barrio Cafe shouldn't be on the OP's Mexican restaurant bucket list?

                                        -----
                                        Barrio Cafe
                                        2814 N 16th St, Phoenix, AZ 85006

                                        Los Sombreros Cafe & Cantina
                                        2534 N Scottsdale Rd, Scottsdale, AZ 85257

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

                                        1. re: johnseberg
                                          o
                                          observor RE: johnseberg May 19, 2010 07:36 AM

                                          I can appreciate that if it is fuss and no substance.

                                      2. epicurina RE: observor May 20, 2010 11:51 AM

                                        Hands down, my vote goes to Los Sombreros. The puerco en mole verde is fork-tender, and the lamb adobo should come with a spoon (to lap up all the smoky sauce). The menu covers a nice variety of regional Mex—chilequiles to the aforementioned mole.

                                        Also, La Hacienda at the Fairmount just got a revamp from celeb chef Richard Sandoval. The tequila selection alone is worth the trip to north Scottsdale, and I must say the food was excellent, particularly the ceviche.

                                        -----
                                        Los Sombreros Cafe & Cantina
                                        2534 N Scottsdale Rd, Scottsdale, AZ 85257

                                        La Hacienda
                                        7575 E Princess Dr, Scottsdale, AZ 85255

                                        1. m
                                          mict RE: observor May 25, 2010 12:28 AM

                                          I had a cousin from Detroit here and she wanted to know where to get fast food at 2am after the bars. Of course I directed her to Filberto's. She said it was the best Mexican Food she ever had. I love that stuff. So Observer, I would recommend one of the "shacks" for their $5.00 5lb. burrito, or any hole in the wall place located in a strip mall. If they have the inner workings of an animal then I'm all in. It may not be the fru-fru in thing, but it's better than Carolina's, cheaper than the "in thing". and better than almost anything east of the Mississippi. Just my opinion.

                                          3 Replies
                                          1. re: mict
                                            p
                                            Phoenix99 RE: mict May 26, 2010 12:29 PM

                                            Not sure how it compares to "anything east of the Mississippi" but I'm pretty sure it tastes a whole lot better after the bars than before. Better than Carolina's? Please! to each his own and your opinions are your opinions but Filiberto's is part of the group of restaurants/fast food places that serve Sonoran style Americanized covered with cheese food. If that's what you're used to, it will taste ok but it's not authentic. Just talking with some people the other day we all remembered when we thought Macayo's was great Mexican food. Since then, we've tried the real stuff and it's a different product entirely.

                                            1. re: Phoenix99
                                              hohokam RE: Phoenix99 May 26, 2010 12:50 PM

                                              I'm with you on the quality of the food at Filiberto's, but I don't know that either mict or the owners would contend that it represents "authentic" Mexican cuisine. Although I was largely underwhelmed by the food at Carolina's (tortillas excepted), I would certainly rank it far above Filiberto's.

                                              I haven't had a lot of experience eating Mexican food east of the Mississippi, but believe it or not, I have had much better Mexican food in Chicago and Hartford, CT (yes, Hartford) than I have had on my visits to Filiberto's.

                                              1. re: Phoenix99
                                                Mytah RE: Phoenix99 May 27, 2010 08:45 AM

                                                I'm east of the Mississippi atm and would kill for a chile relleno burro and and a taco from Filibertos. :)
                                                It's been several years since I've lived in Phx but I do remember some locations being much better than others...probably the ones that would shut down for a few days after an INS raid.
                                                They have thier place. I find myself at one everytime I'm in town.
                                                And yes Rito's green chile was always killer. But to choose one place is something I could never do.

                                            2. Beach Chick RE: observor May 26, 2010 12:17 PM

                                              Carolina's..

                                              3 Replies
                                              1. re: Beach Chick
                                                mrdewey RE: Beach Chick May 27, 2010 10:36 AM

                                                Welllllll now. Having lived in this desert oasis since 1975, there are two that come to mind. The first is one where I ate for more than 20 anos. Restaurant Mexico. Simple, crispy, contrarian, same menu and fab food. Family owned and if you can keep up with the 'forced moves' (now on Mill AVE Tempe), this is one great place to eat. Never mind the down side, the food always melts in your mouth! Keep in mind, this is the food style of Mexico City, not Texass. Try the guac with a little of the red salsa mixed in. DEVINE!

                                                The second which deserves a mention is ROSITAS PLACE down around 23rd St and McDowell. Full bar and bilingual menu. . . (con pata anyone?). I read a quickie review on another site and they said the chips came right from the oven! What? You mean the fryer! Yes they cost an extra $ but who cares, this chip 'tax' is well worth it. HOT, HOT table salsas make the grade and nicer when you double dip to enjoy the sensation of both together. I keep ordering a variation of the same thing, because it is hands down a great Mexican food dish. The chicken or beef enchiladas smothered in chile verde. YEE Um!

                                                -----
                                                Restaurant Mexico
                                                423 S Mill Ave # A, Tempe, AZ 85281

                                                1. re: mrdewey
                                                  drewb123 RE: mrdewey May 27, 2010 08:24 PM

                                                  Went to Rositas this eve after reading this thread. GREAT food. Hands down a definite will return. I had the 2 chix enchiladas plate with green chile sauce. HUGE portions took most home after eating chips. Thanks for the rec.

                                                  1. re: mrdewey
                                                    twodogs RE: mrdewey May 28, 2010 10:48 AM

                                                    Rosita's is my go to Mexican place and has been for years,I used to go there when it was on Buckeye around 20th St. before they moved to McDowell.It is always good,their cheese enchiladas with green chile sauce is one of those things I get a craving for and nothing else will satisfy.Well except for a bean and chorizo foot long burro at Carolina's.You just can't go wrong with either of the two.

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