Located in the heart of the Southwest, it's no surprise that the options for good Mexican food in Phoenix are plentiful. However, the local Mexican food scene has never been quite this diverse. A Mexican food renaissance in the desert? Perhaps. From the gourmet, Mesoamerican-inspired tacos of La Condesa Gourmet Taco Shop, to the hot and cheesy grub you'll find at the Filiberto's take-out window, Mexican food restaurants in Phoenix run the gamut, offering something for every mood and palate.
10 La Santisima Gourmet Taco Shop
La Santisima Gourmet Taco Shop - formerly known as La Condesa - is not your run-of-the-mill taco shop. Here you'll find fresh produce sourced from local farms and combined with the unique and traditional flavors of Mexico: bright green tomatillos, chipotle chiles, Oaxacan cheese, and soft, pillowy tortillas, all combined to create startling and delightful flavors. The menu is small, but you can't go wrong with any of the seven specialty tacos. There are also specialty quesadillas, burritos and combo plates. Artful, authentic and always tasty, the tacos here are exquisite. A great part of the allure of La Condesa Gourmet Taco Shop is the excellent salsa bar. It's impossible to try just one. (602.254.6330)
9 Barrio Cafe
Since it opened, folks have been clamoring to this hopping, no-reservations-accepted restaurant for its inventive southern Mexican cuisine. Abandoned are bland burritos and tacos in favor of lush, richly layered flavors achieved with zesty chiles, authentic cheeses, and complex moles. Start with guacamole prepared tableside and then consider cochinita pibil, a delectable slow-roasted pork dish. Grilled steaks, seared duck breast, and seafood enchiladas are also much-requested. Plus, there's no better dessert than deep-fried fritters with goats' milk caramel - ask anyone. (602-636-0240)
8 Pepe's Taco Villa
Pepe's Taco Villa's nondescript exterior belies the treasures awaiting Mexican food-lovers on the inside: hot and cheesy plates of some of the most delicious Mexican food in town. The Monterrey-inspired menu has been a Valley favorite for more than 30 years, and shows no signs of slowing down. Affordable, friendly, and full of neighborhood atmosphere, Pepe's Taco Villa is a must for fans of hot and tasty Mexican food. (602.242.0379)
7 Los Reyes de la Torta
Mexico City-style tortas have landed in Phoenix, and you'll find them at Los Reyes de la Torta, a casual eatery featuring some of the best Mexican-style sandwiches in town. These award-winning sandwiches feature a variety of quality meats and cheeses, served on a perfectly toasted and buttery bolillo roll. For the truly adventurous--and hungry--the King Carlos V is a monumental torta and a challenge to even the most voracious eaters. ((602) 269-3212)
6 Sonoran Mesquite Grill
Carne asada is king at Sonoran Mesquite Grill. Try one of the signature meats, including barbacoa, chicken, fish, shrimp, and the aforementioned carne asada, which is grilled to perfection and then dressed with cilantro and pico de gallo. Whether you order the tacos a la carte or one of the combo platters, there is nothing that disappoints here. Dishes are prepared to order and served with fresh sides of lettuce and veggies. One of the best places in the Valley for flavorful, non-greasy Mexican. ((602) 667-2271)
5 Comedor Guadalajara
Comedor Guadalajara, situated on a quiet stretch of Central Avenue, has been catering to South Phoenix Mexican food-lovers for more than 40 years. The Sonoran-style menu is straightforward but consistently delicious. Tamales, burros, flautas, and chiles rellenos all make an appearance here, but the specialty at Comedor Guadalajara are their parrilladas--large, sizzling platters of grilled meats and seafood served with vegetables and special garnishing. ((602) 253-8299)
4 Carolina's Mexican Food
This South Phoenix institution has been dishing out some of the best home-style Mexican food for decades. Don't be fooled by the humble exterior and lackluster dining area: the food is hot, tasty, and top-notch. Tacos, burros, flautas, chimichangas, tostadas, and tamales: all your favorites are here, made to order. As if that wasn't enough, you can eat well here with the spare change in your pocket. (602-252-1503)
3 Los Taquitos
From its humble beginnings as a food cart back in 1981, Los Taquitos has experienced tremendous growth and earned a well-deserved reputation as some of the Mexican food in the Valley of the Sun. Made-from-scratch marinades, fresh ingredients, and great atmosphere have made this a favorite stopping point for Valley Mexican food aficionados. (480.753.4361)
2 Mariscos Playa Hermosa
Mariscos Playa Hermosa specializes in quality, Sinaloan-style Mexican seafood. Quality ingredients, excellent customer service, and fresh, inventive presentation combine for a memorable and totally authentic dining experience. Specialties include the seven seas soup, crab enchiladas (stuffed with real crab meat), seafood cocktails, octopus in garlic sauce, and some of the tastiest ceviche in town. No matter what you order, make sure to sample the green guacamole style salsa, made from scratch daily and served with warm, crunchy tortilla chips. (602-462-1563)
1 Gallo Blanco Cafe
This colorful Mexican cafe, located off the lobby of the Clarendon Hotel in central Phoenix, is a breath of fresh air in a crowded restaurant scene. The fresh, inventive take on traditional Mexican dishes at Gallo Blanco Cafe is based on the best ingredients, many of them sourced locally. For breakfast, try a plate of the traditional Chilaquiles Verdes, and for lunch, grab a couple of the cafe's irresistible Carne Asada Beef tacos. ((602) 327-0880)
About Patricia Escarcega
Patricia Escarcega has lived in the Arizona desert since she was a teenager. She works as a writer and editor in Phoenix with her four dogs and two cats.
She received her MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Arizona and is working on a novel about growing up in the 1990s.
Read more about Patricia Escarcega here.