Phoenix's Maryvale Park is a haven for baseball fans, who flock here every spring to watch the Milwaukee Brewers hone their skills against other teams in the Cactus League. This intimate ball park on Phoenix's Westside is close to several of the city's most authentic Mexican food eateries, including Ta'carbon Grill, which scores high marks for its eclectic menu of grilled meats and mouth-watering sides. Even if you're not inclined to sample the lengua - or tongue - tacos, be sure to try the carne asada (shredded pork) tacos. The slow-roasted meat is fall-off-the-bone tender and perfectly seasoned. For dessert, the chocoflan is a delicately sweet dessert that is indulgent without feeling too heavy. If you're craving hearty portions and combo platters, head just west of the ballpark to enjoy a meal at Popo's Fiesta del Sol. The festive, family-friendly restaurant dishes out hot and cheesy platters of all your favorites: enchiladas, tacos, quesadillas, and house specialties like the Monster Burrito, two flour tortillas stuffed with beans, rice, pico de gallo, grilled onions, bell peppers, and cheese. But if you're graving good Chinese, head over to Go Go China Bistro, an unassuming cafe with made-from-scratch specialties. House favorites include the General Tso Chicken and chop suey.
10 Pane Bianco
Chris Bianco, the well-known chef and restaurateur, started Pane Bianco as an offshoot of Pizzeria Bianco, the award-winning Phoenix pizzeria that gained him national attention. Pane Bianco is a tiny sandwich shop with an even smaller menu. The menu consists of a few sandwiches and salads, but the results are extraordinary. All the breads are baked on site in the cafe's wood-fired oven, and the mozzarella could only be fresher if you made it yourself. (The mozzarella is in fact made in the restaurant). The focaccia and caprese salad are both outstanding. This is a popular take-out lunch spot, and it's easy to see why. ((602) 234-2100)
9 Crazy Jim's Restaurant
Since 1985, Crazy Jim's has been a local neighborhood take-out hotspot in central Phoenix. The dining room might be tiny, but the kitchen manages to push out a long menu of comfort food favorites. The focus here is on Greek and Italian comfort food. You'll find a wide selection of hot pastas, pita sandwiches, fresh salads, grilled burgers, and homemade, hand-tossed pizza. The pizza dough is made fresh and all the dressings are homemade. Some of tastiest and most unique selections are in the starter menu, where you'll find tasty treats like baked feta, red pepper hummus, and a delicious calamari platter. ((602) 264-4777)
8 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. Vegetarians will love the veggie tacos, stuffed with seasonal veggies and then topped with fresh guacamole and pico de gallo. A large menu of seasonally-inspired cocktails make a perfect complement to your meal. ((602) 327-0880)
This ubiquitous Mexican fast food chain is a Valley favorite, and for good reason. Authentic, home-style Mexican food is dished out here 24 hours a day, featuring fresh ingredients, hearty portions, and lots of gooey cheese. So maybe this isn't diet food, but it is downright delicious. Stop here for a satisfying taste of some of Phoenix's favorite Mexican food. Menu stand-outs include the carne asada, al pastro, and chile relleno burrito. You can also order sides of beans, rice, salsa, and guacamole. Yummy breakfast dishes like huevos rancheros are served all day. Don't forget a tall cup of refreshing, house-made horchata. ((602) 789-6400)
6 Good China Restaurant
If you're looking for budget friendly eats on the Westside, Good China will feed you well without breaking the bank. This unpretentious Chinese eatery had daily lunch specials, with virtually nothing priced over $7. For dinner, try the broccoli beef, Mongolian beef, sweet and sour chicken, with a side of the house fried rice. This may not be gourmet or creative fare, but everything is well-made and consistently good. While the dining room may not be luxurious, it's always packed with families enjoying tasty fare that won't break the bank. Service is fast, especially considering the large volume of clientele. ((623) 873-0916)
5 Pho Binh Minh
This Vietnamese cafe may look unassuming from the outside, but there's culinary magic brewing in the kitchen. Fresh seafood, tasty stews, and luscious noodle bowls are complimented by creative sauces and spices. Whether you like your food spicy and hot or just barely zesty, the chefs will tailor your dish to your spice comfort zone. Some of the menu highlights include the beef noodle soup. The Pho Dac Biet is a savory noodle soup with large chunks of rare steak, flank, brisket, tendon, beef balls and tripe. Noodle lovers will love the vermicelli dishes, including the Bun Cha Gio Thit Nuong, a large heaping of rice noodles with grilled pork, shrimp, vegetables with fish sauce on the side. ((602) 358-8255)
4 Go Go China Bistro
Go Go China Bistro might look like a hole in the wall restaurant, but don't be fooled by the plain exterior at this Westside Chinese food bistro. The food is prepared fresh and made to order, the portions are hearty, and the service is consistently good. All your favorites are here, including sesame chicken, General Tso chicken, chop suey, and sweet and sour pork or chicken. Start with the egg flower soup, or enjoy the piu piu platter, which provides a good sampling of the appetizer menu. Go Go China Bistro also has affordable lunch specials available Monday through Saturday. ((623) 873-1878)
3 Ta'carbon Grill
There are a lot of places to find good Mexican food in Phoenix, but Ta'carbon is a Mexican grill that stands out with a menu full of mouth-watering grilled meats. You'll find an infinite assortment of tacos, burritos, and plates, including carne asada (shredded pork), barbacoa, and specialty cuts like beef lengua (tongue) and cabeza (brain). The mesquite broiled chicken is also a house favorite. If that's not enough, there are also plenty of sides to choose from, including rice, beans, quesadillas, and fried potatoes. For dessert, try the house specialty, a plate of chocolate flan. A cooler of Mexican sodas are the perfect companion to your meal. ((623) 463-8134)
2 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. Even if grilled, stuffed-to-the-gills sandwiches are not your thing, be sure to pay a visit to the juice bar. You'll find a huge selection of traditional, fresh-squeezed fruit juices that are refreshingly good. ((602) 269-3212)
1 Popo's Fiesta Del Sol
Hearty portions, fresh salsa, and creamy, cheese-topped beans are on the menu at Popo's Fiesta del Sol, a popular family-friendly Mexican restaurant on Phoenix's westside. Festive decor and a huge menu of Mexican staples make this a popular choice for happy hour, too. There are even gringo-friendly eats like rib-eye steak and burgers. If you can't decide what to order, take a peek at the Popo's specialty menu for a winning selection of combo platters. The fiesta platter comes with a cheesy chile relleno, machaca taco, rice and beans, and flour tortillas. When you're ready to chow down, don't miss the Monster Burrito, two flour tortillas stuffed with rice, beans, pico de gallo, grilled onions, bell peppers, and cheese. ((602) 354-7738)
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.