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.
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 Good China Restaurant, an unassuming cafe with made-from-scratch specialties. House favorites include the General Tso Chicken and chop suey.
Looking for something a little different? Adventurous eaters will want to give Senor Sushi a try. The Latino fusion rolls marry classic Mexican foods like carne asada with Japanese sushi. The results are intriguingly delicious.
Tortas Paquime is a popular regional chain serving up a delicious assortment of Mexican specialties, including authentic tortas a la plancha (Mexican sandwiches pressed on the grill), tostadas, flautas, burritos and huge assortment of antojitos ("little cravings"). Some of the most interesting menu items are antojitos, including the restaurants signature "Paquihuates," Japanese peanuts, diced cucumbers and jicama topped with tamarind strips and tomato sauce. The family-friendly, fast casual restaurant is also a neveria (ice cream shop) and bakery, so you can take home some fresh-made bolillo rolls and Mexican pastries. Of course, the ice cream counter also calls with its colorful assortment ice cream treats. Tortas Paquime has several locations around Phoenix. ((623) 848-8616)
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)
Garcia's Las Avenidas
Garcia's is one of the oldest and most popular regional Mexican food chain restaurants in Phoenix. Garcia's Las Avenidas is the original location of the venerable brand, which is known for its mouth-watering combo platters. The eclectic menu features Mexican specialties from different regions of Mexico. There is something here for everyone, including egg-y specialties like huevos rancheros, to Mexican-American concoctions like the house chimichanga, which here is stuffed with your choice of filling and topped with a savory sauce. Can't decide what to order? The combo platters let you sample around the menu. ((602) 272-5584)
Mexican food meets sushi at Senor Sushi, a culinary mash-up that is delighting adventurous foodies on Phoenix's west side. The restaurant menu features a huge array of specialty sushi featuring traditional Mexican flavors. Love carne asada? Chances are you'll love the grilled steak expertly stuffed into a sushi roll. Another house favorite is the culichi roll, which features shrimp tempura, avocado and cream cheese roll, topped with an intriguing mix of octopus, scallops and shrimp. Apart from the Latino fusion sushi rolls, you will also find an assortment of more traditional sushi rolls. An assortment of appetizers, salads and soups round out the unique menu. ((623) 849-9312)
Salvadoreno Restaurant #2
Pupusas, fried plantains, beef stew with chipilin chile. These are just a few of the homespun dishes that you'll find at Salvadoreno Restaurant #2 on Phoenix's ever-growing west side. The 3,500 square-foot restaurant is a favorite with locals who come to savor the authentic family recipes, which were developed by family matriarch Nina Martha. The family restaurant prides itself on quality service and authentic home cooking. Apart from fresh-made pupusas (which come stuffed with your choice of meat), you are also likely to find other Salvadorean specialties like fried yucca, potato and meat cakes and tamales. Not sure what to order? Try the sampler plate, which comes with a little of everything. (6238466100)
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)
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)
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)
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.