No matter how you cut it, trying to settle on the best Mexican spots in Phoenix is likely to be a controversial endeavor.
For soulful Chihuahua-style Mexican tacos, gorditas and beans, stop by Tacos Chiwas, a darling of the local Phoenix taco scene.
For hot and cheesy grub that always hits the spot, there’s the Carolina’s Mexican Food in south-central Phoenix, where the hot flour tortillas are the star of almost every plate.
When you’re in the mood for family-friendly dining, head to south-central Phoenix for lunch or dinner at Comedor Guadalajara, a spacious sit-down restaurant with a huge selection of Mexican regional staples. Fast service and great lunch specials make this a popular destination in this part of town.
In central Phoenix, be sure to stop by Barrio Cafe, a perennial favorite with Phoenix-area gastronomes. James Beard Award-nominated chef Silvana Salcido Esparza and her team put a modern spin on Mexican regional staples, often with mouth-watering results. Start with the pomegranate-studded guacamole, and of course, you’ll want to try the Cochinita Pibil, one of the house specialties. The chef’s newest endeavor, Barrio Cafe Gran Reserva, offers one of the only Mexican restaurant tasting menus in town.
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. Perfect for a quick and affordable meal on the go, Carolina’s continues to draw regulars craving down-home, no-nonsense Mexican food. Great for a quick breakfast, lunch or dinner. Don’t forget to sample the famous tortillas.
Recommended for Mexican because: Carolina’s Mexican food is a perennial favorite for lovers of take-out Mexican grub, especially fresh-made flour tortillas.
Patricia’s expert tip: The hot, pillowy flour tortillas at Carolina are the stuff of local food legend, and easily available for take-out.
From acclaimed Phoenix chef Silvana Salcido Esparza, Barrio Cafe Gran Reserva is like the smaller yet ultra-sophisticated sister of the original Barrio Cafe on Calle 16 in Central Phoenix. Gran Reserva is an art-filled Mexican restaurant located in the scrappy, colorful Grand Avenue Arts District, in the former home of the Bragg Pie Factory. The vintage setting, mural-embellished walls, friendly service and views of the downtown Phoenix skyline set the mood for a quiet and refined evening. The highlight of Barrio Cafe Gran Reserva is the tasting menu, which features the chef’s highly personal, elevated riffs on regional Mexican cooking. Check out the drink list, too, which features a strong roster of Mezcal and Mexican wines.
Recommended for Mexican because: Come to Barrio Cafe Gran Reserva for a refined and singular take on regional Mexican cooking.
Patricia’s expert tip: The best way to experience Gran Reserva is to try the tasting menu, available for dinner.
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.
Recommended for Mexican because: Los Reyes de la Torta is the place to go in Phoenix when you’re craving authentic Mexican tortas and agua fresca.
Patricia’s expert tip: Try a delicious, fresh-squeezed agua fresca drink with your meal.
Rumor has it that some of the best Al Pastor burritos can be found just east of downtown Phoenix at El Fundador Taqueria. The small family-owned restaurant might be labeled as a typical west Phoenix hole-in-the-wall for some, but the kitchen delivers hot and delicious Mexican food nirvana for Phoenix foodies in the know. While it might be difficult to choose the best Al Pastor in Phoenix, the one here certainly has its merit: savory, spicy and fall-off-the-bone pork spit-grilled pork is wrapped in a pillowy soft tortilla. The results are nothing less than delicious. The menu features an eclectic pick of burritos, tacos, stews, quesadillas and other Mexican food staples, and you’d be hard-pressed to find a bad pick in the bunch. The dining room is small and nondescript, but the food speaks volumes.
Recommended for Mexican because: If you’re looking for authentic, down-home Mexican food, head to Taqueria El Fundador, a small, family-run eatery just west of downtown Phoenix.
Patricia’s expert tip: Try the Al Pastor tacos or burrito, some of the best spit-fire Mexican pork in town.
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. This is a popular place to grab lunch, but it’s also a family-friendly restaurant with a large and lively dining room. The kids’ menu features small burritos, chicken nuggets, and even small portions of menudo on the weekend.
Recommended for Mexican because: For family-friendly sit-down service, head to Comedor Guadalajara in south central Phoenix, serving up delicious Sonoran-style dishes.
Patricia’s expert tip: Guaranteed takeout in 20 minutes makes this a great spot for a fast, delicious lunch.
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. If you are having trouble deciding what to order, opt for the house special molcajete, which comes with shrimp, octopus tomatillo sauce, beef, chicken and fried fish.
Recommended for Mexican because: Mariscos Playa Hermosa is the place to go when you’re craving Mexican seafood dishes.
Patricia’s expert tip: If you like shrimp, try the Camarones Culichi. Can’t decide what to order? Sample the menu with the house special molcajete dish.
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 cooked over mesquite. You’ll find a delicious assortment of Sonoran-style tacos, burritos and quesadillas, including carne asada and specialty cuts like beef lengua (tongue), cabeza (head meat) and tripitas (beef intestines). Try the Taco Hazz, a green chile beef taco spilling over with carne asada blanketed in white cheese. There are two locations on the westside. Not surprisingly, both are generally crowded, but it’s worth queuing up for these tacos.
Recommended for Mexican because: Skillfully prepared meats make Ta’Carbon one of the best places to experience Mexican street tacos in Phoenix.
Patricia’s expert tip: For a large group, try the “paquete familiar,” or family size selection of grilled meats.
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.
Recommended for Mexican because: La Santisima Taco Shop has a large and creative selection of homemade salsas and unique taco and burrito creations.
Patricia’s expert tip: La Santisima has one of the most impressive gourmet salsa bars in town. Try the strawberry salsa.
Since its debut in the spring of 2016, Tacos Chiwas has become the darling of the local Phoenix Mexican food scene. You can thank the restaurant’s tight, focused menu, which specializes in the soulful cooking of the northern Mexican state of Chihuahua. Come here for tacos built on freshly-pressed tortillas â highlights here include the Lengua (tongue) and tripas (tripe) tacos. You’ll also want to try the homemade gorditas, especially stuffed with something like rajas, the restaurants medley of fire-roasted peppers, which are blended with melted queso asadero and a smear of refried beans. Speaking of beans, don’t miss the restaurant’s homemade bean stew, served with sliced-up hot dogs and perfumed with cilantro.
Recommended for Mexican because: Tacos Chiwas is a counter-service Mexican restaurant with great tacos, gorditas and other Chihuahua-inspired family recipes.
Patricia’s expert tip: Check out Cafe Chiwas next door, which specializes in fresh tamales, pastries and coffee.
Since it opened, folks have been heading to Calle 16 in central Phoenix to sample James Beard Award-nominated chef Silvana Salcido Esparza’s personal and creative spin on Mexican regional dishes. 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 (peppered with fresh pomegranate fruit) 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. The restaurant also delivers a winning margarita, perfect for a long, leisurely afternoon with friends.
Recommended for Mexican because: Creative, modern Mexican fare makes Barrio Cafe one of the city’s most singular Mexican food restaurants.
Patricia’s expert tip: Start with an order of the pomegranate guacamole, a Barrio Cafe specialty.