Whether you’re new to the valley or just looking for a fresh taste. I may not be a foodie, but I do love to travel and finding the best eateries in my native Phoenix or far from home is a favorite pass time. Phoenix has such a broad array of dining venues so I will just touch on a few that serve what we here in the southwest do best, Mexican. From local joints, family to happy hour, each is top notch and you won’t leave hungry or short of a good time.
I don’t normally pick favorites, however, I will start with numero uno. Rancho de Tia Rosa’s is a family owned and run Mexican restaurant in the East Valley and worth the drive from all corner of Phoenix. Located off McKellips and Val Vista in the heart of the Valley’s orange groves. Tia Rosa’s rose-colored stucco buildings with bold southwest colors invite you as much as the food. Surrounded by two patios, lush foliage and the best Mexican food you ever ate. Prepare yourself for an afternoon or a long evening to linger with margaritas and friends. Start in with a simple cheese crisp and Dos Tia’s Tamales for the table. The entrees are a no miss, my husbands favorite is the Tia’s Plato de Carne Asada, a signature 12-spice marinated beef or pork slowly oven roasted for ten hours then lightly charbroiled on an open flame… Need I say more? The beef just melts in your mouth. I on the hand, love Baja. The Seafood Tacos come in an array of three choices: shrimp and pineapple salsa , grilled salmon and with an orange mango salsa and the crab with papaya dressing. Each taco carefully layered with two white corn tortillas and cheese to blanket your sautéed seafood. Open Tuesday through Saturday, closed Sunday and Monday. Reservations are recommended, Tia Rosa’s is no secret with the award strewn foyer. For Reservations call (480) 659-8787 or visit www.ranchodetiarosa.com.
Aunt Chilada’s is nestled near Squaw Peak Mountain and off the Piestawa (51) Freeway and Glendale Avenue. Well know for its foliage-lined patio, which accommodates no less than 200 patrons. There are two patios to boot on the grounds of the 1890’s historical site that has seen the likes of the gold mining days, prohibition and stood as a steak house among others before becoming one of the Phoenix’s best, as voted by Phoenix Magazine and aol.com. So what are they best at? Best Mexican, best chef, best price, best chip’s and salsa and need I say, best margaritas. Again, Aunt Chilada’s is not an on the fly food joint. You’ll want to linger, drink, eat and listen to live music. We like Aunt Chilada’s Tortillion, a flour tortilla dipped in egg batter and fried with bacon! Also it comes filled with beef, cheese, salsa and a red chipotle sauce with the prickly pear margarita. www.auntchiladas.com for menu, directions and party, I meant group information.
Popo’s Fiesta Del Sol is the best dive for that real TexMex craving. Located in the West Valley at 67th Avenue and Indian School Road, hidden in an old strip mall. This Mexican will satisfy your cravings on the fly or dine-in with friends and family. My grandpa John took us here every Sunday growing up to put some meat on our bones. What we like is the no fuss atmosphere, just good food and a combo platter for everyone. Make sure you save room for the best fried ice cream in town. Yes, we deep freeze our ice cream, batter and fry it with a crispy crust , then we sundae it up down here in the southwest. Visit www.poposmexicanfood.com for more information.
Mexican at sunset, okay, that’s not what it’s called but it could be. Owners Cliff Skoglund and Robert Hall named it the Spotted Donkey Cantina. Located at one of the best places to view a fiery Arizona sunset, The Boulders El Pedregal. Perched up next to the golden boulders and The Boulders Resort and Golden Door Spa off Cave Creek Road and Scottsdale Rd./Tom Darlington Drive. The Spotted Donkey is on the second floor at El Pedregal, prime for views on their stucco patio. The atmosphere is casual and eclectic but the food speaks “fine art.” With the regular live music and art shows around the fountain below, The Spotted Donkey fits in perfectly after a day of fun in the boutique lined El Pedregal. While the sky is still blue, we like to start with La Canasta Corn Chips and Salsa, although it should say salsas. Served generously with roasted tomato, chorizo blackbean and tomatillo avocado salsas for every patron’s picky palette. Moving on to courses we like the fusion of good ‘ol Southwest barbeque with Mexican. You can’t go wrong from the Chimaya Chile Rubbed Pork Tenderloin to the Arizona “Mac and Cheese.” A kid friendly and fan favorite around these parts, the Arizona “Mac and Cheese” has rigatone pasta with hatch green chile, Mexican cheeses and applewood smoked bacon. Dig in as the sky turns from golden to hot pink when you start in on the infamous mojitos. Visit www.spotteddonkeycantina.com for more information and reservations.
So Arizona is not known for its beaches, the Salty Seniorita in Old Town Scottsdale is still home to a beach bar. A fresh Mexican cantina and restaurant, boasting some more of Arizona’s bests, best burrito, best patio, best authentic cantina, and certainly the best happy hour with the best margarita. Salty Seniorita likes to keep things simple for the lively crowd with a combo countdown. We like the “dos, tres, quarto, and cinqo de drinko” from a choice of tacos, enchiladas and tamales. We also like the coconut flan with our seaside margaritas. Stop by, dine-in or linger, nobody minds at Salty’s beach. Visit www.saltyseniorita.com for locations and more information.