One of the things people always ask me about Phoenix is: where do you find the best Mexican food? It's true, our close proximity to Mexico means we have a broad selection of restaurants serving up Mexican cuisine - much more than you would find in say, the Midwest or the Northeast.
However, not all restaurants are created equal. As with any other type of ethnic food, the experience depends on a lot of factors. To find the best Mexican food, you need to first determine what kind of meal you want.
Mexican Fast Food
These restaurants are located throughout the city, usually 24-hour dine in with a drive-thru. They will have a menu board featuring 20+ different combo plates, usually in the $5-$10 range.
These restaurants are pretty authentic in that they often serve churros, horchatas and Coke products in the glass bottles (from Mexico). They also offer shredded beef (as opposed to restaurants like Taco Bell, which only offers ground beef).
These restaurants are often brightly colored and will feature some religious/cultural decor such as a photo of the Virgin Mary or a crucifix near the entrance.
Americanized Mexican Fast Food
Expect clean, bright stores, working credit card terminals, and all the fixtures in the bathroom to work. These places have regular business hours and typically close around 9pm. The few that do serve beer have Corona and Dos Equis.
When I say Americanized, I am referring to:
-Offering ground beef instead of shredded beef
-Menu items are entirely in English ("steak" instead of "carne")
-Usually offers flour tortillas instead of corn
-Will have little or no Mexican-themed decor
Americanized Sit-Down Restaurant
These type of restaurants are usually located in shopping centers and busy areas. They will offer both a restaurant and bar and will start you off with chips and salsa. Prepare to pay about $10 for a plate of tacos, rice, and beans. They are often chain restaurants, sometimes with national exposure.
On the Border
Arriba Mexican Grill
Mexican Sit-Down Restaurant
When people talk about finding the best, most authentic Mexican food, THIS is the type of place they are talking about. These are locally owned with usually one main location (occasionally, they may have 1-2 satellite locations). They are well-known to locals and have often been in business for generations.
Which type of restaurant serves your favorite Mexican food? Share your local favorite eateries with North Phoenix Blog readers by posting a comment!