I love Mexican food. I’d eat it every single day if I could somehow avoid growing out of my pants. Tacos, enchiladas, tamales, guacamole, chips and salsa, fajitas, taco salads. I love it all. Every. Single. Calorie. I truly believe I was meant to live in Arizona for a reason, because we have some of the best Mexican food in the country.
As a self-proclaimed taco connoisseur, I have compiled my list of favorite Mexican restaurants around Phoenix and Scottsdale. Yes, all these restaurants serve Mexican food, but they are all very different in so many ways. Based on my “extensive research” here are the best Mexican restaurants in the Scottsdale area.
Best with Kids: El Encanto. El Encanto has several locations, but the one in Cave Creek with the duck pond in the middle is my favorite. The kiddos can feed the ducks, dance and run around the expansive restaurant while waiting for their meals. While you are there, don’t forget to try the pollo fundido. Yes, you can find this jalapeno cream cheese covered chicken chimichanga at many other restaurants around town, it doesn’t get much better than the one at El Encanto. I’m hungry just thinking about it.
Best Chips and Salsa: Jalapeno Inferno. I have chip and dipped my way across town, but Jalapeno Inferno gets my #1 vote for their chips and salsa. They serve two different types of chips, corn and flour, and the flour chips are unlike anything I’ve ever had before. We’ve taken countless visitors to Inferno and everyone ends up asking for more flour chips. So freaking good. My kids literally will drink bowls of their standard salsa. That counts as eating vegetables, right? They also have a spicy salsa they will bring free of charge upon request. Don’t forget to try the espinaca con queso as well. Good luck saving room for your entree!
Best Tacos: The Mission. We have a lot of amazing tacos here in AZ, but I have to give this title to The Mission. Their tacos are flat out delicious. I first discovered the deliciousness at one of the taco festivals here in town and The Mission never disappoints. I love the Old Town location as well as the new North Scottsdale location at Kierland. I’m also giving Taco Guild down in Central Phoenix the honorable mention award in the taco category. Check it out if you’ve never been there before!
Best Margaritas: Modern Margarita. It is like the restaurant thought about what they wanted to be known for when they came up with the name “Modern Margarita.” Their margs are delicious. While we have some of the best Mexican food around, I struggled to find a favorite margarita around town until I tried the Hot Mango at Modern Margarita. I’m all about spicy drinks so this one is up my alley, but their other options are delicious as well.
Best Take-Out: Carolina’s. Yes, you can eat in, but Carolina’s isn’t making their money on the ambiance. They are making it on the food. They are well-known for their delicious and ginormous tortillas. Nothing wrong with foregoing the cooking for a night and calling ahead or pick-up. I’ve even had a birthday party catered by Carolina’s, which was a huge hit given I barely had any leftovers.
Best Guacamole: La Hacienda. A lot of restaurants around town make amazing guac, but my all-time favorite is the one made table side at La Hacienda. The restaurant is inside the Fairmont Princess resort, meaning you will be paying resort prices, but the guac is worth every penny. You can make a night of it and reserve one of the fire-pit tables out on the patio, or swing by the bar for a drink, chips and guacamole during happy hour. A hand-shaken margarita and guac always make me happy!
Best Fajitas: Ajo Al’s. Quite a few people around town are absolutely hooked on Ajo Al’s. It is definitely a valley favorite and the fajita’s never disappoint. In fact, one of our contributors, Jessica, said she isn’t a vegetarian, but the veggie fajita’s are so amazing that no meat is necessary. Plus, my picky kids love fajitas because they can “make their own taco” (meaning put nothing inside besides cheese and a sliver of chicken). Whatever, they are eating and not crying. #momwin
Best Spicy Mexican: Los Dos Molinos. If you love spicy food like me, you have got to try Los Dos. They actually claim to have the hottest food in Phoenix and they aren’t lying with that statement. Los Dos is not for those with wimpy taste buds. They don’t have a mild salsa and most entrees on the menu come packed with a kick.
Best New Mexican: Carlsbad Tavern. Carlsbad Tavern is the only place on my list I have yet to visit, but I’m dying to go. This Old Town restaurant features a bat and cave theme interior (my 5 year old will go crazy over this!!) and serve authentic New Mexican food. Our contributor, Marissa, grew up on the real stuff and gave Carlsbad Tavern two thumbs up!
Best Upscale: Blanco. If you are looking for “fancy Mexican” (think girls night or you are craving a burrito and an excuse to get dressed up), give head to Blanco. Fox Restaurant Concepts knew what they were doing when they created this restaurant. Great atmosphere, delicious food and yummy drinks. Plus you can even eat at Blanco if you are traveling out of Terminal 4 at the airport!
Any favorite valley Mexican joints I’m missing? Let’s taco-bout it in the comments below (I couldn’t resist).
Frank & Lupes
Cien Agaves Tacos & Tequila – they have the BEST frozen margaritas and their nachos are mine and my husbands ABSOLUTE favorite in town!
La Fonda at Scottsdale & Shea – The best authentic Mexican restaurant I’ve been to over the past 19 years (I have tried a few) and it is always so good! Consider it for your next list!
The Mexicana is the newest hot spot in Phoenix. The lines can get long, so it is best to go at non-peak times. This place is loaded with fun.