Mexican food still dominates the Phoenix dining scene, and you can find some of the best examples of the cuisine you’re likely to taste anywhere right here. You’ll don’t have to look far to find great Mexican food in Phoenix.
The Best Mexican Restaurants in Phoenix
From mom-and-pop neighborhood joints to polished resort restaurants, these are the best Mexican restaurants in Phoenix.
The Original Carolina’s Mexican Food
The Original Carolina’s Mexican Food is the real deal. Carolina Valenzuela, who opened the restaurant in 1968, still presides over the kitchen, preparing machaca burros, green chicken tamales, carne asada, and other local favs.
Don’t expect anything too fancy at the Phoenix location. Outside, there are bars on the windows, and inside, the restaurant looks like a high school cafeteria in serious need of an update. The Mesa and Avondale locations serve the same food, though, in much newer digs.
Leave all your preconceptions of Mexican food in Phoenix at the door. Barrio Cafe’s menu ditches burros, fajitas, nachos, and other Mexican restaurant staples in favor of regional dishes like chiles en nogada, a roasted poblano stuffed with chicken, apple, pear, dried apricot, and pecans. You’ll also find expertly prepared filet mignon, pork, and pan-seared fish on the menu.
While the original location on 16th Street is still the best, Chef Silvana Salcido has opened additional Barrio locations on Grand Avenue (Barrio Café Gran Reserva), in Terminal 4 of Sky Harbor International Airport (Barrio Café), and in downtown Gilbert (Barrio Queen).
Housed in a deconsecrated Methodist church with stained glass and repurposed pews, the Taco Guild is dedicated to serving the best tacos in Phoenix. The restaurant starts by using fresh ingredients from local farms to create “Old World Tacos” and “New World Tacos.”
Al pastor, braised beef, chicken, and veggies make up the Old World, traditional offerings. New taco tastes include lamb, chipotle cherry steak, and Peking duck. The menu also features enchiladas, local craft beers, and margaritas made with premium tequilas.
Los Dos Molinos
You’ll be hard pressed to find a Mexican restaurant in Phoenix with spicier dishes on the menu than Los Dos Molinos. But, if you love to feel the burn of New Mexican chiles, this family-run Mexican restaurant in Phoenix is the place to go.
For a kick in the taste buds, order a dish with adovada, pork marinated in an intense red chili sauce. Or, try the Relleno Dinner, an egg-battered green chile stuffed with cheese and smothered in a spicy green chile sauce. There are mild dishes on the menu, like pork tacos, but Los Dos is really all about the heat.
Rito’s Mexican Food
Some of the best Mexican food in Phoenix is served in no-frills restaurants. Rito’s Mexican Food is one of them: Orders are placed and picked up at the counter, and menu items are served on disposable plates or to-go containers. There’s no indoor seating, just picnic tables and a few umbrellas outside.
But, Rito’s food is worth it. See for yourself with a green chili burrito or a guacamole tostada topped with nothing but guacamole, cheese, lettuce, and tomatoes. If you prefer to sit inside, head to Rito’s second location in Surprise.
Presidio Cocina Mexican Food
Made-from-scratch Mexican food draws diners from all over Phoenix to Presidio Cocina Mexican Food. The Michoacan-inspired menu features carne asada, enchiladas, and burritos made from family recipes. To wash the meal down, there’s a lineup of margaritas, wine, and beer.
In addition to lunch and dinner, Presidio is open for breakfast. Early risers looking for Mexican food in Phoenix can kick off the morning with huevos rancheros; egg and chorizo burritos; or chilaquiles, tortilla chips topped with red or green salsa and eggs any style. Grab a seat at the counter to watch the culinary magic.
Ladera Taverna y Cocina
Packed with professionals and Scottsdale families, Ladera Taverna y Cocina is a gorgeous, upscale Mexican restaurant on Central Avenue. Chandeliers hang from the wood ceiling inside and on the brick patio. Spanish tile and candlelight add ambiance.
The food is the real star here, though. Ingredients are prepped as needed—the restaurant has no freezer—then turned into pure South-of-the-border bliss. Try the chile relleno or enchiladas with one of Ladera’s premium margaritas or refreshing sangrias. Live music plays on Thursdays and during Sunday brunch.
Marisco’s Playa Hermosa
Marisco’s Playa Hermosa is the go-to seafood Mexican restaurant in Phoenix. While you can find burros, tacos, and fajitas on the menu, the family-run restaurant specializes in Sinaloan-style seafood dishes, including seafood cocktails, octopus in garlic sauce, ceviche, and crab enchiladas (with real crab, of course).
The decor is reminiscent of a 1970s Mexican joint with scenes brightly painted on the tabletops and chair backs and stained glass lights overhead. But, it works at Marisco’s. You’ll feel like you’ve been transported to a seaside village in Mexico as soon as you enter (and definitely after the first bite).
La Hacienda by Richard Sandoval
Headed by celebrity Chef Richard Sandoval, the Mexican dining option at the Fairmont Scottsdale Princess serves dishes you’d expect to find on the menu at a five-star restaurant in Mexico City. Think short ribs with ancho chile mashed potatoes, skirt steak with cactus pico, and chicken in a mole sauce.
If you love tequila, La Hacienda pours nearly 200 blancos, repasados, and anejos, and has a Tequila Goddess (the equivalent of a wine sommelier) to help you select one for your meal. After dinner, sip a flaming coffee, dramatically prepared tableside.
Poncho’s Mexican Food and Cantina
Loyal customers have patronized Poncho’s Mexican Food and Cantina for decades, chowing down on Vasquez family recipes for tacos, burros, and chile rellenos. A maze of tables and booths, the restaurant is always packed.
Poncho’s has such a following, it even got the attention of President Clinton, who dined here while still in office. If you’re willing to wait, you can eat at the table he did and order the same meal, the La Fiesta Chiquita President’s Choice: two tostadas, two chimichangas, two tacos, and two green corn tamales.
—Original reporting by Teresa Bitler