The three taco combo at Ranch Market. I liked the pollo (chicken) the best.

One of the top ten places that we take our out-of-town guests to is Ranch Market. It’s always fun to see their faces when we pull into the parking lot, “You’re taking us to”¦a grocery store?” Well, yes, sort of. Ranch Market isn’t your typical grocery store – it’s a fiesta; it’s an assault on the senses; it’s a Phoenix must.

When you walk into Ranch Market, the first area you encounter is the bakery. You’re greeted by colorful birthday cakes, conchas (Mexican sweet bread), pastries, cookies, breads, and tres leches cake – so many sinfully delicious temptations. Even if I hold my breath and swear to skip straight through to the salsas and aquas frescas, I always end up back in the bakery, picking up some pink conchas to enjoy with my morning coffee. I am defenseless against Ranch Market’s pastry goodness.

Conchas (Mexican sweet bread) cannot be resisted at Ranch Market.

Once you’ve moved past the bakery, the store opens up in all of its colorful glory. Straight in front of you are the aquas frescas (fresh fruit drinks) and just past there is La Cocina (the kitchen, or basically a mini food court of sorts). To your right, you’ll see a salsa bar with various salsas and ceviche sold by the pound. Then, next to that is the ice cream case filled with colorful and handmade ice cream with flavors like mango, coconut and blue bubblegum.

So colorful, so delicious.

Let me give you some advice here. First, Ranch Market is an experience so you need to prepare and fuel up appropriately. So make your first stop the aquas frescas hut then move on to La Cocina for an inexpensive and authentic Mexican meal. Next, brush up on that high school Spanish. While you can get by with English only, it’ll help to know some of the basics like numbers, fruits and certain foods.

Cool and refreshing aquas frescas are a must. Have fun and mix flavors!

Once you’ve fueled up, you’re ready for the full Ranch Market experience. Make sure to browse the produce section with huge piles of jalapenos, onions, limes, etc. Check out the regional and specialty items like nopales (prickly pear cactus). Ranch Market also makes its own tortillas in different sizes and grains (wheat, flour, corn). You might blink and miss the Cremeria, but this is the most important section of the store when we visit. The sour cream at Ranch Market will change your life. It’s the best we’ve ever had. Try it and thank us later.

Fresh sour cream - just do it.

For the rest of the Ranch Market experience you can stick to the outer areas of the store. The seafood selection is amazing and doesn’t smell fishy, telling us that it’s fresh. If you’re craving some fish, they’ll filet it and cook it right there if you wish. The Carneceria (butcher) is impressive with tons of meat and different cuts. You can even pick up some pre-marinated steak or chicken for fajitas. As you round out the store, they usually have roasted Anaheim or Hatch Chiles near the registers depending on the season.

Ranch Market is a fun place to visit for lunch, for the refreshing aquas frescas, and to stock up on Mexican meal essentials. We hope you’ll enjoy the Ranch Market fiesta as much as we do.

Ranch Market has various locations around the Valley. For this post, we visited the Ranch Market located at 1602 East Roosevelt Street in Phoenix. You can find more photos of our visit to Ranch Market on Flickr.