Living in Greater Phoenix guarantees many things. Endless days of sunshine. A show-stopping monsoon season. The occasional run-in with a rattlesnake (yeah, it happens). But when it comes to tacos, one thing is guaranteed: A good one is waiting for you just a stone’s throw away from wherever you are in Greater Phoenix.
With that kind of density, it may be hard to choose. Here are a few standouts sure to satisfy your craving for the hand-held delicacy.
Located at the High Street retail and residential complex in north Phoenix, Modern Margarita brings a modern spin to traditional Mexican cuisine. Tacos are the order of the day, with seven options to choose from including their award-winning chicken, marinated and grilled with roasted red pepper salsa, and pork, slow-roasted Yucatan style with pineapple and avocado crema. Also on the menu are fish (grilled and fried), shrimp, carne asada and vegetarian.
For the truly adventurous—and truly hungry—the restaurant offers a taco flight, made up of 15 tacos in chicken, pork, fried fish, carne asada and veggie. Wash it all down with a shot of tequila (of course) or a little something from the margarita menu, which includes watermelon honey, strawberry rhubarb and blueberry smash.
Poncho’s & Someburros
If it’s good enough for former U.S. president Bill Clinton (who dined at the restaurant during a campaign stop in 1999), it’s certainly good enough for us. Opened by the Vasquez family in 1972, Poncho’s is a Phoenix institution, serving authentic Sonoran-style Mexican food. The menu is fairly extensive, filled with a number of specialties inspired from the family’s matriarch Isabel Vasquez. But if it’s tacos you’re looking for, the restaurant is known for its shredded beef tacos, slow cooked and wrapped in handmade tortillas.
In 1986, The Vasquez family decided to bring their time-tested recipes and dishes to more of Greater Phoenix with Someburros, a fast-casual restaurant that now has seven locations in Arizona. The shredded beef tacos are a mainstay on taco menu, which also includes shredded chicken, ground beef and potato, carne asada and fish.
7202 S. Central Ave., Phoenix
Six Greater Phoenix locations
While it may be tempting to order Chef Silvana Salcido Esparza’s signature chiles en nogada, her tacos alone are definitely worth a trip to one of Phoenix’s most iconic restaurants.
The camaron (shrimp) and pescado (fish) are both Tecate beer-battered, topped with shredded cabbage and avocado slices, and served with a Baja aioli. For meat lovers, the carne asada is made with grilled tenderloin steak, shredded cabbage, queso fresco, avocado, and Yucatan-style pico de gallo. And then there’s the cochinita pibil, Chef Silvana’s acclaimed pork, marinated in achiote and sour orange, and wrapped in a banana leaf and slow roasted overnight. It’s served with pickled red onion and Yucatan-style pico de gallo.
Whatever you do, leave room for the churros rellenos de cajeta de cabra for dessert. The churros are filled with goat’s milk caramel, served with vanilla bean ice cream and topped with caramel and candied pecans.
For many Mexican families, nothing could be more authentic than grilling up some meats for a taco feast in their own backyards. Bringing this concept of tacos al carbon, which means to cook over charcoal, is Backyard Taco in Mesa.
Opened in 2013 by Ruben Alvarez and Maricela Reyes—both of Mazatlan, Mexico—the restaurant’s menu is straightforward and simple: pick a protein (steak, chicken, birria) and a preparation (taco, quesadilla, tostado, burrito and more). All items come with cabbage, onions and red tomato sauce.
Grab a side of chips and salsa or refried beans, and finish it up with an agua fresca, limonada or Mexican soda.
Restaurant Atoyac Estilo Oaxaca
Phoenix taco connoisseurs may know this little hole-in-the-wall restaurant on Phoenix’s west side as Tacos Atoyac. Originally opened in 2010 in Glendale, the restaurant quickly gained a loyal following, as well as rave reviews and national attention for its no-nonsense, affordable and authentic selection of tacos, tamales and quesadillas.
Despite the restaurant’s success a change in ownership forced it to close its doors in 2014. But after a month, it quickly reopened as Restaurant Atoyac, resulting in a collective sigh of relief from taco lovers all over town.
Taco offerings include the carne asada prepared al pastor (grilled on a spit and thinly sliced), beef tongue, tripe, beef, chicken, fish and shrimp. Sides include refried beans, Mexican-style rice, nachos (with or without meat), and chips and salsa.
This is part of a series of guest posts from our friends at Bite Magazine that explore the food and drink scene of Greater Phoenix.