Arizona shares more than a border with the Mexican state of Sonora. Though they belong to different countries, the two states share the same desert topography and, thus, many of the same culinary traditions. Valle Luna highlights and celebrates these traditions with a menu of Sonoran–style tacos, sopas, and pedazos inspired by the rare genius of its founder, Tia Rita. Surprisingly, Valle Luna’s story began not in Arizona but in upstate New York. Tia journeyed to Syracuse in the 1970s, bringing with her the recipes she gleaned from her childhood in the Sonoran Desert. After earning a number of awards and accolades in New York, Tia returned to warmer climes and founded the original Valle Luna on West Bell Road in Phoenix, where her food continued earn rave reviews until her passing in 2008. Today, Tia's family carries on her legacy at three locations spread across the Valley. They’ve even added to her original menu, crafting such genre-defying dishes as Mexican potato skins, choco tacos, and salsa-stuffed piñatas.
In 1986, the Tenorio family pooled their knowledge of Mexican and Tex-Mex cuisine to create a restaurant that combined authentic, south-of-the-border cuisine with quick service. They named it Filiberto’s after one of their own, Filiberto Tenorio. Since then, Filiberto’s Mexican Food has expanded to three states and 55 locations, but their commitment to fresh ingredients hasn’t changed. Available for dine-in or carry-out, the menu abounds with crispy chicken, beef, and pork tacos, hefty burritos, and combination platters that pair enchiladas, tacos, and chili rellenos with rice and beans or a compatible paper doll.
Up a staircase illuminated by an overhead chandelier waits an arrangement of small tables. They're holding down one of the dining areas at SpeakEasy Saloon and Grill, a steak house that's part speakeasy, part saloon. On the main level there's a stage for live country music, a bar for drinking, and more tables for enjoying house specialties such as bone-in rib eye, cowboy spaghetti, and grilled fresh Atlantic salmon. When guests finish eating, they can get busy grooving on the dance floor and nervously anticipating their date’s line-dance moves. A private room upstairs also hosts private parties and events, rounding out the possibilities.
Following Baja Fresh’s ethos set in 1990 as a healthy take on fast food, never-frozen meats sizzle atop the grill before they're tucked into made-to-order tacos and burritos. Grilled corn and flour tortillas embrace fish, carnitas, chicken, and steak, and smoky queso fundido sidles onto nachos and into burritos. Between bites, chips scoop up salsa made from farm-fresh produce rather than poured out of a can or fabricated in a space-age replicator. A complimentary salsa bar ensures no mouthful goes unspiced, and guests can scoop up their favorites as they await their dine-in, takeout, or catering orders.
When you spend 25 years doing one job, you'd better love it. Luckily for LuLu's Taco Shop owners Lulu and Israel Aviles, making the traditional Guadalajaran cuisine of their homeland has always been a labor of love. The duo begins with Mexican recipes passed down through generations and then incorporates Arizona's Tex-Mex influence to create a menu that mixes old with new for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
Tacos begin with hand-crafted flour and corn tortillas. Once the tortillas are hot and pressed, staff then fill them with meat or seafood cooked in house-made marinades. Dishes can be prepared in the Mexican fashion?topped with cilantro and onions?or Arizona-style with fire sauce, cheese, and guacamole. Either way, the flavors stay true to the Guadalajara region, as the shop sources its spices and seasonings directly from Mexico. LuLu's even imports Mexican beers to round out the taqueria experience, with margaritas available to get parties started or put out party-related fires.
The chefs at Baja Joe's Mexican Cantina prepare seafood in the style of Sinaloa, a region of northwestern Mexico that flanks the Pacific Ocean. That coastal influence is especially evident in dishes such as the campechana especial?a medley of scallops, oysters, octopus, and shrimp served inside of a coconut shell?or whole red snapper, cooked with white wine, olives, and bay leaves and served by Poseidon at the end of a trident. Chefs also grill traditional Mexican combinations of carnitas, steak, and chicken, in addition to preparing veggie dishes. The cantina's 1,200-square-foot patio makes an ideal setting to sip a specialty margarita, such as the La Pinta, mixed with pomegranate-infused tequila, while their newly expanded 2,600-square-foot sports cantina boasts eleven flat-screen televisions, pool tables, darts, music, live music and karaoke nights, and more.