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The topic of best Mexican food can lead to some heated debates depending upon your taste and who is looking for the best Mexican food near me.

I personally make it a point to seek out and try a great variety of Mexican food restaurants because I am always looking for the best red chile. So typically if I’m going to judge how good a restaurant is I usually start with their red chile. If your red chile is no good then your restaurant is a lost cause as far as I’m concerned and you will never see me again!

It should be noted here that I am a white male if only to give you a sense of the palate that is speaking to you. However I am not the type of person who considers anything fried with cheese good Mexican food. I am looking for good flavor and some spice. Bland is boring and is better left consumed at home.

Let’s be clear here, I don’t want something that’s so damn hot I can’t enjoy it but I also don’t want something so bland I may as well not be eating it. I think a good comparison would be a tasty beer and good Mexican food. I don’t like low calorie, tasteless beer. Give me a Blue Moon or two and I’m good. I will choose enjoyment and taste over volume any day.

Today I would like to nominate 2 local Mexican food restaurants for your consideration, as the best near me. These restaurants are Carolina’s Mexican Food and Arriba Mexican Grill. Both of these establishments check the box on flavor.

Carolina’s is more of a fast food style or take it home with you. Carolina’s is not Taco Bell, they are flavorful, delicious and authentic meals that people will line up out the door for. Carolina’s has 3 valley locations and I have eaten at every one of them multiple times and have never been disappointed. My favorite dish is a red chile mix burrito, enchilada style. Make sure to grab some of their pequin hot sauce and you are good to go.

If you have stomach issues and are sensitive to hot stuff then you may want to stay away from their hot sauce and enchilada sauce. The heat factor does seem to vary, but that’s kind of what I would expect when you’re making authentic food using fresh ingredients. Their flour tortillas are fantastic and worth buying if you’re cooking Mexican food at home. Please note these tortillas are fresh and may mold quickly if not frozen or immediately used.

Carolina’s maximizes flavor while not breaking your budget. I give this restaurant my highest recommendation. It’s no wonder that people are crazy over this place! They have been voted the Best of Phoenix by Phoenix New Times, several times and it’s really easy to taste why.

Arriba Mexican Grill is my second favorite and I don’t eat there as much as I would like but they are just not as close to me geographically as Carolinas. Arriba uses hatch chiles which makes a lot of their dishes snappy to say the least. I typically order a side of sour cream to help beat down the flames of my white sands chimichanga. This establishment has a bar, takes reservations and is a take your time and enjoy sitting down to eat type of restaurant.

it's pronounced chi lay

Arriba’s menu has a chile pepper gauge next to all items on their menu. Believe me when I say, this is for your protection and to make sure you don’t order something that will be too spicy for you to eat. Sour cream or not, there are some things on their menu that I will not even attempt to eat. After all, I still have a white guy palate and I can only take so much heat, especially since eating is only one part of the equation. If you really enjoy spicy Mexican food then Arriba is your place, believe it!

I give Arriba my highest recommendation as well. I enjoy the atmosphere and their food flavorful and authentic but can be a little on the hot side. If you are sensitive to spicy then you may want to steer clear of this place or just make sure you order something that your palate and digestive system can tolerate.

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