10 famous Arizona foods and drinks and the stories behind them

Helena V Berbie

Arizona’s culinary influences range wide, from its rich desert geography to its deep history with the Mexican border state of Sonora. Many communities call Arizona home, including more than 20 different Native American tribes, immigrants from around the world and out-of-state transplants chasing the sun. All together, they have shaped Arizona’s vibrant blend of Southwestern cuisine.

In larger cities, you will find a wonderland of international restaurants serving everything from Peruvian ceviche to Jamaican braised oxtail and Korean corn dogs. Phoenix is also peppered with regional chain restaurants from around the country, such as a famed Chicago chicken shack and outposts of a beloved New York City food cart. Chefs at fine dining restaurants are exploring new ways to celebrate local ingredients and are earning national acclaim in the process.

Amid all of these exciting dining options, there are a few dishes that remain quintessentially Arizonan, for residents and visitors alike. From Navajo fry bread to prickly pear margaritas, chimichangas to Sonoran hot dogs, these 10 dishes are essential Arizona eats.

Food for thought: Phoenix’s food scene is on fire. Why chefs say it’s time for change

Burritos get grilled inside Ladera's mobile food truck during the Flying Burrito Music and Food Festival.

Burritos 

Arizona burritos are a meaty treasure. Unlike the Mission-style burritos you’ll find in a place like Chipotle or at many burrito shops in California, ours keep it simple with just a scoop of meat, like carne asada, carnitas or spiced pork adobada, and perhaps a little cheese or guacamole wrapped in a fresh flour tortilla. You won’t find rice, sour cream, lettuce or other ingredients packed in, because Arizona burritos kick-it old school, reflecting the ones brought from the northern Mexican states of Sonora and Chihuahua in the 1900s by migrant farmworkers who needed a protein-packed, filling meal to get them through a hard day of work. Try one from any of our 24-hour Mexican joints, like Filiberto’s or its counterparts, Riliberto’s, Aliberto’s or Los Betos. Just make sure you’re hungry. And don’t forget to order a side of hot salsa.   

— Andi Berlin

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