Chilaquiles Battle: La Tolteca vs. Pepe's Taco Villa

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Natalie Miranda
Chilaquiles from La Tolteca.

Crispy fried tortilla strips smothered in sauce that makes the nose run, covered with cheese, a fried egg and chicken. We're talking chilaquiles.

The Mexican breakfast dish -- which is perfect for any time of day -- makes us want to rewind our meal just to savor the flavors once again. Finding a spot to order them is not hard in the metro Phoenix area with the endless amount of Mexican restaurants filling the streets.

But we narrowed the field to La Tolteca and Pepe's Taco Villa, putting the two head to head this week in a chilaquiles showdown.

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Hopdoddy vs. The Stand: Salted Caramel Shake Smackdown

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Alissa Irei
The Salted Dulce De Leche Shake at The Stand.

Remember when salt first started upstaging sugar during dessert, to the shock of mainstream diners everywhere? (Sea salt on chocolate chip cookies? Shut the front door!) These days you'd be hard pressed to find a hip restaurant that doesn't give salt top billing on at least one post-dinner dish; what once connoted culinary cool has become commonplace. Not that we're complaining - nothing makes sugar's sweetness sing like a little NaCl.

We recently pitted two of the Valley's best shakes against each other to see which would survive a salty caramel smackdown.


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Republic Ramen v. Hana Japanese Eatery: Chow Bella's Ultimate Battle of the Ramen

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Evie Carpenter
March Madness might be over, but Chow Bella's Ultimate Battle of the Ramen is just heating up. We pitted two first round winners against each other to see who will proceed to the finals. In this crosstown match, Hana Japanese Eatery takes on Republic Ramen.

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Noca vs. Chestnut Fine Foods & Provisions: Lobster Roll Rumble

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Alissa Irei
The lobster roll at Noca.

Normal people eat on vacation. Around here, we go on vacation to eat. And while we love our desert home, we're not above booking a ticket to the coast just to get our hands on some decent seafood. The good news: With a handful of Valley menus offering fresh lobster rolls, we can now get shellfish without stepping foot on a plane. We threw a couple of local rolls in the ring to see which is the better bet.

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Sushi Ken v. China Magic Noodle House: Chow Bella's Ultimate Battle of the Ramen

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Evie Carpenter
We caused a few waves last week with the second matchup in our Ultimate Battle of the Dishes ramen bracket, during which Tempe's Republic Ramen came out ahead over new kid on the block, Umami. Eventually, Republic will be facing off against Hana Japanese Eatery, which beat out Clever Koi for a spot in round two.

This week, we're heading to the East Valley to see whether Ahwatukee's Sushi Ken or Chandler's China Magic Noodle House will be moving forward in our ramen tournament.

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Casa Reynoso Tempe vs. Casa Reynoso Chandler: Battle of the Restaurants

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Natalie Miranda
Casa Reynoso in Tempe

We love family. But we also love competition among family members. It's in our blood to want to be the best or have an edge over that one relative. Bring cooking into the equation and it becomes a battle. Casa Reynoso is a longtime staple in Tempe, cooking up Mexican food made to comfort and welcome us. Robert, son of Tempe owners Antonio and Roberta, has his own Casa Reynoso in a Chandler strip mall. The Reynoso chain is rooted in family ties and started in Globe in 1984, then moved to the Valley with encouragement from Antonio's mother, Salustia.

We set out to find out who would win the battle: the parents or the son?

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Umami v. Republic Ramen: Chow Bella's Ultimate Battle of the Ramen

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Evie Carpenter
Last week we kicked off our Ultimate Battle of the Dishes ramen bracket that pits some of the Valley's restaurants against each other in a tournament-style match up to find the city's best ramen spots. In our first throw down we put Phoenix's Hana Japanese Eatery against the Clever Koi and in the end it came down to a preference for simplicity over Clever Koi's modern take. You can recap the play-by-play for yourself here.

This week we're taking the action to Tempe to see which ASU-adjacent ramen shop will move on to the second round of our Ultimate Battle of the Ramen.

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Hana Japanese Eatery v. Clever Koi: Introducing Chow Bella's Ultimate Battle of the Ramen

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Evie Carpenter
Introducing, Chow Bella's Ultimate Battle of the Dishes: Ramen (see a larger version here)
In about a week basketball fans will begin obsessing over their March Madness brackets, trying to predict which college teams have the talent and luck to take the NCAA Men's Division I Basketball Championship. And here at Chow Bella we're kicking off a tournament of our own: an Ultimate Battle of the Dishes to find the city's best bowl of ramen.

The dish's popularity has been on the rise since last year, becoming wildly popular in places such as Chicago, New York and Los Angeles. While our own food scene has been a little slower on the uptake, we've still got a good selection of restaurants dishing up delicious bowls of noodles of broth. Follow along for the next few weeks as we hunt for the very best ramen in town.

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Vovomeena vs. Snooze: Eggs Benedict Battle

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Natalie Miranda
Mexican Benedict from Vovomeena
The world is divided into two groups of people: Those who don't particularly care for eggs Benedict and those who are obsessed with the dish.

This edition of Battle of the Dishes is for the latter. Count us among the obsessed, which is why we were thrilled with our latest assignment: pit new Denver transplant Snooze against funky local favorite Vovomeena and see who does a Latin twist on an old standby best.

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La Santisima vs. Cartel Coffee Lab: Horchata Battle

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Natalie Miranda
Horchata from La Santisima.

Horchata is nothing new. It helps us take down those spicy dishes and top off a wet burrito. Made of milk, rice, cinnamon and sometimes almonds, horchata is a staple ion Mexican beverage menus, but can sometimes be too watery, too cinnamon-y, or too milky.

But when it's executed perfectly, it is a moment to be celebrated. Gulping down fresh horchata that is off the beaten path makes it even better. La Santisima Gourmet Taco Shop and Cartel Coffee Lab in Phoenix both use creativity to give us two new options of the delicious drink.

Which was better? Stay tuned.

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