Angry Crab Shack vs. Welcome Diner: Hurricane Matchup

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Hayden Harrison
Hurricane and fries at Angry Crab in Mesa

New Orleans is known for its hurricanes -- yes, the scary rain ones, but also the cocktail. Pat O'Briens is the usual place to grab one, but when it's about 1,500 miles away, it's best to find a spot close by that makes them well.

A typical hurricane is a mixture of rums, passion fruit juice, ice and a little grenadine to give it the sweet edge. It's an easy cocktail to suck down, which can really knock you on your butt if you don't watch it.

We headed out to Angry Crab Shack in Mesa and Welcome Diner in downtown Phoenix to see who stirs up the best hurricane.

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Flan Battle: Puerto Rican Latin Bar and Grill vs. Los Burritos

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Natalie Miranda
A little mountain of Puerto Rican flan.

It only takes five ingredients to make flan, and the round custard with a rich caramel flavoring is usually all that is needed to polish off any fine Mexican dinner. Occasionally, custard isn't everyone's dessert of choice, but when prepared right, the texture can be the best part.

We headed out to see if Puerto Rican Latin Bar and Grill or Los Burritos has the best flan.

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Mejico vs. Fuego Bistro: Seafood Chile Relleno Battle

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Natalie Miranda
The Shrimp Relleno from Mejico is finished off with a nice helping of cheese.

Any well-made chile relleno is just as good modest as it is dressed up. Stuff it fat with cheese? Perfect. Fill it with bright vegetables and a choice selection of meat? We're good with that, too. But those who don't consider Taco Bell Mexican food know the breading is just as important as the chili peppers.

Even with the plethora of Mexican eateries in the Valley, it takes some time to filter through the good and the bad of chiles rellenos. Lucky for you we fixed our taste buds at Mejico and Fuego Bistro, where both serve loaded seafood chile rellenos, a little more exotic than we're used to finding.

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Nobuo at Teeter House vs. Posh Improvisational Cuisine: Okonomiyaki-Off

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Lauren Saria
Okonomiyaki comes from okonomi, meaning "what you like" or "what you want", and yaki meaning "grilled" or "cooked."
You might have seen okonomiyaki on a restaurant menu here or there around town. It's not impossible to find but it's also not the most common of Japanese dishes. Essentially it's a savory pancake that -- at least in Japan -- you can customize yourself with toppings and sauces. In fact, there are whole restaurants dedicated to the art.

Here in the Valley you're more likely to get a pancake that's designed to the chef's standard but usually includes toppings such as pork, shrimp, squid, cabbage, Japanese mayo, and okonomiyaki (it's similar to Worcestershire sauce). The pancake is grilled till crisp on the outside and served with a layer of bonito flakes, which dance around the dish as your hot plate of food is delivered to your table.

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Filiberto's vs. Rivas: Carne Asada Fries Challenge

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Josh Chesler
The carne asada fries at Filiberto's are a late-night staple for college students and young adults.

With the popularity of adding French fries into Mexican food (i.e. the California Burrito), it's no surprise that carne asada fries have grown in popularity in recent years. The combination of French fries, cheese, sour cream, guacamole, and carne asada can be found at any number of greasy Mexican drive-through spots, so we picked two local chains/Phoenix staples to compare.

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Ollie Vaughn's vs. Blue Hound Kitchen: Lemon Ricotta Pancake Battle

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Natalie Miranda
Lemon ricotta pancakes with poppy seeds from Ollie Vaughn's.

Soft, thick pancakes flavored with lemon ricotta: It's a rarity, but a couple of Phoenix favorites deliver the goods for breakfast. Ollie Vaughn's and Blue Hound Kitchen & Cocktails each serve a rendition of the sweet and sour take on the American breakfast favorite.

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Hellmann's vs. Best Foods: Special Edition Battle of the Mayos

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Sharon Salomon
May the best mayo win.
I met my husband at Queens College in New York City in a Psychology of Personality class. I had my eye on him for a few weeks before I got up the nerve to approach him. We were scheduled for a test, so I invited him to study with me at my house. He might tell the story differently, but I'm the one telling the story right now so we'll go with my version.

My mother made us lunch on that fateful study day. Roast beef, left from dinner the night before, served on fluffy white bread smeared with Hellmann's Mayonnaise. And he was smitten.

But this isn't a story about young love. It's really a story about mayonnaise.

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Fried Chicken Fight: Bootleggers v. Phoenix Public Market Cafe

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Lauren Saria
Fried chicken from Bootleggers in Scottsdale.
Thank goodness for fried chicken because without this dish, we'd have nothing to stuff ourselves with after an emotionally exhausting experience. It's one of the pillars of comfort food and -- particularly when paired with a heap of something starchy -- makes for a pretty much perfect meal.

There are plenty of places that specialize specifically in battering and frying pieces of bird, but we've also noticed a few spots around town that have added fried chicken on their menus. Bootleggers does a solid job with smoked meats and moonshine, but Southern fried chicken? We'll see about that. And as for fried meat on the otherwise health-focused menu at Phoenix Public Market Cafe -- well, you can understand our curiosity.

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Galileo Bread & Coffee vs. Flavors of Louisiana: Battle of the Muffaletta

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Renée Guillory
Galileo Bread & Coffee serves a muffaletta that's an elegant treat.

The Valley of the Sun is 1,500 miles from New Orleans' Little Palermo neighborhood, a district seated next to the French Quarter that happens to be where the muffaletta was born. And since this deli marvel is a multicultural invention, if you're Créole, it's pronounced muff-uh-LOT-ah; if you're Italian, it's MOOF-uh-LET-ah.

It's not known exactly when NOLA's iconic, working-class sandwich made its way west, but we can tell you that the muffaletta is a must-try. The hearty, salty, cheesy sandwich that defies spell-check programs in every language is on more than a few menus around town (not including those delis that offer the muffaletta only as a special), so we decided it was time to find a champion.

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Three-Way Taqueria Showdown: El Guerrerense, Don Beto and Yaqui

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Natalie Miranda
Who will win this three-way battle? Tacos from Taqueria El Guerrerense.

There are (at least) three taquerias on McDowell between 24th and 36th streets, all satisfying a near-constant flow of customers. Taqueria El Guerrerense, Taqueria Don Beto and Taqueria Yaqui are no-frills hole-in-the-wall spots sending their best displays of tacos to hungry customers, each with a varying selection of meats.

We wanted to know which one is the best taqueria on McDowell, so we tried all three in the ultimate taqueria showdown.


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