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Best Tortillas--TIE

Saint Mary's Mexican Food
1030 W. St. Mary's Road

Anita Street Market and Tortilla Factory
849 N. Anita Ave.

READERS' PICK: There's no shortage of fine tortillas in this town, and ranking them is no small feat. But for many years running, our readers find themselves running back to St. Mary's Mexican Food for fresh, buttery tortillas worthy of their own mothers' kitchens. While they also offer the smaller gorditas, the order of the day here is the paper-thin, extra large variety the restaurant uses for its addictive, Sonoran-style burros. Buy them by the dozen for only a couple of bucks, and you'll feel you've stumbled on a whole new food group.

Someday you're going to meet the tortilla that's gonna break your heart. It will still be warm. It may be made of sweet, sun-ripened corn. Or it might be a meltingly tender flour tortilla, as big as a child's two arms around you. But count on this: It will be from Anita Street Market, where they still shape their tortillas by hand. Even the mas grandes measuring out to 16 inches are hand-stretched. Real people who know their trade make these fine tortillas, starting at 4 a.m. By 5 a.m. they're already flipping the six-inch gorditas browning on the black metal grill. Such simple ingredients: water, flour, salt and shortening make magic that will curl around strips of beef, or cradle refried beans. Perhaps you'll eat them out of hand, warming them on the gas flame on your stove and smearing them with butter. Ahhh. To find these tortillas, and a good little market with take-out Mexican food and fresh chorizo to boot, go to the heart of Barrio Anita. It's just northeast of I-10, where Sixth Street turns into St. Mary's Road. Find Anita Street. Push open the market door and feel a blast of cold air. Buy some machaca, a devotional candle or a chunk of barrel-cactus candy. But don't forget the tortillas. Whatever else you do, don't forget the tortillas.

READERS' POLL RUNNER-UP: La Parrilla Suiza, 2720 N. Oracle Road; 5602 E. Speedway Blvd.

CLUE IN: These are the big, succulent, Sonoran-style flour tortillas, traditional to this region. There's such a demand for Tania's Flour Tortillas (two locations: 614 N. Grande Ave.; and 2856 W. Drexel Road) that their production and consumption never seems to stop. As they're snatched off the counter, so are they replaced. They never even have a chance to cool. On chilly winter days, it's always a pleasure to slip a hand into the middle of one of the hot stacks of bagged tortillas on the counter. Buy more than you think you'll need--they're good enough to eat out of the bag on the ride home.

Case History

1997 Winner: St. Mary's Mexican Food
1996 Winner: Grande Tortilla Factory
1995 Winner: Tania's

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