Taste of Traditions steps a bit out of the box this month as I joined Karen Shayne on a trip to Arizona and we had to make our way to Tucson to dine at the famous El Charro Restaurant.  While we don’t have any recipes to share, what we can do is give you a picture of our dining experience and hope we can share a fraction of how our tastebuds met heaven for the two hours we dined. 

Established in 1922, El Charro Café of Tucson, Arizona is The Nation’s Oldest Mexican Restaurant in continuous operation by the same family. Featuring traditional Northern Mexico-Sonoran style and innovative Tucson-style Mexican Food, El Charro Café is truly as Gourmet Magazine wrote: “A Taste Explosion”.

Additional defined by Gourmet Magazine as “One of America’s 21 Most Legendary Restaurants” and with a large array of award-winning hand-crafted recipes based on Sonoran and Local ingredients, El Charro Café is a passage to Tucson’s Culinary History that has won the dining icon acclaim from all over the world. People come from all corners of the globe to experience El Charro Café, we took a step back in time and we weren’t disappointed. 

Karen and I started out with the Prickly Pear-Rita and graduated to the Mangopeño Margarita.  Even though they are known for their Prickly Pear, Karen and I both decided the Mangopeño was far superior with its taste and balance.  Highly recommend. 

Then we went for what we both considered the most delectable indulgence – the Queso Fundido accompanied by the warm, crunchy tortilla chips and cool homemade Pico de Gallo on the side.  Queso Fundido is a popular Mexican dish that typically consists of simply melted cheese and spices, but we chose to add the recommended chorizo which was a perfectly balanced portion sprinkled on top of gooey, melted cheese delicacy.  Truly like nothing we have ever had. 

Karen ordered steak and shrimp fajitas. The onions and peppers were grilled to perfection and while the steak was a tad bit overcooked, the flavor of the spices kept her going back for more. 

I decided to go for the more traditional Mexican flare with the combo meal of Número Tres which consisted of a carnita tamal, “charro style” beef taco, & queso casero enchilada in red sauce.   I was particularly impressed and honestly, could not get enough of the taco.  Unlike anything I have tasted, it was tender and delicious.  Upon more research, I found the tacos are actual carne seca beef patty, folded in a tortilla, fried in a pan, and garnished with peas, radishes, and Mexican cheese.  I was in taste-bud heaven.  If you are expecting the traditional tamale, you might be a bit surprised.  The tamale (known as tamal) was very different in flavor, but combined with the red sauce, it was out of this world.  The El Charro beans were flavored perfectly, but we regret to say after the queso fundido and this hugely portioned meal, there was no room for dessert. 

With its history and its friendly, over-the-top service (although it can take a while for your meal because it is cooked to perfection and to your dietary needs), we do believe the El Charro Café is to be considered one of America’s dining icons. If you are in the southwest region of the US, you must take a visit to this legendary restaurant.  Plan on plenty of time to dine.  You will certainly want to savor every, single bite.