El Charro Café is a Tucson institution. 95 years old this year, El Charro is the oldest Mexican restaurant in continuous operation by the same family. Established in 1922, founder Tia Monica Flin came to Tucson from France in the 1800’s when her father was commissioned to build the city’s St. Augustine Cathedral, which is just down the street from the restaurant.
Her father, Jules, whose signature work can be seen throughout Tucson’s Historic District, also built the family’s residence in 1896. This same building is now home to the Original Downtown El Charro Café location on Court Avenue. There are several other locations around Tucson, but we wanted the full experience of the downtown location.
El Charro is known as the birthplace of chimichangas. Apparently, it happened by accident in the 1920s when a burrito fell into a fryer. What a fantastic accident! We of course had to try one and it was delicious! We’d highly recommend it with one of their natural margaritas, made with agave nectar and lime.
We also tried the restaurant’s signature carne seca, which is made by hanging strips of beef to dry in the Sonoran desert sun above the restaurant. The beef is then shredded, reconstituted with chiles and tomatoes, and flash fried. You can get it by itself, or in chimichangas and other combinations. We’d also recommend trying the handmade tamales.
We recommend sitting on the porch if there is a breeze, or in the patio and lounge area in the evening. The service was a bit slow, but if you know that going in, just relax and sip on a cool drink as you enjoy this Mexican institution.
Thank you to Alaska Airlines for sponsoring this post.