When I first posted my Best Mexican Restaurant In Tucson competition on my TucsonCitizen.com blog in early January 2012, I got a lot of comments. Seems everyone here has his own favorite. But I had dined at most of the suggested contenders and found them lacking in something: margaritas, enchiladas, chips & salsa, service … something.
(Note to you fans of Mi Nidito. You can read my review on this website and understand why it is not in the running.)
Tucson has a lot of Mexican restaurants and not all are worthy of a second visit. Knowing which ones are best is most important when you have visitors from out-of-town. After all, you don’t want to be embarrassed by taking them to one that they aren’t going to rave about.
With our extended family here over the Christmas holiday (2011), it was a perfect time to compare Mexican restaurants for our Southern Arizona Guide viewers. As a reviewer, I generally try to involve many people in my dining excursions so that I can get a variety of opinions. I think this approach provides our viewers with a broader, more nuanced review. We all have different preferences when it comes to food and drink.
I’ve long since lost track of the number of people who have asked me which is the best Mexican restaurant in Tucson. I usually direct them to one of three: El Charro on Court Street; Café Poca Cosa on Pennington; and Theresa’s Mosaic Café. I sometimes joke that Mosaic Café at Silverbell & Grant is the best Mexican restaurant hidden behind a McDonald’s.
Over the years, I have dined at all three many times and all are very good. But which one is best? The Quest-For-The-Best became one of our fun family goals for the holidays.
El Charro Downtown
Before half the family scattered immediately after Christmas Day, we all went to El Charro, in part because we wanted to be able to walk the few blocks to the Tucson Museum of Art to see the “Who Shot Rock ‘n Roll” exhibit.
For those of you who don’t know, El Charro on Court Street downtown is the oldest continually operated family restaurant in the United States – 1922. It has been praised in the New York Times and many other national publications so many times, I’m sure the family has lost track.
In any competition for the best Mexican restaurant in Tucson, El Charro has a serious advantage. It’s located within a few blocks of the most historic section of Tucson. Within easy walking distance are the Tucson Museum of Art, including the restored, historic Corbett House; El Presidio de Tucson – the original 1776 Spanish fort; Old Town Artisans; and several other worthwhile attractions with in 7 blocks, such as the restored Train Depot and Transportation Museum; and the Arizona Historical Society’s excellent little museum about Tucson’s history in the Wells Fargo Bank building on Stone.
On this website, I also have several videos I created featuring most of these places in the Historic District.
As we were a large group, I assumed El Charro would seat us in the basement of the old house because that is what they did a few years ago. While it’s hard to imagine, the basement provides a pleasant dining atmosphere. Nevertheless, they seated us on the front porch and, thankfully, just below the heater.
When reviewing Mexican restaurants, there are many aspects to consider. The main dishes of course, but also the chips, salsa, guacamole’ and, most importantly, the margaritas.
Bowls of fresh chips & salsa arrived immediately and automatically as befits any first-rate Mexican restaurant. Then we ordered drinks. Some ordered coffee, some ordered iced tea. Our two teenage grandsons, Jon & Morgan, ordered just water with a lemon wedge. Middle daughter, Paige, ordered a margarita with 1800 tequila. I ordered a margarita with just the plain ol’ ordinary tequila.Read More