El Charro, opened in 1922, is “The Nation’s Oldest Mexican Restaurant in continuous operation by the same family,” according to their website. I decided to try it despite reviews suggesting that it’s over-hyped and too touristy. The carnitas burrito was okay, with the pork a bit drier than I’d prefer. The enchiladas were stuffed with carne seca, which is supposed to be dry – it’s a Sonoran specialty of air-dried beef cooked with peppers. The meat itself was flavorful enough, but I wasn’t wowed by anything else: the tortillas, the two enchilada sauces, the rice, the beans.
So yes, on pure food quality, we ate better elsewhere. But I think El Charro is still worth visiting for the experience. The service is good enough, and the décor is fun and festive.
Most of all, it’s nifty if you like eating in historic places. El Charro still serves their “original taco,” or what I imagine to be the result of Mexicans making do with American palates and/or the ingredients at hand in the ‘20s. Said taco consists of a hamburger patty wrapped in a tortilla and pan-fried, then topped with peas, cheese, and radishes. It sounds odd, but in hindsight, I should have gotten one of those. I certainly wouldn’t have been able to compare it to any other restaurant. Perhaps that type of uniqueness, as opposed to yet another version of a ubiquitous dish, is the very reason why El Charro keeps on keepin’ on. Next time, El Charro, I’m going old school.
311 N. Court Ave (and other locations)
Tucson, AZ 85701
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