Tucson’s El Charro Café: Nation’s Oldest Mexican Restaurant
Did you know that the nation’s oldest Mexican restaurant in continuous operation by the same family is located in Tucson, Arizona?
El Charro Café was established in 1922 by Tia Monica Flin. Tia Monica came to Tucson via France in the 1800s when her father Jules, a famous stone-mason, was commissioned to build the city’s St. Augustine Cathedral.
Jules’ signature work can be seen throughout Tucson’s historic district, and in 1896 he built the family residence which is now home to the original downtown Tucson El Charro Café location.
Tia Monica Flin, is well-known as “The Inventor of The Chimichanga.” While frying her now famous El Charro ground beef tacos, she accidentally dropped a burro into the frying pan and when the oil splashed up she was about to lash out a common Spanish cuss word starting with “Ch”. But, because she was amongst her young nieces and nephews, she instead blurted out “Chimichanga”, the equivalent of “thingamajig.”
Not only is El Charro Café the birthplace of the Chimichanga, but this historic restaurant is also renowned for its Carne Seca. El Charro’s Carne Seca (dry meat) is made by slicing thin strips of lean beef, which are then placed into a special drying cage and hoisted above the roof of the restaurant to dry in the hot Arizona sun for several days.
Afterwords, the now jerky-like strips are combined with special seasonings, pan-fried, and become the magical ingredient in many of El Charro’s famous entrées.
There were four of us dining on the delicious food you see in our photographs above. As we passed our plates around the table to sample each of the entrées, there was a significant amount of “nom-noms”, “oh-boys”, “holy-cows”, and “MMMMs”.
Our waitress told us that some palates find the carne seca on its own to be a little dry. Being a lover of jerky, I enjoyed it. However, I chose to have my carne seca in their chimichanga and found it to be an absolute delight! Major Yumminess!
If you find yourself in Tucson, we highly recommend that you visit the historic district and treat yourself to some of the best Mexican cuisine on the planet.
Oh, don’t forget to share a plate of their hand-made tamales. Wow! And, they’ve had many years to perfect the margarita, get a pitcher.
Disclosure: our wonderful dining experience was provided by the kind folks at El Charro Café. Thanks! We loved it!