When it comes to Mexican cuisine, Tucson has a rich and vibrant food scene. From traditional dishes passed down through generations to modern interpretations of Mexican flavors, there’s something for everyone in this desert city. Whether you’re a local or just visiting, here are 13 must-visit Mexican restaurants in Tucson to add to your culinary tour.
Traditional Mexican Food
Traditional Mexican food is known for its bold flavors, fresh ingredients, and time-honored recipes passed down through generations. In Tucson, Arizona, there are several restaurants that specialize in this type of cuisine. Here are four of the best traditional Mexican food spots in Tucson:
1. El Charro Cafe
El Charro Cafe is the oldest Mexican restaurant in Tucson and has been serving up traditional Mexican fare since 1922. The restaurant’s signature dish is the carne seca, which is made from dried beef that is then simmered in a sauce of tomatoes, onions, and mild peppers. The dish is served with rice and beans and is a must-try for anyone visiting El Charro Cafe.
2. Taqueria Pico De Gallo
2618 S 6th Ave, Tucson, AZ 85713 – (520)623-8775
Taqueria Pico De Gallo is a no-frills spot that serves up some of the best tacos in Tucson. Their tacos are made with fresh, handmade tortillas and are topped with meat, cilantro, onions, and a squeeze of lime. The carne asada and al pastor tacos are particularly delicious and are perfect for a quick, affordable meal.
3. Mi Nidito Restaurant
Mi Nidito Restaurant is a family-owned restaurant that has been serving traditional Mexican food in Tucson for over 60 years. Their menu features a variety of classic dishes, including chile rellenos, tamales, and carne asada- but the real star of the menu is their famous chimichanga, which is filled with shredded beef, beans, and cheese, and then deep-fried to golden perfection.
4. La Cocina (LaCo)
LaCo is known for serving up traditional Mexican dishes made from scratch using fresh, locally-sourced ingredients. One of the standout features of LaCo is its beautiful outdoor seating area. The restaurant is located in an old adobe building with a large courtyard that is decorated with colorful Mexican tiles and features a stage for live music performances. One of the most popular dishes at La Cocina is the carne seca, which is a traditional Sonoran-style dried beef that is cooked with tomatoes, onions, and peppers and served with beans and rice. The restaurant also offers a range of vegetarian and gluten-free options, making it a great choice for diners with dietary restrictions.
Modern Mexican Cuisine
Mexican cuisine has always been known for its bold flavors and use of fresh, local ingredients. In recent years, however, a new trend has emerged in Mexican cuisine: the fusion of traditional flavors with modern techniques and ingredients. Tucson, Arizona, is home to several restaurants that are leading the way in this exciting new culinary movement. Here are four of the best modern Mexican restaurants in Tucson.
1. Charro Vida
The menu at Charro Vida features a range of dishes inspired by the flavors of Mexico, including tacos, bowls, and salads. Some of the standout dishes on the menu include the carne asada tacos, the grilled shrimp bowl with green rice, and the roasted vegetable salad with quinoa. In addition to its delicious food, Charro Vida is also known for its warm and welcoming atmosphere. The restaurant features an open kitchen, allowing diners to watch as their food is prepared, and a spacious outdoor patio that is perfect for enjoying a meal in the sunshine.
2. Guadalajara Original Grill
Guadalajara Original Grill offers a fresh take on traditional Mexican flavors. The restaurant’s menu features dishes like the salmon a la parilla (grilled salmon with roasted corn and black beans) and the carne asada tacos. Their margaritas are also a must-try, with unique flavors like cucumber and hibiscus.
3. Reforma Modern Mexican
Reforma Modern Mexican offers an upscale dining experience with a focus on fresh, seasonal ingredients. The menu features dishes like the short rib enchiladas and the grilled octopus with black bean puree. The restaurant also has an extensive tequila selection and offers tequila flights for those looking to sample different varieties.
4. BOCA Tacos & Tequila by Chef Maria Mazon
The restaurant’s menu features a variety of dishes inspired by the flavors of Latin America, with a focus on fresh, local ingredients. Some of their most popular dishes include the octopus carpaccio, empanadas, ceviche, and their signature grilled meats. Boca also offers a wide selection of craft cocktails and an extensive wine list, making it the perfect spot for a night out with friends or a romantic date.
Seafood & Sonoran Style Mexican Food
Tucson, Arizona, is a culinary destination known for its diverse and authentic food offerings. One of the most beloved cuisines in Tucson is Sonoran-style Mexican food, which is famous for its seafood dishes. Here are some of the best seafood and Sonoran-style Mexican restaurants in Tucson, Arizona.
1. Mariscos Chihuahua
Mariscos Chihuahua is a family-owned restaurant that serves some of the best seafood in Tucson. The restaurant is famous for its shrimp and fish tacos, which are served with fresh and crispy vegetables and a variety of salsas. Other popular dishes include ceviche, seafood cocktails, and aguachiles. The restaurant’s atmosphere is laid back and casual, making it the perfect place to enjoy a delicious meal with friends and family.
2. El Sur Mexican Restaurant
El Sur is another must-visit restaurant in Tucson for seafood and Sonoran-style Mexican food. The restaurant’s menu features a wide range of seafood dishes, including shrimp, fish, and octopus. Some of the most popular dishes at El Sur are their shrimp and fish tacos, which are made with fresh ingredients and homemade tortillas. The restaurant also has an extensive selection of margaritas and cocktails that pair perfectly with their delicious food.
3. El Guero Canelo
El Guero Canelo on Oracle Road is a must-visit destination for anyone craving authentic Sonoran-style Mexican food in Tucson, Arizona. Founded in 1993 by Daniel Contreras, the restaurant has since become a local icon, beloved for its delicious food and welcoming atmosphere.
One of El Guero Canelo’s signature dishes is the Sonoran-style hot dog, which is a local specialty. This mouth-watering creation consists of a bacon-wrapped hot dog served on a soft bun and topped with pinto beans, grilled onions, fresh tomatoes, mustard, mayonnaise, and a sprinkle of jalapeño salsa. The restaurant also serves up other classic Mexican dishes such as tacos, burritos, and quesadillas, all made with high-quality, fresh ingredients.
Vegan & Vegetarian Mexican Food
Mexican cuisine is known for its bold flavors, rich spices, and hearty meat dishes. However, vegan and vegetarian Mexican food is also gaining popularity, especially in Tucson, Arizona. With a growing number of plant-based options available, vegan and vegetarian foodies can now enjoy the vibrant and delicious flavors of traditional Mexican cuisine without sacrificing their dietary preferences.
Tumerico is a colorful and cozy vegan Mexican restaurant that offers a range of plant-based dishes inspired by traditional Mexican flavors. The restaurant’s menu is entirely vegan and organic, making it the perfect spot for health-conscious foodies. The menu features a variety of vegan tacos, enchiladas, tamales, and burritos, all made with fresh and seasonal ingredients. Some of the most popular dishes at Tumerico include the jackfruit carnitas tacos, the chile relleno, and the vegan tamales. The restaurant also has a selection of vegan desserts, including a delicious vegan tres leches cake.
2. Govinda's Natural Foods
Govinda’s Natural Foods is a vegetarian restaurant that offers a range of vegan and vegetarian Mexican dishes. The restaurant’s menu features a variety of vegan and vegetarian options, including vegan tacos, enchiladas, and burritos. Some of the most popular dishes at Govinda’s Natural Foods include the vegan chorizo tacos, the vegetarian enchiladas, and the vegan fajitas. The restaurant also has a selection of vegan and gluten-free desserts, including a delicious vegan flan.
Tucson is home to some of the best Mexican food in the country, and this culinary showcases the diverse and flavorful offerings of the city’s food scene. From traditional Sonoran-style dishes to modern interpretations of Mexican flavors, there’s something for everyone to enjoy. So grab a fork and get ready to experience the best of Tucson’s Mexican food!