Friday, March 6, 2009

El Torero (Tucson)

The mythology about El Torero had me excited. It's a hard to find treasure of a resataurant in South Tucson. One that has been in operation since 1956! El Torero and Lerua's are owned by members of the same family and while the menus are a bit different for sure (more variation from the norm at El Torero) they compliment each other well. The story goes that the management waited ten years to announce that the son had taken over his mother's place out of fear that the regulars would be concerned. In fact when the change in leadership was made public one regular voiced a fear that his favorite menu would be altered only to learn that he had been coming to the "new" El Torero for a decade!

We started with a cheese / chile crisp and it was probably my favorite so far in Tucson. I'm not ready to crown it Best Crisp in Tucson like other online reviewers but it was great. I liked how it really had cheese everywhere and yet the crust was crusty and not soggy. It looked like it didn't ever get soggy by the time we left. Bravo!

Most of the reviews herald the Turky Mole but I couldn't really wrap my head around that. Instead I thought I'd aim for the heart of the target and get the 2 taco / 2 enchilada special with carne seca all around. The waitress said the carne seca was different than Lerua's but it seemed pretty similar to me. I think cooked in a dish might be the best way to experience this juicy style of carne seca though. It was pretty yummy. GReat in the enchiladas for sure. The tacos were hard shell which I find boring. Taken out of the shell, the meat + lettuce + cheese was good, especially with some enchilada sauce mixed in. One of my favorite Mexican places in Tucson so far!

We also got a Topopo salad which looks like an elementary school science fair experiment that won "most creative." I didn't try it but was told it was ok. Certainly it seemed the quality of the ingredients was good.

There was a Dos Eiquis draft option so I got one of those. The price on the menu seemed high but XX lager on tap is much better than in the bottle. Half liter mugs are a decent amount but maybe not quite worth the price difference. I'd be interested to see if they do a drink happy hour at all. That could be dangerous.

The interior is plain but somehow has absorbed the spirt of decades of festive family dinners. The owner tended bar and cracked jokes about his TV tuned to Smallville with a regular customer who was dining at the bar. Turns out this is a place when "surround sound" means turning up the one speaker on the TV to very loud. El Torero might be simple Mexican family food but in the best sense. The price is right, the food is good and the service is very friendly. No question this is a place to come back to frequently. It was hard not to feel at home there. (El Torero is very kid friendly too and loud enough inside to not find a normal kid or two to be disruptive.)

El Torero is had to find because the address is on 26th between 4th and 5th but the restaurant is not right on the street. Very easy to find once you have been there. Basically look for all the parked cars on a pretty desolate street.

Map of El Torero
231 E 26th St, Tucson, AZ 85713
(520) 622-9534

Exterior picture courtesy of Flickr

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