Tucson Spotlight

What's New

February 2013 - Tucson Weekly article showcasing El Merendero and it's retro-Tucson feel.


Tucson Attractions Passport Explore

ENewsletter Signup

2015 Travel Guide

Posted By: Lesley Kontowicz
This quirky coming of age film was adapted from the novel by Mark Poirier and tells the story of Ellis (Graham Phillips) a 15-year-old boy who is leaving his rather non-traditional home in Tucson ...
Posted By: Edie Jarolim
Trying to decide where to bunk in Tucson? Consider this trio of bed & breakfasts. The Royal Elizabeth Bed & Breakfast InnAdobe Rose InnAll allow you to sleep in a beautiful home and enjoy a ...
Posted By: Teya Vitu
There was no way for me to tell it was brimming with calcite, the primary building block for the spectacular cave formations around me. As I have quickly discovered, Kartchner Caverns, about 50 miles ...
Posted By: Edie Jarolim
Aquarius is ascendant in Tucson this summer. No matter what your sign-or budget-the stars predict a great watery getaway, from a discounted stay at a splashy resort to a free front row seat at one of ...
It's the first day of monsoon season, and the sky over Southern Arizona is celebrating in true desert fashion. Magnificent storm clouds collide with the mountains, rain pours down on the windshield ...
I’ve wanted to see this band since I was 15 years old. With a sound as melodic as it is guttural, Bring Me The Horizon has been at the forefront of the metal scene since they made their debut in ...
Posted By: Graeme Hunt
Living so close to Reid Park has some great benefits. This mid-town park contains both the Dell Urich and Randolph public golf courses, a driving range, tennis courts, the El Con Club ...
Posted By: Graeme Hunt
Look, I get it. Tucson is hot in the summer. But I still like to get out and mountain bike as much as possible. There are those who still brave the heat and ride during the day but honestly, I ...
Posted By: Laurie
My husband, Don, and I spent a weekend at Apache Spirit Ranch in Tombstone (about 2.5 miles west on Allen St., which turns into West Monument Rd-left a brochure in your mailbox). We had a truly ...
Posted By: Graeme Hunt
I found something out about myself on Sunday, March 25, 2012: I am not a runner. Let me back up a bit and explain. My good friend Matt, who had enough with his sedentary lifestyle, joined ...

Some Like it Caliente

A tasty sampling of “the best 23 miles of Mexican food” in Tucson, Arizona

by Edie Jarolim

I know I’m not alone in craving Mexican food at all hours of the day. Happily, I live in a city with a huge concentration of excellent, authentic restaurants to satisfy these cravings—and I have a flexible work schedule. Many variables go into the complex algorithm that determines my dining choice for any given meal, but among the most important are my circadian—and social—rhythms. 

I’m a morning person, for example. That means I’m most productive in the early hours; it does not mean that I want to chat with you at 7 a.m. So I’m a regular at the drive-through window of Mexican restaurant El Saguarito, in lower midtown, where I invariably order a breakfast burrito of nopalitos Colorado with eggs, which comes with beans and chips. When I get home and unwrap the tight paper, I spend a moment inhaling the warm, rich aroma of the piquant Colorado sauce—the color comes from red chiles, not tomatoes—before taking the first savory bite. El Saguarito’s food is made without lard, and nopalitos (strips of tender young pads of prickly pear cactus) are loaded with antioxidants, so I’m convinced that this is a healthy way to start the day…if, that is, I can resist the traditional Mexican tortilla chips, made on the premises. 


El Merendero - Smiling Girls

  Down home Sonoran food from El Merendero.  

By lunchtime, I’m generally ready for human contact—and culinary adventure. One of my freelance clients has offices in the historic city center, and what better excuse than a business lunch to check out the new restaurants cropping up in Tucson’s rapidly revitalizing downtown? Among the recent arrivals is Penca, an industrial chic storefront that showcases the cuisine and sophisticated design of Mexico City. I’ve only dined at this restaurant once, but many future visits are guaranteed by the freshness of my salad, a mélange of greens with roasted corn, jicama, avocado, beets, queso fresco and chicharrones (upscale pork rinds); and the samplings I had of my companion’s moist fish tacos and calabicitas (sautéed squash, perfectly cooked, not mushy). I don’t generally drink at midday—unless the client insists, in which case it would be rude to refuse—but Penca has a large, sleek bar and I’ve heard they make a mean Cuba Libre. 

With the work day behind me, the casual cafés and restaurants of the south side beckon. El Merendero is my default pick for dinner with good friends who like to kick back with a frosty margarita or Negra Modelo and down home Sonoran food. You might think that after sharing appetizers like toritos (zesty Caribe chiles stuffed with shrimp and wrapped in bacon) and downing a combination plate of carne desebrada (shredded beef), I might be too full for dessert, but you would be wrong. The churros are served warm from the fryer, rolled in coarse cinnamon sugar and—surprise!—have gooey caramel centers. I have been known to pick up friends from the airport, some 10 minutes away, and drive them straight here for these sweet treats, no matter what the time of day. Yes, I’m willing to tweak my Mexican food algorithm, they’re that good. Savor these restaurants and more at The Best 23 Miles of Mexican Food.