Established in 1922 by our beloved Tia Monica Flin, El Charro Café of Tucson, Arizona is The Nation’s Oldest Mexican Restaurant in continuous operation by the same family. Our Tia Monica, a true entrepreneur and burgeoning chef, came to Tucson via France in the 1800’s when her father Jules, a famous stone-mason, was commissioned to build the city’s pristine St. Augustine Cathedral. Jules, whose signature work can be seen throughout Tucson’s Historic District, also built the families residence in 1896. This same building is now home to the Original Downtown El Charro Café location on Court Avenue.
By Margaret Regan Photography by Steven Meckler
Even at night you can see the carne seca drying in wire cages above the roof at El Charro Café.
Carlotta Flores, the restaurant’s owner and executive chef, insists on it: Each batch of the shredded beef, marinated in a bath of garlic and lemon, must undergo the ritual drying-out, in sunlight by day and in starlight by night.
The Sonoran Desert is one of only a handful of places in the world where Carne Seca is made. The sun-dried shredded beef is dependent on the unique climate for proper preparation. Try it at the oldest family-owned Mexican restaurant in the U.S., El Charro Café.
The original El Charro, founded in 1922, is the oldest Mexican restaurant in Tucson; the original owner, Monica Flin, is said to have invented the chimichanga. The restaurant also claims the impressive title of oldest Mexican food restaurant in the country continually operated by the same family. That heritage remains strong today with a commitment to fresh, authentic Sonoran cuisine and Tucson-style Mexican food.