Monday, June 02, 2008

El Charro Rocks the Taco

Until Saturday night, I hadn't been to El Charro since my first date with Rendell Lofgreen in 1992. (Maybe I shouldn't have used the fella's name? Maybe he'll google himself and find me, over here in this deserted corner of the internet, blogging about our 16-year-old dinner, and think I'm a big, giant nerd? I'm not too worried about it.)

I'll need to back up a tiny bit. First, we went to see Joe's band at this Music Festival. They were quite good. Joe has a beautiful voice, and when he sings, it sounds like he isn't much trying. Like he just opens his mouth and good stuff just flys out, stuff like fairy dust and tiny blue hummingbirds, stuff that makes you feel like your nice uncle James Taylor is singing you a lullabye. (My actual Uncle Nyle Layton sounds this way, too. And Chris Martin, and Don McLean. So you see, Joe is in good company.)

Did I mention that Joe and I were in a band together for like 2 weeks? Yeah, if you count Joe and some squirrelly guy named Skye Wolfee, and one other sort of cool guy, who's name eludes me, and me, sitting around in my apartment at the Riv (Provo, UT) and plucking out some songs together. I can't remember what happened to the band, or why we broke up. We had so much promise. It was probably Yoko's fault (aka my cousin Melanie, Joe's squeeze).

Anyway, I think Joe should keep MC-6, but moonlight with his guitar, playing Lemonheads songs again. You set that show up, Joe. I'm totally there.

So after the show, we were cruising Main street in Downtown Mesa, and after coming up with like 4 fruitless ideas (not that we were looking exclusively for fruit), we decided on El Charro. El Charro es muy viejo. That's OLD, for you gringos. It has been there more than 70 years, run by the same family. And it looks it. El Charro obviously isn't into nips, tucks, or botox. Or into hiring a cleaning crew who isn't near-sighted. Apparently my bug-eyed face said it all, because Jen wanted to take a phone photo to send to Andrew, who was at home, attempting scorpion genocide (a story for another day).

Is it the broken down booths, or the weird oil portraits of extra-bosomy, just short of PG-13-rated senoritas circa 1910? Or was it the way my skirt kept sticking to the underside of the table, or the way they brought Jen and Jake pops with that great tiny ice like at QT, but my tap water had horrible big chunky cubes and tasted like dirt/pennies? No, none of these. Somehow, the entire effect works, in a Mel's Diner meets El Greco sort of way. I think it is because there is no pretense. I was surprised our kind-but-emo young waiter didn't tell us to 'kiss his frijoles'. It is what it is. And you know what it is? Great Mexican food.

Now, I have no idea about authenticity; and actually, I don't care. I'm not about that. I am no Mexican food snob. I like it all, really. Some of my favorites: Tia Rosa's, On the Border, Rubio's, Serrano's, Filibertos (rolled tacos: GOOD). It's all good. El Charro has something called Spanish Tongue on the menu. Which sounds gross, to this white lady. But es posible que it is authentic. Or could be the Latino version of the French kiss. No se. Either way, not ordering it.

What did I order? My 'first-time-at-this-place' standard: A bean and beef chimichanga with green sauce. You can tell a lot about a place by its chimi (Grandpa Taylor loved em, too. When he ordered one, it rhymed with that game, Jenga). But first Jake got me an RC, so I'd stop drinking his.

That chimi was GOOD: Insides, GOOD. Deep fried tortilla, GOOD. Green sauce, GOOD. Now, I should warn you that I could not locate any tomatillos in the green sauce. Is guacamole, as far as I could tell. But I love guacamole. It was GOOD. And the beet garnish on the side? Who the heck knows. I'm not eating that.

Jake got some kind of enchiladas (sour cream I think), floating in a delicious red sauce-y, cheesy soup. The red sauce was quite remarkable. Maybe next time I'll order the chimi with red sauce and have them put the green on top. Yummy. Jen got a single taco (I know. That's why she looks like that in her tiny, awesome jeans, and I look more like the buxomy mujeres on the walls, except I'm more buxomy on the bottom than the top, si es posible). Skinny or not, though, Jen knows her tacos. And she quickly texted Andrew to let him know that 'El Charro rocks the taco'.

So, to sum up: El Charro. GOOD. Me gusta mucho. I can't remember too much from my first visit there, at age 18. I was so young, so boy-crazy, I failed to see the obvious: the only potential for a lasting relationship that night was with the chimichanga, and not with the cute boy. I had already met Jake at that point, and Rendell was wasting his pesos on me. Too bad I didn't yet know it; I could have focused on my dinner. Think how many delicious El Charro tacos I might have eaten in the last 16 years.


El Charro is on the northeast corner of 1st Street and Country Club.
105 N. Country Club Dr.
Mesa, Arizona
(480) 964-1851
Here is a recipe book published 1959:

So, what do you think of El Charro?

What's your fovorite Mexican spot, and what do you order? (No special reason for asking. I'm probly not going to eat my way through America's best burritos. I likely won't leave the state for dinner, gas prices and all. Unless you know a great spot in San Diego, cause we are going there soon.)


jt said...

want to be a restaurant reviewer too? Maybe we could team up, i'll eat, you write. no?

I love the seafood enchiladas and pork burritos (grilled-smoky, not sweet) at Tia Rosa's-good verde salsa & chips

The shredded beef chimis at Matta's are so tasty.

steak tacos at taco bell-with meat only

cheese enchilada from el charro

taco salad at taco time

cocount shrimp tacos (tuesday) and pork tamales (thursdays) at cafe rio

green chili chicken salad or lime chicken enchiladas with green sauce and sweet rice bajio

Molly said...

There is a show on the food network called Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives, and we were watching it last night and they went to a Mexican place in San Diego, it looked mighty tasty, and they have homemade tortillas fresh daily. I'll try to find the name and let you know, it looked like a good place to try.

Jolene said...

El Charro is in my old stomping grounds. Alan and I used to go there on our date nights. We also used to go to El Taquito on Main St. West of Horne. We just went there on our anniversary after a temple session for old times sake. They have changed the menu -they used to have a board that was in English on one half and spanish on the other. On the Spanish side you could order trip and brains etc.. but not on the English side. They have taken all of that off of the menu but they still have the best tacos around. I love the carne asada tacos, they are tiny and delicious and only a buck a piece. My only advice is to go on a nice day and eat outside.

Frumpy Luv said...

Kind-but-emo waiter has me in huge smiles as do many of your lines =).

Alyson said...

Great post! I love it! I'm somewhat familiar with your neck of the woods. My dad grew up in AZ and so did my mom-in-law.

Anyway, if you're looking for good mexican in Connecticut (not likely :-), head to Puerto Vallarta in Avon or West Hartford. It's one of the rare good mexican places in New England. Since there aren't many Mexicans here, there aren't many good mexican places. Oh well. In a crunch, I head to Taco Bell. By the way, there aren't many of those here either!

Pam said...

Yum, you are making me hungry with all this food talk. I must confess I have not had the good fortune of dining at El Charro. I guess I am missing out. I did try a new Mexican place called Cravings in Queen Creek that was rather tasty.
I will have to put your Mexi pick on my must try list.

Joe said...

Wow, Kelly, such flattery! To be categorized with James Taylor and Don McLean...and Uncle Nyle, it's really too much. I appreciate the props, though, and it's really too bad more folks didn't come out to the festival.

As for our "band", we really do need to host a reunion tour with, at the very least, the remaining local members (who knows where those other fellows have ended up? - Jeremy was the other guy's name, by the way.) Nowadays, I cherish any time I can get alone with my guitar, especially without the "little hands" wanting to play at the same time!

Beeswax said...

Jane, I think we should go to lunch every week and eat all that stuff. Maybe in August...

Love that show, Molly!

Jolene and Pam, I'm putting your tiny and delicious tacos on my to-do list, and Cravings

Welcome, frumpy luv. I am anxiously waiting for word on your tupperware

Alyson, who knows? I get to NYC every year or two, maybe we can venture from the city for a day trip. I've heard the Taco Bells in Connecticut are the best anywhere.

Joe, I know what you mean. I have to climb up on the dining room buffet to play my guiter unmolested. I'll start practicing for the reunion tour. What did we play again?

Ross said...

I can still remember my first time at El Charro. It was 1964 with my Cousin ED Allred. He was the city boy and i was in town to be impressed, so he took me there, at the time the high lite of Mesa. I was still in high school and I had a green chili burro. I was soooo impressed.
I was not a regular eating out person at the time so perhaps I was more impressed than i would be today, but Yes, yes, yes, I agree.

Anonymous said...

Yummmm! I am hungry now! :)

When I lived in Mesa I really liked Filiberto's Carne Asada Burrito! So flippin good!!!

Anonymous said...