The Tucson 23 Mexican Food Festival will showcase the top authentic eateries from the 23-mile that includes south, downtown and lower midtown Tucson.
Hungry commuters, locals and tourists have frequented places like El Charro Cafe — nominee for the 2019 James Beard Award — for years. Now SAACA and Visit Tucson are partnering once again to assemble Mexican food, Latin music and Spanish flavor in one space.
The Tucson 23 Mexican Food Festival kicks off Friday, June 14, with the popular Celebrity Chef Dinner.
The festival proper begins at 6 p.m. Saturday, June 15, with about 40 restaurants serving authentic Mexican cuisine and libations. The spicy night also features tequila and local spirits, along with a variety of local Sonoran Desert microbrews.
Just some of the restaurants pledging to participate in the family-friendly extravaganza are Seis Kitchen, La Botana, Reforma Modern Mexican, Crossroads, Charro Steak, El Charro Cafe, Charro Del Rey and more.
El Charro Cafe has been serving Tucson since 1922, and some of its signature menu items like the carne seca remain the same. The restaurant has also been a Tucson 23 staple since the event’s founding.
Executive chef and owner of El Charro Cafe Carlotta Flores runs Flores Concepts, which owns several restaurants that will be attending the event including El Charro, Charro Del Rey and Charro Steak. Flores calls Tucson a unique market.
“It keeps you on your toes because of how many Mexican restaurants there are here. However, the diversification of all the different ingredients and regions makes it so special,” Flores says.
In addition to the food, is the fun. A mariachi band and other traditional Latin musicians are scheduled to perform, as well as local artists showcasing their work and a kids area with face painting and art activities.
Free Mexican culinary classes are during the day on Saturday — $5 for attendees not staying at the Marriott. Tickets for the festival are $65. Children ages 11 to 17 qualify for a $10 ticket when accompanied by an adult, and children 10 and younger are free. Stay at the resort and receive discounted pricing for the weekend at $119 per night for a two-night stay and $159 for a single-night stay.
For attendees who can’t get enough good Mexican food, have no fear. The week following the festival will feature the official Taste the 23 Week, where participating restaurants are offering $2.50 to $23 in restaurant specials.
Flores offers a sneak peek at some of their deals happening during taste week.
“With the Tucson 23 festival, we will be kicking off our Tour de Si Charro which will feature a unique summer highlight at each location, Charro Steak with the NY strip, rock lobster at Charro Del Rey, and cherry carnitas at El Charro Cafe,” Flores says.
Dan Gibson, Visit Tucson’s communications director, is just as excited.
“We’re thrilled to see the Tucson 23 festival return to the JW Marriott Tucson Starr Pass for another exciting year,” Gibson says.
“Since the first event in 2016, there’s been continued national and international attention for the Mexican food found in our corner of the Sonoran Desert, and on June 15 people will have a great opportunity to celebrate the best 23 miles of Mexican Food all in one place.”
What: The Tucson 23 Mexican Food Festival
When: 6 p.m. Saturday, June 15
Where: JW Marriott Tucson Starr Pass, 3800 W. Starr Pass Boulevard
Cost: $65. Children ages 11 to 17 qualify for a $10 ticket when accompanied by an adult, and children 10 and younger are free. Stay at the resort and receive discounted pricing for the weekend at $119 per night for a two-night stay and $159 for a single-night stay.