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Best Fajitas in Tucson

Tucson has been referred to as “The Old Pueblo” since the Southern Arizona city was founded in 1775. After being globally recognized for its rich agricultural history, talented chefs, and colorful food culture in 2015, The Old Pueblo earned a new nickname as the country’s first “UNESCO City of Gastronomy”.

With a large Mexican-American community and culinary honors riding on its back, Tucson holds quite a bit of promise when it comes to finding great fajitas.

We tested this theory by stopping at three local joints: Casa Molina, Guadalajara Grill, and El Charro Café.

casa molina text

Casa Molina

Casa Molina

Overall fajita experience of food rating: 3/10

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#3 Casa Molina

Casa Molina – midday on a Tuesday

Timing

5 minutes from order to table.

Steak

Lacking in flavor and tough to chew.

Veggies

Great pepper to onion ratio, but peppers were hardly cooked.

Sides

Large amounts of sour cream, guacamole, and rice. Tortillas also came in a bigger size.

Casa Molina Overall Experience

Casa Molina came highly recommended throughout all review outlets online, putting it at the top of my fajita priority list. A friend and I stopped by midday on a Tuesday, and found the crowd inside to be exactly what you would expect midday on a Tuesday, practically empty.

We were seated quickly and our orders were taken soon after. 

Within five minutes, the loud call of a sizzling fajita skillet could be heard from across the room. If my friend and I weren’t the only customers in the dining room, the sound alone surely would have turned some heads. The hot plate left a trail of smoke behind as the server got closer, heightening my anticipation.

However, the dish fell short of its grand entrance.

With one look, I could immediately tell that the vegetables were undercooked. The peppers had almost no char or wilt, and were fairly crunchy while eating –great on a salad, not so much on a fajita.

No redemption was made once trying the underseasoned and over-cooked steak. 

Thankfully, we had plenty of sour cream and guacamole to mask some of the meat’s dryness and to add some flavor.

Overall, kudos on the presentation, but I’ll pass on everything else.

Yelp: 3 | Google Reviews: 4.2 | Overall Fajita Experience Review: 3/10

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Guadalajara Grill

Guadalajara Grill

Overall steak fajita experience rating: 7.8/10

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#2 Guadalajara Grill

Guadalajara Grill – lunch order.

Timing

16 minutes from order to table.

Steak

Flavorful with some dryer pieces throughout.

Veggies

Evenly portioned peppers and onion with hints of lime. The highlight of the dish!

Sides

Fair serving of rice, sour cream, and refried beans. Guacamole could use more seasoning.

Guadalajara Grill Overall Experience

Guadalajara Grill’s original location near the University of Arizona makes it a popular venue to students of the university. My memories of it stem from weekend nights out with friends right before getting the rest of our evening started. 

Beyond its reputation as a “college spot”, it is also widely known for its authentic Mexican food and tableside salsa, making it the perfect destination for our second stop. 

Going in for lunch in the middle of the week proved to be a huge contrast to the packed dining room I was used to seeing on Friday nights. Between me, a few other diners, and employees, there were probably about ten people occupying the space. No complaints there.

With the restaurant practically to myself, I expected service to be rather quick. However, the wait time for my food came to be about 16 minutes total.

I would have been more disappointed if a lesser plate of fajitas ended up at my table, but this one certainly made an impression. 

In front of me was an extremely generous amount of meat scattered over an equally generous amount of vegetables. The ratio between green peppers, red peppers, and onions was beautifully distributed, with fairly even amounts for each. The same could be said about the protein medley of steak, chicken, and carnitas.

My first taste went to the veggies as I took a large forkful of the peppers and onion sans protein. They both had lovely textures and were pleasurable to eat. The slight char added a nice flavor to the hints of lime and salt present in the dish. Thankfully there was a ton of it, because I couldn’t get enough! 

At a high note from my first few bites, I was eager to move on to the steak. Overall, the meat presented lovely flavors, but it did have one downfall: the texture. There were some spots that were tough to chew and were slightly dry. It didn’t stop me from quickly finishing off the dish, but it also did not live up to my expectations.

When the vegetables overshadow the steak, the mark may have been missed. 

Yelp: 4 stars | Google Reviews: 4.4 | Overall Fajita Experience Rating: 7.8/10

el charro cafe text

El Charro Café

El Charro Café

Overall fajita experience of food rating: 9/10

Website

#1 El Charro Café

El Charro Café – Thursday afternoon

Timing

23 minutes from order to table.

Steak

Flavorful, aromatic, and well-cooked.

Veggies

Small portion of vegetables with a few pieces too charred to eat.

Sides

More variety of toppings including guacamole, sour cream, pico de gallo, rice, and greens.

El Charro Café Overall Experience

El Charro, with its longstanding status in the community and delectable cuisine, has become the crown jewel of Tucson’s restaurant scene. Monica Flin first opened El Charro Café in 1922 and has kept it in the family ever since. This makes it America’s oldest Mexican restaurant continuously operated by a single family and a culinary destination for food lovers everywhere.

If there were one place in the country to try a fajita, this would be it. Luckily for us Tucsonans, it’s right around the corner.

Unlike my first two stops, Charro was packed for a Thursday afternoon, which resulted in a longer wait time for our food.  However, my patience was well rewarded.

Even with a chattier crowd present, I was able to hear the sizzle of my order as the smell of charred meat and a cloud of smoke made its way to the table.

On the skillet lay six of the thickest pieces of steak I had ever seen on a fajita, all beautifully colored with slight traces of caramelized fat trimming the edges.  Underneath was a modest amount of red and green peppers, making it apparent that the grass-fed steak was the star of this dish.  Two wilted green onion stems were added on top as garnish, finishing off the plate’s delightful presentation.

El Charro’s elevated version of a steak fajita continued to impress with every tender bite. The meat was lightly seasoned, but not so much so that the already wonderful flavors of the beef are muddled.  Some pieces of the vegetables were blackened a touch more than I prefer, but paired nicely with the steak overall.

My order came with a large array of toppings, but it was almost a shame to use any of it at all with an almost flawless fajita.

I will definitely be ordering this again, and I most likely already have by the time you read this.

Yelp: 3.5 | Google: 4.4 | Overall Fajita Experience Review: 9/10

The Best Fajitas in Tucson – El Charro Café

Tucson continues to garner nationwide, even international, recognition for the gastronomic experiences it has to offer. In the quest of finding the best fajitas in such a culinary-driven town, the most difficult challenge was only finding three to try.

In the end, age proved to be more than just a number, and the 100-year-old El Charro Café proved their fajita expertise with its artful plating and quality selection of grass-fed beef. Guadalajara Grill followed close behind with wonderful flavor highlights, but just fell short with slightly overcooked meat.

One thing that all three establishments accomplished? Delightful, attention-grabbing presentations of each dish!

In a city widely held as having the best Mexican food in the country, being deemed as having the best fajitas in Tucson can be considered synonymous to having the best fajitas in America.

Congratulations, El Charro Café!