El Charro: "A tip from a Mesa insider" Mesa Restaurant Tip by ekoshkina

Mesa Restaurants: 17 reviews and 26 photos

I have been going to this restaurant since before I was born (literally!); it's not far from my grandmother's house. After all these years and all the traveling I've done, this is the place I go back to whenever I'm in the area, and if I've been a really good girl, my mom brings me frozen burritos when she comes to visit. Like a lot of the best Mexican food restaurants in the area, it looks like a dive from the outside: a pink concrete-block building on a street corner in a part of town that seems iffy (but isn't really). But it would be a crime against your taste buds to pass it up, and if there are lines outside (as there often are on Friday and Saturday nights), it is worth the wait.

It's family-owned, and its food is the real thing: Sonoran-style and sooo tasty. There are unlimited free chips and two kinds of salsa when you sit down: the stuff in the bottle is hotter than the stuff in the bowl, but try them both if you feel you can. Feel free to chow down as fast as you can, because the chips are thin and the food gets brought out so fast after you order that you have no chance to fill up (unless you're there on one of the nights when the line is out of the door and around the corner, in which case your food gets to you in about the time it takes for you to get your food in a regular restaurant on a not-busy night).

Even though the waitstaff is extremely speedy, they're also small-town-friendly and will give you advice on spiciness levels, ingredients, what to try, their favorite dishes, things to see in the area, etc. Kids are of course welcome here as well and there are high chairs and booster seats and a small kids' menu.

They'll do take-out for you if you're in a hurry. You can call ahead or just show up and ask for it. If you just want a drink or there's no room in the restaurant part, go sit in the bar/lounge area. They'll serve you food there too, and it's dimly lit and has a real Old West dive-type charm of a kind you can hardly find anywhere anymore. But don't worry: despite the dim lighting and the slight shabbiness of things, everything is very clean and the food is fresh.

This is NOT a touristy place; it's very popular with the locals and you'll see lots of business-suit types there at lunchtime. Don't expect a lot of cheesy cowboy-theme-based "rootin'-tootin'" kind of stuff. But if you want to experience old Mesa the way it actually was, this is one of the last places you can really do it.

Note: The whole family and the rest of the employees shut down the restaurant for all of August and take a well-deserved vacation. But what are you doing in Arizona in August anyway?!

Favorite Dish: The green chile burrito is not just my favorite -- it's also my brother's and my mother's. You can get it plain or in combination with beans and rice or tacos or whatever else you want. The chile relleno is also great, but be warned that if you order it in the late fall/winter/early spring months, it's going to be very spicy, because chili peppers are hotter in winter (true!). Also, don't pass up the Mexican cheese crisp, which is filled with the green chile burrito filling and is a wonderful appetizer. Other than that, it's one of the less-spicy Mexican places you'll find, as the Sonoran style focuses more on delicious sauces than on intense heat. The soft tacos, for example, aren't spicy at all, so everyone can find something they like.

They offer a small selection of American food too, and I've been told it's fine -- but eating American food at El Charro would be like going to Rome and only eating at McDonald's: what's the point?

Address: 105 N. Country Club Dr.
Price Comparison: less expensive than average
Directions: 1st and Country Club
Price: less than US$10
Rating: 5
Theme: Mexican

Review Helpfulness: 2.5 out of 5 stars

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  • Written Nov 14, 2008
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