Earlier this week I had the pleasure of traveling to Tubac, Arizona with two of my favorite foodie friends, Edie Jarolim and Karyn Zoldan. Tubac is cool little town about thirty minutes from Tucson. It’s known for the many artsy shops and events.
Edie needed to do research for an upcoming article on tacos for Tucson Guide. Karyn and I got to tag along; lucky us.
We visited two restaurants: DOS and Elvira’s. The article will be out early next year.
Elvira’s, which was once located in Nogales, Mexico is a little fancier and has garnered national attention for its fabulous food.
We got to speak with the manager Maria Orentia at DOS and the owner, Ruben Monroy at Elvira’s, which made the visit special, but what we talked about on the way home was the food.
The two restaurants couldn’t be more different. DOS is a tiny, fast-casual place with a long list of Mexican classics. Elvira’s is a full service place that digs deep into Mexico for its inspiration. Both places serve fantastic food.
At DOS we had five different tacos: birria, mahi-mahi, shrimp, chicken and shredded beef. Plus, Maria insisted we try La Bandera, the house burro. And she “forced” the different tastes (tres leches, chocoflan, tequila sea salt and chocolate) of the ice cream that is made in house.
The fillings in the tacos and burro were great; perfectly seasoned and cooked to a turn. But it was the sauces and salsa that really popped. La Bandera, which means flag in Spanish, had three sauces which were the color of the Mexican flag – green, white and red. The red sauce was made from red chiles.
There were three salsas: a pico de gallo, a mayo based creamy one and another lighter, but hot one.
DOS uses chiltepins in everything. Chiltepins are the only chile native to North America. They are tiny and pack a punch, but not that burn your lips and throat hot. It’s more a slow burn.
Anyway, things were no different at Elvira’s, which is just around the corner. We had a great conversation with Ruben. He explained his take on hospitality and Mexican food.
The only real taco they serve there is the Huitlacoche or Mexican truffle aka corn smut. Basically, it’s the fungus that grows on corn and is highly treasured in Mexico.
We asked for one order but, like Maria, Ruben gave is much more. In addition to the three rolled tacos, we ate a chile in nogada and a burro filled with the corn smut and mushrooms.
The walnut sauce on the chiles in nogada was out of this world. I can count the times I’ve had this dish – including once in Toronto – and I have to say this was the best of them all.
The other burro was topped with a French based sauce; I’m sorry I didn’t take notes.
No matter, it was outstanding.
We drove home sated and happy with plans of returning to Tubac for the food alone.