By Kathy Montgomery | Photograph by Steven Meckler
Charro Steak is not your father’s steak-house. Named for the horsemen of Mexico, the Tucson ranch-to-table restaurant features clean, sustainably produced food with a south-of-the-border twist.
“The whole concept is better food for you,” chef Gary Hickey says. “We use 100 percent all-natural beef — no hormones, no antibiotics, no GMOs.”
The restaurant locally sources its fruits and vegetables. Even margaritas are made from fresh lime juice sweetened with agave, rather than sugar. But the best reason to eat at Charro Steak is that the food is as delicious as it is innovative.
Located in a historic downtown building, the restaurant is the latest venture of the Flores family, whose legacy restaurant, El Charro Café, is an institution. Charro Steak looks contemporary but rustic, with distressed-wood tables, concrete floors and exposed vents. Floor-to-ceiling windows flood the space with light.
Company President Ray Flores Jr.’s victory over cancer partly inspired the restaurant, Hickey says. His recovery included a change to natural, low-sodium foods. “We kind of were like … ‘We owe this to our public,’ ” Hickey recalls. “We put together a concept, and it caught on like wildfire.”
Steaks fired over the restaurant’s one-of-a-kind mesquite grill range from a 7-ounce filet mignon to a 1-pound T-bone. Hickey cuts them all by hand, daily, in the dining room. “People find that interesting,” Hickey says. “It’s kind of a transparent way of showing our guest base what they’re eating.”
And mesquite grilling isn’t restricted to meats. Hickey also grills lemons and limes for sangria, and tomatoes and jalapeños for salsa. Side dishes, based on El Charro chef Carlotta Flores’ family recipes, include the frijoles charros: whole pinto beans simmered with house-smoked mesquite-charred ham, sautéed tomatoes and onions.
Carlotta Flores and Hickey collaborated on the esquites con crema. “[It’s] our version of Mexican street corn,” Hickey says of a dish typically made with mayonnaise, chiles and lime. “We deconstructed that and made it like a creamed corn. That’s our No. 1-selling side. People love it.”
The Charro version of creamed spinach features a green chile cream base and fresh nopales. And while you won’t find a baked potato, you will find El Camote: sweet potatoes mashed with citrus, butter and more.
For the Charro experience without steakhouse prices, happy hour (4 to 6 p.m. and 9 p.m. to close) offers specials such as chicharrón frito — slow-roasted seasoned pork belly, chopped and fried crisp — and mesquite-seared ahi nacho sliders, along with a manchego quesadilla. It’s a break from tradition, but even your father would find it in good taste.
Charro Steak is located at 188 E. Broadway Boulevard in Tucson. For more information, call 520-485-1922 or visit www.charrosteak.com.