The Flores family — which owns El Charro Cafe — has long had a stake in downtown.
Soon, it’ll be serving it.
Charro Steak is set to open in the space that formerly housed the short-lived, Native American-inspired Barrio Cuisine, 188 E. Broadway in the historic Julian Drew Building. It’s not quite a mile away from the legendary El Charro Cafe, established in 1922 and considered the nation’s oldest Mexican restaurant in continuous operation by the same family.
Ray Flores Jr. said his mother and chef, Carlotta Flores, as well as the rest of the family is looking forward to being closer to the action.
“We’re excited to be across from the AC Marriott and everything that’s going on around downtown,” Flores said, referring to the AC Hotel Tucson, 151 E. Broadway, that’s under construction. “We’ve been keeping the lights on downtown for 100 years, and we’re a little off the beaten path. Getting closer to Broadway and Congress is great.”
Ross Rulney, who owns the Julian Drew building, said a number of experienced operators were interested in the space, but the Flores family won him over with their vision.
“I was intrigued by the Charro Steak concept when Ray pitched it to me because I feel there is unmet demand for this type of restaurant downtown,” Rulney said in an email interview. “I have known the Flores family for quite some time and have always been impressed with their dedication and professionalism, but the deal was sealed when Carlotta and Ray invited me to a special tasting to sample items from the Charro Steak menu. Not only were they delicious, the presentation was beautiful.”
Out-of-town diners at El Charro often ask for steak, but “we don’t have a great steak-cooking kitchen,” Flores said.
Plus, it’s not really the kind of place where menu items are easily shaken up.
“It’s very hard to change El Charro,” Flores said with a laugh. “We’ve always said El Charro belongs to the people more than us because heaven forbid we change something.”
Charro Steak gives his family the chance to do a “center-of-the-plate” restaurant that’s approachable and features locally sourced foods. Flores likes to call it ranch-to-table. The menu is inspired by El Charro but has its own spin on American steakhouse fare.
“It’ll be a reasonably-priced steakhouse option downtown that’ll have a great amount of Sonoran influence and Tucson-style cooking,” he said.
Lunch options will be around $10 with most dinner entrees in the $19-22 range. Expect to see dishes like mesquite grilled Arizona grass-fed and grass-finished New York strip along with ancho rubbed prime rib tortas and osso bucco estilo Sonorense. Sides will include traditional Mexican staples like coctel de elote (corn) and nopalitos y hongos, (prickly pear pads and mushrooms).
“You can’t go to Fleming’s and get nopalitos,” Flores said.
Charro Steak will seat about 130 diners inside, and the family is making some changes to the restaurant but not many.
“We don’t want to mess with the space too much — it’s got a cool downtown, vintage feel,” Flores said.
The decor will pay tribute to the charro horsemen of Mexico and have an herb wall.
Flores said he can’t nail down a specific opening day when people can try his mother’s twist on osso bucco (Rulney says it’s delicious), but is expecting it to be mid-February.
Charro Steak will be the sixth Tucson restaurant for the Flores family, which also has a catering business, a Sahuarita restaurant, outposts in the Phoenix area and a place in Las Vegas.