Why is carne seca a Tucson specialty? According to El Charro Café's Ray Flores, it's something in the air. The Mexican shredded beef dish thrives in the arid desert climate, because it's actually the air that dries it, not the sun.
That's why if you want to get real carne seca, Flores says you have to go to El Charro. The iconic Tucson restaurant still dries its meat outside in special cages up on the roof. First they marinate strips of Angus beef in green chiles and garlic, then give it a good 24 hours in the rack before it gets freshened up on the flattop grill. Slow and long, so the meat gets salty and crackly, but doesn't burn.
The meat comes to the table all dressed up fancy with Cotija cheese and thin slices of radish. But this is pretense. This is a traditional hardshell taco, with green peas and potent stringy beef that tastes like it could have tasted 50 years ago. In other words, delicious!
Weird fact: Apparently, Flores used to dry the beef on tree limbs.
Location: 311 N. Court Ave., also have locations at 7725 N. Oracle in Oro Valley and 6910 E. Sunrise near Ventana Canyon.
Hours: 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sundays through Thursdays, 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays
Payment: accepts debit and credit