Officially, Lerua’s Fine Mexican Food on East Broadway closed on Jan 19.
Unofficially, it’s open through Saturday, Feb. 2.
It’s not easy to pack up a restaurant that has stood for decades near the intersection of Broadway and Campbell Avenue. Longtime diners are still begging for just one more day, one more serving of the famous house green corn tamales.
“We had 1,000 people come through our doors those last days,” owner Mike Hultquist said, and so even though they were “closed” as of Jan. 19 — Hultquist calls it the “hard close” — they quietly remained open.
“We didn’t really want to tell anybody because it was so hectic,” Hultquist said Monday afternoon, then estimated that since the official closing 10 days ago, they’ve sold as many as 80 dozen tamales a day.
Technically, Lerua’s doesn’t have to go anywhere until March 31, the day they have to have everything removed from the property before city demolition crews move in. The restaurant, which opened in 1922, is along the path of the city’s plans to widen Broadway. Lerua’s was the final holdout among the businesses that all agreed to let the city buy their buildings.
Lerua’s and the city struck a deal earlier this month that was recently approved by the City Council and finalized. But Hultquist said they have no where to move the restaurant, which has been in his family since 1961, an no where to take all the equipment.
“It’s hard to close the restaurant and the hard part for us is that we just don’t have a place to go,” he said. “I don’t have a place to take my stuff.”
The family also owns the 62-year-old South Tucson Mexican restaurant El Torero at 231 E. 26th St., just off the bustling South Fourth Avenue restaurant district. El Torero has been closed since early December when Hultquist’s brother Brad suffered a brain aneurysm. Brad Hultquist has run the restaurant for years and is recovering, his brother said, but Mike will head up the task of reopening the restaurant in a couple of weeks.
Hultquist said he might incorporate some of Lerua’s dishes into the El Torero menu, but he will do it sparingly.
El Torero has a devout following and he said he would not want to change much about the food that they have loved for generations.
Lerua’s has always supplied the restaurant with the tamales, Hultquist said, and that will continue.
Lerua’s will be open from 10:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily through Saturday, Feb. 2, and will serve a limited menu that will, of course, include green corn tamales.