If you've driven anywhere downtown lately you've probably seen this purple sign: "Welcome to the best 23 miles of Mexican food in the US."
This is a pretty heavy claim, so what exactly does it mean? The 23 Miles project is actually a joint effort by the tourism board, the city of Tucson and a private tour operator to promote Tucson's food scene.
The 23-square miles refers to a specific swathe of land that covers parts of downtown and the south and west sides, including many of what council member Regina Romero calls Tucson's "cultural and culinary corridors." (The thin stretch extends from around Prince Road down to Drexel on the south.)
Regina Romero explains the project
Romero worked with Christopher DeSimone of Gray Line tours to pick out more than 50 "generational" Mexican restaurants that represent our culture and history. It was quite an unusual pairing, because in addition to running his Best of the Barrio tour, DeSimone is also a conservative talk radio host. The city council is often a topic on his show Wake Up Tucson, on the local am network 1030 KVOI The Voice. (And not always in a positive way.)
But DeSimone isn't one to mix food and politics. His guided tour focuses on the cultural history of many southside restaurants on the list, like the traditional Sonoran restaurant El Merendero on South Twelfth Avenue. (Sign up for his tour at grayline.com)
The city's effort is all to promote Tucson's recent designation as a UNESCO City of Gastronomy, the only one in the United States. Find out more information with a searchable map of the restaurants at Visit Tucson's website, visittucson.org/things-to-do/restaurants/23-miles-mexican-food
Here are all the restaurants on the list
Alejandro's Cafe, 31 N. Scott Ave.
Alejandro's Tortilla Factory, 5330 S. 12th Ave.
Anita Street Market, 849 N. Anita Ave.
Birrieria Guadalajara, 304 E. 22nd St.
BK Carne Asada and Hot Dogs, 5118 S. 12th Ave. and 2680 N. First Ave.
Boca Tacos y Tequila, 828 E. Speedway
Cafe Poca Cosa, 110 E. Pennington St.
Casino Del Sol Resort restaurants, 5655 W. Valencia Road
Charro Steak, 188 E. Broadway
Crossroads Restaurant, 2602 S. Fourth Ave.
El Charro Cafe, 311 N. Court Ave., 6910 E. Sunrise Drive and 7725 N. Oracle Road
El Cisne Mexican Restaurant, 4717 E. Sunrise Drive
El Dorado Restaurant, 1949 S. Fourth Ave.
El Gorrion Restaurant, 3459 S. 12th Ave.
El Guero Canelo, 5201 S. 12th Ave., 5802 E. 22nd St. and 2480 N. Oracle Road
El Indio, 3355 S. Sixth Ave.
El Merendero, 5443 S. 12th Ave.
El Minuto Cafe, 354 S. Main Ave.
El Rio Bakery, 901 N. Grande Ave.
El Sur Restaurant, 5602 E. 22nd St.
El Torero, 231 E. 26th St.
Gringo Grill + Cantina, 5900 N. Oracle Road
Guadalajara Original Grill, 1220 E. Prince Road
Guillermo's Double L Restaurant, 1830 S. Fourth Ave.
La Botana Fresco Grill & Cantina, 3200 N. First Ave.
La Costa Brava-Rodriguez Seafood Company, 3541 S. 12th Ave.
La Estrella Bakery, 5266 S. 12th Ave.
La Fresita, 1450 W. St, Marys Road
La Indita, 622 N. Fourth Ave.
La Olla Mexican Cafe, 8553 N. Silverbell Road
La Parrilla Suiza, 2720 N. Oracle Road, 5602 E Speedway and 4250 W. Ina Road
Las Brasas, 2928 E. 22nd St.
Lerua's Fine Mexican Foods, 2005 E. Broadway
Los Jarritos, 4832 S. 12th Ave.
Los Portales, 2615 S. Sixth Ave.
Maico Restaurant Mexican Food, 835 E. 22nd St.
Mariscos Chihuahua, multiple locations
Martin's Comida Chingona, 557 N. Fourth Ave.
Mi Nidito Cafe, 1813 S. Fourth Ave.
Micha's, 2908 S. Fourth Ave.
Michoacan Taqueria Raspados Mexican Grill, 3235 N. Flowing Wells Road
Oasis Fruit Cones, 4126 S. 12th Ave.
Penca, 50 E. Broadway
Perfecto's Mexican Restaurant, 5404 S. 12th Ave.
Restaurant Sinaloa, 1020 W. Prince Road
Rosa's Mexican Food, 1750 E. Fort Lowell Road
San Carlos Grill, 12125 N. Oracle Road
Seis Kitchen & Catering, 130 S. Avenida del Convento
St. Mary's Mexican Food, 1030 W. St. Mary’s Road
Taco Giro, 5754 E. 22nd St.
Tania's 33, 614 N. Grande Ave.
Taqueria Juanitos, 708 W. Grant Road
Taqueria Pico de Gallo, 2618 S. Sixth Ave.
Teresa's Mosaic Cafe, 2456 N. Silver Mosaic Drive
The Little One, 151 N. Stone Ave.
Viva Burrito, multiple locations
Zivaz Mexican Bistro, 4590 E. Broadway