The third annual Tucson 23 Mexican Food Festival has grown from a one-day party to celebrate all things Mexican food to a weeklong campaign, promoting restaurants along the so-called 23 miles of Tucson Mexican food that encompasses South Tucson, downtown and lower midtown.
Dozens of local restaurants kicked off the celebration on Sunday with a week of daily specials and discounts, featuring many of the same dishes being highlighted in the big bash this Saturday.
The Tucson 23 festival is arguably the city's biggest annual homage to Mexican food, featuring 21 locally-owned-and-operated restaurants including El Charro, one of the oldest Mexican restaurants in the country; five breweries/distilleries including Tucson's own Barrio Brewing, and live entertainment.
Tucson's Mexican food reputation over recent years has extended far beyond our borders, thanks in part to the city's 2015 designation as a UNESCO City of Gastronomy — the only American city with the title — and the appearance of several Tucson restaurants and chefs on national TV including Food TV and the Food Network.
The most recent culinary atta-boy: El Guero Canelo, famous for its role in making the Sonoran hot dog a signature Tucson dish, won a James Beard America's Classics Award given to outstanding regional restaurants. What's a James Beard? Think culinary world's Academy Award, or Grammy or Tony or Pulitzer.
The Tucson 23. A Mexican food festival celebrating Visit Tucson's best 23 miles of Mexican food in America. We are so there! Looking forward to sharing the delicious highlights. Time for some road trippin to Tucson. Ready, @foodandlifestylesaz ? See you there @writeonrubee @collectivelycandice @hungryinphoenix @geekswhoeat @tastyaz @keeley48 @tsworthington #tucson23 @blancotacostequila
Here's the 411 on the 23 miles celebration
— BOCA Tacos y Tequila: Empanadas topped with micro greens
— Carnitas La Yoca: Carnitas with fresh chips and salsa
— Casino del Sol Tequila Factory: Traditional Pascua Yaqui Easter shrimp ceviche made with tomatoes, onion, hot sauce and fresh cilantro
— Cocteleria La Palma: Fish and shrimp tacos topped with lettuce, tomato, onion and cucumber drizzled with special homemade sauce
— Crossroads Restaurant: Chicken and beef fajitas, traditional rice, beans and tortillas, nopales in red chile
— El Charro/Sir Veza’s/Charro Steak: Nutella tamale bite, topped with pecans, whipped cream and a chocolate drizzle
— El Cisne Restaurant & The Black Swan Tequila Bar: Cotija and queso fresco stuffed chile, topped with carne con chile verde with a cilantro and habanero garnish
— El Coronado: Birria, green chile/red chile burros, chips and salsa
— Gringo Grill and Cantina: Vegetarian aguachile with carrots, jicama, cucumber, tomato, corn, cabbage, cilantro
— La Estrella Bakery: mini empanadas, mini cochitos, mini banderas, mini orejas, mini coyotas, mini chimichangas, mini niños envueltos, mini yoyos, Mexican wedding cookies, mini pan finos
— Mexico City Kitchen: Mini chicken chimis, pork and carne asada tacos, mini chili rellenos. Plus desserts with a fusion of other south American flavors
— Oasis Fruit Cones: Traditional favorite natural fruit raspados
— Perfecto’s Mexican Restaurant: Shredded beef birria, corn and beef tamales, mini chicken and beef chimis
— Pima Community College Hospitality: Savory pulled pork stuffed empanada, drunken peach and pineapple empanada, chocolate drizzle empanada
— Reforma: Al pastor tacos with pineapple, pastor adobo garnished with white onion on a corn tortilla
— Rigo's Mexican Restaurant: To be determined
— Rollies Mexican Patio: Mini Tinga Sonoran-style enchiladas with crema, queso fresco and pickled onion
— Seis Kitchen: Chicken Tinga tacos on fresh-made corn tortillas.
— Sinaloa Mariscos & Cantina: Housemade Micheladas and signature Sinaloa-style ceviche
— Tortillas de Harina Linda: Wheat and white flour cheese quesadillas
— Fermented Tea Company: Prickly pear and tropical mango kombucha
— Hensley Beverage Company: beer from Barrio Brewing Company, Estrella Jalisco and Sierra Nevada Brewing Company
— Pure Love Juice: Agua fresca de piña con menta, agua fresca de pepino con limón, shot de Jamaica con canela y cayenne, horchata de coco
— Roger Clyne’s Mexican Moonshine Tequila: Fresh salted mango with silver, aged sharp cheddar cheese with reposado, dark chocolate with orange peel served with añejo
— Three Wells Distilling Company: Neat samples of Agave Silver, Agave Reposado, Sonora Silver, and Sonora Copper
— Sonoran Margarita: Prickly pear fruit margarita
When and where: 6 p.m. Saturday at JW Marriott Starr Pass Resort & Spa, 3800 W. Starr Pass Boulevard
Tickets: $60 in advance through saaca.org, $75 at the door if available; $20 for kids 5 to 17. Cost includes food and beverage samples. Warning: Don't wait until the last minute. The festival in its first two years sold out.
The deals: Includes dinner for two deals, dessert discounts, BOGOs and a couple package offers big enough to feed a family of four or five. Visit saaca.org/tastethe23.html for a complete list of participating restaurants and their offers.
Entertainment: Performers throughout the festival include classical/Latin guitarist Eduardo Minozzi Costa, Ballet Folklorico Tapatio and Mariachi Herradura de Tucson. The Regulars perform Latin jazz and Bossa Nova at the after party from 8 to 10 p.m.
Details: visittucson.org or saaca.org