Partners at El Charro Café, Sir Veza’s Taco Garage, Hecho en Vegas and Pub 1922, the husband-and-wife team of Raymon and Sasha Flores are well known in the culinary game, especially in Tucson. Get to know them, a little more about the Tucson culinary scene and the rich, unique history behind El Charro Cafe.
How did you get your start in the culinary world? Has it always been your passion? My family has been in the restaurant business with El Charro Café since 1922. It is the oldest continuously operated Mexican restaurant in America and, whether I liked it or not, I was going to be in the restaurant business for at least part of my life. The fact that I kept going after I graduated from college definitely meant I had a passion that was born into me.
I understand El Charro Cafe is very rich in history. Can you tell us about it? El Charro Café (not to be confused with El Chorro in Scottsdale) was founded by my mom’s great aunt Monica Flin. “Tia Monica” as we have always referred to as, was a true legend of a woman. She came to America via France in the 1800’s when her father Jules was commissioned by the Catholic Bishop to build the areas first cathedral. A pioneer in that she opened El Charro as a single woman in an era where that was not the norm by far. She was the cook, waitress, hostess and cashier. She would run to the corner store to buy her ingredients the minute a guest walked in to her building, make the food while they waited, and often amuse them with her stories and tales of the times. El Charro which was a name given to the showman/romantic cowboys of Mexico and because of Monica’s fondness for the culture and food, she named her restaurant the same.
What are your thoughts on the culinary scene in Tucson at the moment? I think Tucson is amazing. Our downtown scene is really hot right now and even Phoenix’s own Chris Bianco has opened up there. Of course we also have the best Mexican food in the USA and everyone in the Valley should know that their own beloved Sam Fox actually started in Tucson! Tucson is home to such amazing food finds as The Chimichanga, which our great Tia Monica invented, and The Sonoran Hot Dog, which we serve up one of the best examples of at Sir Veza’s.
What do you love most about what you do? I love to see a vision come to fruition, my most enjoyable aspect is designing and building them, but when I get to work with my wife and our family and team, I get to see the vision of so many come to life that it really takes on a whole new meaning. Knowing how many jobs we create and how many people we have had work with us who go onto bigger and better things makes all the work worthwhile.
What dish should everyone try when they visit Tucson? At El Charro, I would have to say a Carne Seca Cheesecrisp, while I know we invented the Chimichanga, I think the Carne Seca Cheesecrisp is an amazingly simple and yet delicious dish. And only El Charro actually has Carne Seca (dried beef) that we dry in the Arizona sun! If you go to Sir Veza’s, then it’s definitely the SirNoran Dog and beer-battered fish tacos!
Do you cook at home? If so, what are your favorite dishes to make? No, I really don’t cook at home, but my wife Sasha has become a great cook and does a good job of taking tips from our own Chef Carlotta Flores (my mom!)
What’s up next for El Charro and Sir Veza’s? We will continue to look around the Valley for unique opportunities and hopefully develop on them. There is definitely a need to see our El Charro somewhere here and maybe a few more Sir Veza’s. But until then, check us out at Sky Harbor near gate C13 and in US Airways and Chandler Mall!