12 Local Mexican Restaurants Serving Fresh Homemade Tortillas

Last modified on September 18th, 2018 at 12:25 pm

Birria, Machaca, and Cabeza Tacos at Anita Street Market (Credit: Jackie Tran)

As with any regional food, locals, and natives are blindly wed to their preferred go-to taqueria. They shake their fists in the air and shout to the maize goddesses which taco joint is “best,” which is not, and then intersperse a personal rationale as to why.

“They’re not ‘authentic’! It’s not like my abuelita made!” a devotee will insist at a fiesta. “The salsa is too thin! Their guac tastes like nothing!”

And right there, mid-zealous sermon, emerges a useful method by which to assess a taqueria — deconstruct and compare their main dish’s integral elements. You can weigh the fattiness of their carne asada, the creaminess of their beans, or note whether they garnish with cabbage or lettuce. Those are valid ways to qualitatively address regionalisms and flavor profiles. Subjective preferences are informed, instead of just impassioned.

Because the tortilla is the foundational ingredient for taquerias worldwide, it comprises the ideal quality metric. Few local taco restaurants make their own tortillas nowadays. Rather, they source them from local or even distant factories.

This list compiles some of the last holdouts, a description of their homemade tortillas, and a bit of their backstories. Of course, these places don’t just make tacos — some don’t even really specialize in tacos, but you can get tacos with homemade tortillas at these places.

The Quesadillas

2418 N. Craycroft Rd.
Steak and rib eye tacos at the Quesadillas (Credit: Jackie Tran)

Steak and rib eye tacos at the Quesadillas (Credit: Jackie Tran)

Just shy of two years young, The Quesadillas is a relative newcomer to the taqueria scene. Owing to its locale, which inches trepidatiously near the northeast side of town, a Puritan might be too quick to disavow The Quesadillas’ taqueria cred. But they’d be missing out on a flavor profile distinct from the rest, specifically a mesquite-infused smoky flavored tortilla, without preservatives.

The Barragán family hails from Guaymas and makes about a thousand tortillas a week for their restaurant. They are beginning to craft thick gorditas tortillas, which don’t fall apart in their Sonoran taco — a dish that harmoniously conjoins mesquite-smoked ribeye, cabbage, green chile, cheese, beans, and thick bacon.

Gordita tortillas happen to be an insurgent trend happily flooding a multitude of Tucson’s menus, praise be.

For more information, visit queso520.com.

Francisco’s De Noche

3843 E. Pima St.

Birria burrito Francisco’s style at Francisco’s De La Noche

Francisco’s De Noche undergoes midday transformations from bacon-and-eggs diner to a full-service Mexican restaurant. They only serve their house-made tortillas at night, upon awakening from their vampiric metamorphoses.

Francisco’s is Michoatec-style, so get birria sopes with their ultra thick, made-to-order gordita tortillas. Alternately, crisp that baby up, tostada style, and definitely try their salsas.

For more information, visit franksrestaurant.com.

Breakfast Stop Family Restaurant

6135 E. 22nd St.

Like Francisco’s De Noche, the full-service Mexican restaurant serves their house-made tortillas at night. The thick, irregular, hand-patted corn tortillas are a must at Breakfast Stop, but they don’t make their flour tortillas.

Keep up with Breakfast Stop Family Restaurant on Facebook.

Avenues Chicano Hood Eats

1439 S. Fourth Ave., in American Eat Company

Aaron Cornejo of Avenues Chicano Hood Eats collaborates with “Ghetto Chef” Che West (AKA José Zavala) to (hand) crank out some of the most innovative tortilla flavors imaginable. Che West makes about 200-300 tortillas a week at Avenues and still more for other local taquerias and stores.

West’s most popular flavor is a savory black corn, garlic, and green onion tortilla, but his seasonal deep red-hued paprika and oregano tortilla provides the perfect vehicle for Avenue’s steak soft taco. The green chile/pato sauce tortilla goes with everything, from Avenue’s deep-fried hamburger patty tacos to their rolled weenie flautas.

Keep up with Avenues Chicano Hood Eats on Facebook.

Rollies Mexican Patio

4573 S. 12th Ave.
Tacos from Rollies Mexican Patio with Tortillas by Che West (Credit: Shana Rose)

Tacos from Rollies Mexican Patio with Tortillas by Che West (Credit: Shana Rose)

Che West also provides the flavor-infused tortillas for Rollies Mexican Patio’s Tuesday specials (BYOB!). Not all of Rollie’s dishes are served with homemade tortillas, but those that are are worth sussing out.

Keep up with Rollies Mexican Patio on Facebook.

Tanias 33

614 N. Grande Ave.

The health-conscious, family-owned Tanias 33 still uses the same flour tortilla recipe and iron pan as the original chef Tania did when she started a home-based tortilla-selling business 45 years ago.

To the impartial diner, Tania 33’s homemade wheat tortillas are larger and thinner than those of most other taquerias. They are vegan, use more shortening, are not-so-stretchy, and are flakier. They hold up well under the infinite combination of ingredients that one can put in a Tanias taco or burrito.

To the original Tania’s granddaughter Erica Lira, it’s the family heritage that makes the tortillas special. “It’s a personal thing,” she said. “It’s the memories – and the years of seasoning on that pan,” which is and always has been dedicated exclusively to their flour tortillas.

Tanias will package flour tortillas to go and sells out seven days a week, but if you call ahead and ask owner/Erica’s dad Rudy Lira, he’ll set some aside for you (allowing you a 30-minute grace period if you’re running late). After that, your bag of goodness is fair game for the others in line.

For more information, visit tanias33.com.

La Indita

622 N. Fourth Ave.

La Indita is also known for its health-conscious approach toward eating — specializing in indigenous Mexican dishes featuring unexpected items like spinach, pecans, and prunes. They use no lard in their gordita tortillas, nor in their refried beans, which involve smashing pintos for creaminess.

La Indita makes their gordita-style corn tortillas to order, so they come out beautifully irregular, some slightly blackened and charred, some thicker and chewier, but always playing a stand-up corn-rich host to the calabacitas or Michoacan-style mole or barbacoa on a bed of pretty red cabbage. Those can be made as sopes, tacos, tostadas, or fry bread.

Keep up with La Indita on Facebook.

El Guero Canelo

5201 S. 12th Ave. • 2480 N. Oracle Rd. • 5802 E. 22nd St.

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With its multiple locations, El Guero Canelo is known for their Sonoran-style hot dogs, but they also handcraft their under-appreciated flour tortillas, exclusively for their own usage, in a factory in Magdalena, Sonora. They have done so since 1993. They use said tortillas for some of their tacos and quesadillas, but more notably for their giant caramelos.

The tortillas are double-layered, and at first, they seem like they’re actually two stacked tortillas. They have to be thick enough to hold the juicy carne asada, including the toppings like cebollitas that are customary to load on top.

When asked how many the Magdalena factory hand makes daily, the nice lady at the counter just says, “muchos.” Prompted, she emphasizes, “MUCHOS.”

For more information, visit elguerocanelo.com.

Taqueria Pico De Gallo

2618 S. Sixth Ave.
Tacos at Taqueria Pico de Gallo (Credit: Taylor Noel Photography)

Tacos at Taqueria Pico de Gallo (Credit: Taylor Noel Photography)

Flat-out ignore the crispier wheat tortillas at Taqueria Pico De Gallo. They’re fine. But do as the locals do and opt instead for their homemade soft, wet, bright yellow corn tortillas, which the Pico De Gallo crew makes in-house early in the mornings. It’s almost as if they are steamed.

When it’s later in the day and tacos are loaded up with soupier items like birria. The tortillas tend to break down the middle under the heft of being picked up, but they hold up under lighter items like a dollop of frijoles or shredded meats.

(Very) regular customer Kenyon Newman is seven months pregnant and admittedly addicted to Pico De Gallo for its corn tortillas. She’d been there three times in a week. She said she can’t exactly pin down why.

“The tortillas are fresh. Maybe it’s the texture. They’re kind of crunchy. They’re kind of chewy. I can’t live without them.” Nodding at her stomach, she added, “He’s a boy, and he’s going to really like their tortillas, too.”

Keep up with Taqueria Pico de Gallo on Yelp.

Anita Street Market

849 N. Anita Ave., Ste. 300
Birria, Machaca, and Cabeza Tacos at Anita Street Market (Credit: Jackie Tran)

Birria, Machaca, and Cabeza Tacos at Anita Street Market (Credit: Jackie Tran)

The thing to do at Anita Street Market is to order their famous flour tortillas ahead, and when you pick them up, grab some red chile to go and assemble the whole shebang at home with your choice of toppings. Perhaps get some of their homemade empanadas, chips, and salsa as well.

Anita Street runs out of their fresh tortillas predictably often, especially on Saturdays, and they’ll make more in front of you while you wait, tortured by the smell.

You can get 14” diameter, 9” diameter, or 5” diameter. Check out the actual-size display on the wall — it’s like an optical illusion.

The tortillas are differentiated from others by their stretchiness. Pair that chew with sour cream and the aforementioned red chile, and you have a sacrilegious, “inauthentic” mouthgasm that’s kept locals returning to Anita Street for years for their daily specials, charitable events, and grocery items.

Keep up with Anita Street Market on Facebook.

El Chivo de Oro

457 W. Irvington Rd.
Taco de Birria at El Chivo de Oro (Credit: Jackie Tran)

Taco de Birria at El Chivo de Oro (Credit: Jackie Tran)

El Chivo de Oro’s breadlike homemade corn tortillas are substantial enough in flavor and texture to stand up to what must be Tucson’s hottest salsa and the goat birria dishes for which they are esteemed. The taco truck with awning-shaded picnic benches keeps long hours and is almost always parked near the intersection of South 11th Avenue and West Irvington Road.

It’s not listed on the menu, but try birria caramelos on corn tortillas, squeeze a bunch of lime on top, go light on the salsa, and you have what amounts to an inch-thick Sonoran beastly grilled cheese. Their asada, Lorenzo tostada, and breakfast burritos are also good, but note that they don’t make their tortillas de harina (flour).

Keep up with El Chivo de Oro on Facebook.

La Mesa Tortillas

3923 E. Pima St. • 3684 W. Orange Grove • 7823 E. Broadway Blvd.

From the outside and the name, one might assume that La Mesa Tortillas is just another tortilleria (tortilla factory), but it’s also a restaurant where you can get full plates and bulk food to go. Their tortillas are special because they use no preservatives or additives, and they ship. They also make memorable tamales that people are said to crave upon moving away from the Old Pueblo. La Mesa has a location on the east side and a central site as well.

For more information, visit lamesatortillas.com.

Angela Orlando is an anthropologist and world traveler who owns Women’s Wilderness Writing Workshops creative glamping retreats. She’s into all things plant- and animal- and food-related, especially when cheese is somehow involved.
  • Mark Schubert

    Left off this list… Calle Tepa. You can see them handmaking tortillas behind the glass.

    • Angela Orlando

      Thanks! Maybe I’ll do a second edition – once I can button my jeans again!

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