One of the oldest restaurants in Tucson, Lerua’s Fine Mexican Foods, is closing its location at 2005 E. Broadway Blvd. on Saturday, January 19.
"The business isn't closing," said Michael Hultquist Jr., chef and co-owner of Lerua's. "It's the location."
After about 34 years on-and-off negotiating with the city of Tucson, the Hultquist family came to an agreement for the city to buy out the building. However, it still isn't an ideal situation for the family.
"Nobody buys a home to lose on it," Hultquist said. "It's a tough decision."
While the family would have loved to keep the location open and reach its centennial mark, they needed to move forward so that the city could continue with its Broadway Boulevard expansion project.
Lerua's opened in 1922, establishing a local reputation for its exceptional green corn tamales over the next several decades. To illustrate the magnitude of that side of the business — they have their own corn broker who supplies 250 dozen ears of corn every two days.
At age 23, Hultquist finished culinary school in San Diego and returned to the family business with some new ideas. While tamales and burritos were still a main draw, Hultquist earned a loyal local following with gourmet daily specials ranging from fresh fish to A5 wagyu beef.
Even though the location is in its final days, "it's been a good business," Hultquist said. "We've got a good clientele."
The restaurant served 2,000 customers from January 4 - 5. During December, they were averaging 15 caterings a day.
While Lerua's hasn't figured out where to relocate yet, Hultquist is planning on re-opening sister restaurant El Torero in early February. In addition, El Torero might even be a temporary home to Hultquist's gourmet daily specials, so stay tuned for additional details.
Jackie Tran is a Tucson-based food writer, photographer, culinary educator, and owner-chef of the food truck Tran's Fats. Although he is best known locally for his work for Tucson Foodie, his work has also appeared in publications such as Bon...