Karamelo King brick-and-mortar restaurant now open on Pima & Rosemont

The Grant Road location is still serving through the night.

Longtime Sonoran hot dog and carne asada stand Karamelo King quietly opened a brick-and-mortar location at 5224 E. Pima St. in March.

The space previously housed Carniceria La Pima and Carniceria La Noria.

Ciudad Obregón, Sonora native Rafael Gastelum moved to Tucson in 1995 and helped start BK Tacos. Once he learned the trade, he left BK and started Karamelo King as a hot dog stand at 3752 E. Grant Rd. in 2000.

From taco stand to taco shop

Once business took off, he expanded the menu with tacos, burros, and quesadillas. The stand became a go-to for Fridays and Saturday nights after drinking around the Grant and Alvernon neighborhood. It’s also a Tucson Foodie pick for Sonoran hot dogs and carne asada tacos.

The new restaurant features a minimal interior decorated with prints of lotería cards. Customers order at the counter and help themselves at the salsa bar.

Proud, simple cuisine
Karamelo King owner-chef Rafael Gastelum seasoning carne asada on the mesquite grill

Karamelo King owner-chef Rafael Gastelum seasoning carne asada on the mesquite grill (Credit: Jackie Tran)

Gastelum cooks his carne asada simply — using salt on a mesquite grill. He also spoons on a brothy tomato sauce — for extra juiciness — just before serving. Make sure to eat the taco swiftly — you don’t want it to get soggy.

Naturally, Karamelo King makes superb caramelos. Try one with juicy birria on a corn tortilla. If you can handle the heat, try the creamy-looking red salsa; it’s the hottest one there, loaded with fiery chile de arbol.

While the menu is mostly the same with tried-and-true classics, the new location also features an array of Mexican snacks and sweets.

The freezer showcases 10 flavors of hielitos, which are Mexican frozen desserts in hand-sized plastic bags. Flavors range from mango chamoy to galletas Marias.

Hielitos at Karamelo King

Hielitos at Karamelo King (Credit: Jackie Tran)

Once business picks up, the fridge will also offer slices of Mexican cake.

Karamelo King’s beloved stand at Grant Road is still operating at night to take care of your drunchies, by the way.

Karamelo King is located at 5224 E. Pima St. from 10 a.m. – 7 p.m. Monday – Saturday and at 3752 E. Grant Rd. from 4 p.m. – midnight Monday – Thursday, 4 p.m. – 3 a.m. Friday and Saturday. For more information, call (520) 849-6682. Keep up with Karamelo King on Instagram.

Jackie is a food writer and photographer native to Tucson. He loves corgis and still thinks rickrolling is funny. If you'd like to stalk him, visit jackietran.com and his Instagram @jackie_tran_.