El Chinito Gordo offers a lively modern vibe with instant culinary classics

Highlights include the Chile en Nogada, Torta Ahogadas, and Churro Nachos.

Mexican restaurant El Chinito Gordo opened the first week of December at 2920 N. Oracle Rd., which previously housed Club 21 Mexican Food for 73 years.

“ECG’s interior pays homage to traditional Mexican style and blends it with a modern interpretation of Mexican aesthetic,” said Felicia Chavez, co-owner and social media manager of El Chinito Gordo.

Food at El Chinito Gordo (Credit: Jackie Tran)

Menu options (Credit: Jackie Tran)

Chavez, who is also a commercial interior designer, owns the restaurant along with architect Mark Bonillas and The Bamboo Terrace co-owners Lenny Mark and Blanca Mark.

“[The name] ‘El Chinito Gordo’ was a playful way of symbolically tying together all of the owners and their different cultures/ethnicities into our restaurant concept,” Chavez said. “(Lenny is Chinese, and his wife Blanca is Mexican; Mark is Mexican, and his partner Felicia is Mexican and Chinese.”

While Club 21 was old-fashioned, El Chinito Gordo showcases their cuisine in a modern environment.

Interior at El Chinito Gordo (Credit: Jackie Tran)

Interior (Credit: Jackie Tran)

While the lights are still warm, the color palette features warm shades of orange and soft teals with contrasting black and white. A combination of local art, succulent plants, and Mexican folk art adorn the walls.

We swung by to taste some of the most popular dishes; here are favorites so far.

Torta Ahogadas ($14) features crispy and juicy roast pork drowned in chile de árbol salsa. There’s no beating around the bush here; you will need napkins. The Mexican bread also stands up to the salsa without getting soggy quickly. It’s available mild or spicy; we definitely prefer the spicy version.

Torta Ahogada at El Chinito Gordo (Credit: Jackie Tran)

Tortas Ahogadas at El Chinito Gordo (Credit: Jackie Tran)

Los Tacos Soft are available for $3 each. The al pastor pork is well-seasoned and juicy with moderate sweetness and specks of char.

Tacos Al Pastor at El Chinito Gordo (Credit: Jackie Tran)

Tacos Al Pastor (Credit: Jackie Tran)

The Eggless Chile Relleno con Camarones ($16) features no batter at all. Instead, it is drenched with a creamy green culichi sauce and stuffed with shrimp.

Eggless Chile Relleno con Camarones at El Chinito Gordo (Credit: Jackie Tran)

Eggless Chile Relleno con Camarones at El Chinito Gordo (Credit: Jackie Tran)

One of Mexico’s most iconic dishes, the Chile en Nogada ($16) is a poblano pepper filled with picadillo (a mixture of ground beef, spices, and fruit) and topped with a walnut-based cream sauce and pomegranate seeds. It comes with two sides. 

Chile en Nogada at El Chinito Gordo (Credit: Jackie Tran)

Chile en Nogada at El Chinito Gordo (Credit: Jackie Tran)

Be careful with the dangerously addictive Churro Nachos ($8.95). Cinnamon sugar bunuelo chips and bite-sized pieces of churros are topped with vanilla ice cream, sweet mango salsa, caramel, and chocolate.

Churro Nachos at El Chinito Gordo (Credit: Jackie Tran)

Churro Nachos (Credit: Jackie Tran)

While these were our favorites out of the dishes we tried, the menu contains a diverse variety of dishes ranging from the Chorizo Burger to the Blackberry Cinnamon Margarita.

Additionally, they offer seasonal specialties such as Sopa Azteca and daily changing aguas frescas.

Blanca Mark and Yaxkin Andrade at El Chinito Gordo (Credit: Jackie Tran)

Blanca Mark and Yaxkin Andrade (Credit: Jackie Tran)

Operating hours are noon – 9 p.m. Sunday, 11 a.m. – 9 p.m. Monday – Thursday, and 11 a.m. – 10 p.m. Friday – Saturday. Happy hour is 3 – 6 p.m. daily.

Keep up with El Chinito Gordo on Facebook. For more information, visit elchinitogordo.com.

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_.

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