One of Tucson’s oldest restaurants, Lerua’s Fine Mexican Foods, closed its location at 2005 E. Broadway Blvd. in January 2019 due to the Broadway widening project. However, the restaurant announced plans to re-open a quarter-mile down the street.
Rio Nuevo approached Lerua’s with the opportunity, said Michael “Mikey” Hultquist Jr., chef and co-owner of Lerua’s. With the restaurant’s own funding, in addition to a grant from Rio Nuevo, the 6,000-square-foot space at 2243 and 2245 E. Broadway Blvd. will undergo significant revamping required in order to become a suitable restaurant space.
At first, the restaurant will serve as a commissary kitchen for high volume retail and tamal sales. The space will also introduce a front and back patio.
Once the construction is complete, the restaurant’s time frame is at the mercy of permitting and inspection timelines. Hultquist hopes the restaurant will be open early enough to be able to make tamales in bulk before Christmas.
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 had their own corn broker who supplied 250 dozen ears of corn every two days.
“The green corn tamale is one of the hardest things to make and you eat it within five minutes,” Hultquist said. “Those kinds of recipes need to stay alive. A tamale takes 11 hours. When a recipe is very old and it’s being carried on, that’s awesome.”
Lerua’s cousin restaurant El Torero is still open with take-out; make sure to check out their food if you haven’t already.
Keep up with Lerua’s Fine Mexican Food on Instagram.