Restaurant El Charro, which dates back to the 1920s, says the Topopo Salad was invented by founder Monica Flinn, who was so impressed when she saw the Mexican volcano Popocatépetl that she designed a salad to look like it and named it using an old Indian word for volcano. Topopo salads now are common in restaurants throughout Tucson. Whatever its specific ingredients, height is the common denominator (except at El Indio, where it’s a broad bowl). Atop a crisp tostada, lettuce and vegetables are dressed and formed into a great conical mound with columns of cheese, carrots and celery running up the side. Mealworthy versions also include carne seca, roast chicken (at Mi Nidito), red chili (at El Indio) or shrimp (at El Torero), and customary garnishes are tomato, olives, avocado, and festive colored peppers.
Tucson's El Charro is a colorful fortress of Arizona-Mexican foodways, from the chimichanga to superb carne seca & dizzying margaritas.