Lerua’s Fine Mexican Food

Mexican | Southwestern
One of the best

Lerua’s Fine Mexican Food, which is neck-and-neck with El Charro to claim the title of Tucson’s oldest restaurant (it started in 1922), used to bring out a free-standing sandwich board in late summer to announce that green corn tamales were on the menu. The board stayed up as long as sweet corn was being picked and chilies harvested – a period of not much longer than a month.

You still will find the board outside Lerua’s front door, but you can get a green corn tamale nearly any time of year. The cooks are perfectly happy using corn trucked up from farms in southern Mexico; and as for chilies, they can be gathered, roasted and frozen during the autumn harvest. While the process of freezing does compromise the muscle of a just-roasted pod and diminishes the appeal of, say, chilies rellenos, you don’t really want al dente chilies in your tamale.

So, even if they formally are out of season and are made using corn from far away, Lerua’s tamales, hot from the steamer, are forkworthy. Moist and lavish, their milky corn sweetness is laced with cords of chile that contribute green-vegetable salubrity to the earthy package. The tamales are just one item among a Sonora desert menu that also includes such local inventions as topopo salad, chimichangas, and cheese crisps. We like the salsa that comes with pre-meal chips; it has a powerful but not-too-hot chile taste that, like that of a great tomato, perches somewhere on the line between fruit and vegetable. Carne seca means dried beef, but Lerua’s is anything but dry. It oozes juice and spice at every bite. We were less impressed with a chile relleno, which was as big and blobby as a serving of lasagna, its capsicum character only a distant memory.

What to Eat
Lerua’s Fine Mexican Food, Green Corn Tamale
Green Corn Tamale
Green corn tamales get their name because they traditionally are wrapped in fresh corn husks rather than dried. One such tamale and a beef taco make a nice, low-cost meal at Lerua's.
Lerua’s Fine Mexican Food, Carne Seca Taco
Carne Seca Taco
It's obscured by all the trimmings, but there is plenty of beef in this carne seca taco, and its flavor is walloping.
Lerua’s Fine Mexican Food, Chile Relleno
Chile Relleno
This is one jumbo chile relleno -- so filled and so smothered that the chile itself is hard to taste.
Lerua’s Fine Mexican Food, Chips & Salsa
Chips & Salsa
The salsa that comes with chips is a celebration of chile flavor: not too hot, but intensely verdant.
Directions and Hours
closed now
Monday10:30am - 8pm
Tuesday10:30am - 8pm
Wednesday10:30am - 8pm
Thursday10:30am - 8pm
Friday10:30am - 8pm
Saturday10:30am - 8pm
This restaurant is featured in the following eating tours.
4 stops | 13 MILES | 36 min

Green corn tamales, so named because they are wrapped in fresh green husks rather than dry, beige ones, used to be seasonal, available only at the end of summer when both corn and chile were ready to harvest. But now farmers regularly truck fresh corn up from southern Mexico and autumn chile is roasted and…

Open Year Round
Meals Served
Lunch, Dinner
Credit Cards Accepted
Alcohol Served
Outdoor Seating

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