El Charro Café

Owning the number one spot was my story about the shrimp special at El Charro Café, documenting a family’s grit, a feisty frontier woman, and the togetherness and service on which their business was built almost a century ago.  

Here we are at the end of another delicious year in Southern Arizona, and the commencement of my 10th year writing this column for Tucson Local Media and its portfolio of


I enjoy getting feedback from our readers as much as I enjoy writing the stories themselves. This feedback comes in many forms, but it’s your digital engagement with my stories—the clicks, likes, and shares—that tells me what you really value. So I’ve called on our web editor once again to dive into the data to reveal my Top 10 stories from the past year that triggered the highest level of reader response.

The envelope, please.

Sitting at the number 10 spot is my story about downtown restaurant OBON that launched a seasonal menu featuring “perfect examples of the unexpected.” You must have expected the unexpected given your engagement with this column.

Coming in at number nine was my story about chicken wings and the nearly two dozen sauces that eastside eatery Mulligans makes from scratch every day. The simmering and slathering made this story really stick with our readers.

My story about a new Oro Valley restaurant, The Landing, and its notable Burger of the Week program that’s the perfect context for some cow-driven creativity, was newsy—or shall I say moo-sy—enough to land it at number eight.

When a handful of local businesspeople, including Hotel Congress CEO Todd Hannley, launched a line of premium mezcals in Southern Arizona, tequila’s smokier sister saw a measurable uptick in sales across town. My story about these small-batch sensations shot up to the number seven slot.

Finding an authentic banh mi sandwich this side of Da Nang can be a challenge, but the family behind Bahndicted created so much buzz that lines routinely form out the front door. This number six story definitely triggered a banh mi boom.

A new restaurant fusing Italian and Sonoran traditions opened this year with great fanfare. My number five story broke down Zio Peppe’s success, a blend of Old-World wisdom and an abiding love of hometown.

Steaming bowls of menudo made news this year when Mulligans started selling a version from a fourth-generation family recipe. My tale of the tripe and all its slurpability was lovingly ladled into the number four spot.

The raw food conversation was elevated this year when Flora’s Market Run’s crudo bar rolled out some new dishes from its dedicated fishmonger. Readers must have thought that raw is pretty rad, as this story swam all the way up to number three.

My number two story featured a local chef and his efforts to redefine the Arizona Sands Club’s dining experience. While his kitchen is just a few steps from Arizona Stadium’s north endzone, he’s definitely not talking nachos and hot dogs.

So, what story from this past year resulted in the most clicks, likes, and shares among readers?

A shrimp special at El Charro Café was at the center of what they called their “summer survival guide.” Owning the number one spot was my story of their grit, a feisty frontier woman, and the togetherness, family, and service on which their business was built almost a century ago.

It’s been nearly a decade since my first column appeared on these pages in 2012. Southern Arizona has a rich and vibrant food and beverage scene and I’m excited that there are more stories that need to be told. Thanks for reading, and thanks for sharing my appreciation for our hard-working restaurateurs, chefs, brewers, winemakers, and distillers.

Happy New Year!

Contact Matt Russell, whose day job is CEO of Russell Public Communications, at mrussell@russellpublic.com. Russell is also the publisher of OnTheMenuLive.com as well as the host of the Friday Weekend Watch segment on the “Buckmaster Show” on KVOI 1030 AM.