A trip back to the old stomping grounds of Tucson wouldn’t be complete without a trip to Taqueria Pico de Gallo. I no longer refer to Tucson as my “hometown”, even though I spent high school (and a year of junior high), college, and four post-college years there. With my 9th year now in Portland, and 3 years living in San Diego, I’ve determined a) I’ve lived more of my sentient “adult” life outside of Tucson, and b) I am an old fucking bastard.
So back in the day I would “stomp” over to South 6th Ave. in what is actually and formally the municipality of “South Tucson”. South Tucson is completely surrounded from all areas by another, larger entity, that being the municipality of Tucson itself. South Tucson, however, is a for reals city and shit, with its own Mayor and City Council. It is thusly similar to other enclaves like Lesotho and Luxembourg, though with the highest per-capita-murder rate of any “city” in the United States, South Tucson is more like the former than the latter. That being so, I had no problem “stomping” over the mile and half to Pico de Gallo on my Schwinn Cruiser when I lived just north of South Tucson. I never felt threatened, outside of the time when I went one morning at 9am and they weren’t opened yet, in which case I was held hostage by the promise of deliciousness. Also, that bike was eventually stolen, but, get this — it actually happened a mile “north” of South Tucson, in “south” Tucson. Oh the hilarious irony! Fate, you are a cruel mistress indeed.
I’ve previously sung the praises of Pico de Gallo on these very pixelated pages prior to my last visit. (Clue: if you see “again” in any of my titles, such as in the title to this post, it literally means I’m eating there again for a second, or third, or even the “more-th” time. It’s probably the only time my words are free from exaggeration or distortion or just plain lies).
In the humble opinion of yours truly, Pico de Gallo serves up the best tacos in Southern Arizona. Here are some photos of 9 AM taco breakfast I enjoyed last year, and for measured effect these are presented from three camera different angles.
What you just saw: pescado, asada, and cabeza. Pico de Gallo’s tacos veer towards diminutive, but what they lack in circumference they make up in heft and taste. The fillings are abundant and flavorful, and pickled onions add just the right amount of crunchy tart. Another distinguishing element are the thick masa tortillas that anchor the base of these tacos — wonderful stone-ground corn discs that are often times too fresh and delicate that they often have a difficult time staying composed in the time it takes for the four bites to polish one off. Pico de Gallo offers a flour option, but I have never felt curious enough to cheat on the corn.
There’s only one table sauce, and you’ll get a squirt bottle with each taco order. It’s a thick, fiery, intensely red habanero salsa that makes my brain perspire within seconds. Painfully addictive, and a perfect way to help sweat out the previous night’s regret.
Considering Tucson is a good four hours from the ocean (the Sea of Cortez is located over the Mexican border to the southwest), you might be surprised that you can find one of the truly great fish tacos I’ve had in my lifetime. in this landlocked city. I know I was, especially considering I moved back to Tucson in the late nineties after spending a few years in San Diego.
At this price, they are practically giving their tacos away. A true gem. If you are ever in Tucson, it’s a must visit.
Taqueria Pico de Gallo
2618 S 6th Ave
Tucson, AZ 85713