- 5602 E. 22nd St., Tucson, AZ, 85711
- Overall User Rating:
- (0 ratings)
- Mon.-Sat. 9 a.m.-9 p.m.
What was ordered: Tacos caseros combination ($5.50), bistek picado combination ($5.50), one soft drink ($1.50 each), one limonada ($2) and an order of sopapillas ($2.50) for a total of $19.46 including tax, within our Cheap Eats goal of a meal for two for less than $20, even with dessert.
Comments: This humble, bright-yellow eatery looks as if it belongs on South Fourth, Sixth or 12th avenues, and tastes like it, too.
The modest prices at El Sur put it in the fast-Mexican-food category, but the fare and service rate with some of the fanciest Mexican places in town.
On two recent visits, hot chips and two salsas arrived just seconds after we sat down and, as with beverages, they were quickly refilled.
The tacos caseros combo ($5.50) starred three pan-fried tacos similar to tacos dorados. They were fried to order and packed with great-tasting shredded beef. The refried beans were nicely soupy and slightly sweet, not clumpy and bland, and topped with melted queso fresco. The rice was pleasantly mild, not overly laden with chicken stock and/or tomato paste, as can often be the case.
The bistek picado combo ($5.50) featured a generous serving of tender, spicy cubed steak with grilled green onions and fresh-made pico de gallo sporting carefully diced tomatoes, onions, peppers, cilantro and a nice zing of lime juice.
The limonada was homemade from squeezed limes, not lemons, as it should be, and had an ideal balance of sugar and citrus.
It's not often that there's room in the Cheap Eats ceiling of $20 for dessert, but my companion and I were able to enjoy four puffy sopapillas ($2.50) that were also obviously fried-to-order.
That El Sur can serve up so much fare that's made to order, not cooked in advance and then reheated, says a lot for this friendly, popular place. The atmosphere is pleasant and comfortable, enlivened by the dizzying pace of the servers. They zip around the dining room like hummingbirds, and the people in the kitchen are obviously moving just as fast to be able to kick out food this fresh and good in such a timely fashion.
Another nice touch at El Sur—one I wish more fast-Mexican places would emulate—is that the food is served on hard plates with real utensils rather than flimsy, disposable foam and plastic.
Service: Tableside service was prompt, friendly and knowledgeable.
Bottom line: There's no denying that Tucson's South Side is the epicenter of Mexican restaurants, but this little, canary-colored eatery on 22nd just east of Craycroft serves as one of the best reminders that excellent Mexican food can be had in any part of town where people with a commitment to quality fare and service decide to make a go of it.