One thing I’ve noticed since I began my quest to find Tucson’s best taco is the sheer magnitude of places to find one. From friends and family to roach coaches to well established restaurants there are myriad choices. I’ve had many since I started searching that I didn’t even bother noting or even mentioning to friends or on this site. I’ve come to find that though there are many tacos in Tucson there may be even fewer than I thought that deserve consideration.
So it is with great joy that I reviews Las Brasas, one of the few that merit high praise thus far. Las Brasas is located at 2928 E 22nd Street between Tucson and Country Club. It is fairly inconspicuous, tucked away in a recessed strip mall with a furniture store but I hope to sing its praise loudly enough for more to notice. The decor inside is not complicated. There are pictures on the wall depicting both Native Americans and turn of the century Mexicans plus a few “artifacts” like a tomahawk and some kind of bow and arrow. The tables in the two small rooms are made of large sections of wood. Two giant slabs make up each table. The chairs are nice as well, constructed entirely of blocky hunks of wood. It was old timey and rustic, two indicators, when present in a restaurant, that undoubtedly mean you will be eating meat.
Las Brasas delivers on that promise. As you approach the counter to order, you can see, hear, smell, feel, almost taste the meat cooking on an open mesquite grill not five feet away. One could almost be distracted from ordering were one of the cooks to throw a nice piece of flank steak on the grill. Most, if not all, the meals are under ten dollars. They had the standard combination plates, burros, tortas, red and green chile plates as well as tacos. I was after tacos.
Las Brasas offers Carne Asada, Pollo Asada, Cabeza, Chicharron, Birria, Barbacoa, and Adobado (pork) and you can order a taco, burro or torta with any of them. Because of my insane search to find the best taco in Tucson I always go taco. The first night I ordered a carne asada, chicharron, adobado, and a cabeza. All tacos are 1.58 and with my Sonoran dog and pop, I came out around ten bucks. The Sonoran dog was not the best I’ve ever had, I’m still leaning toward BK’s on that one but my research is hardly extensive. It seemed to be missing something. I think the actual wiener might have been too skinny, marking a second instance wherein wiener girth is important. Anyway, the tacos. The cabeza was passable, though I’m learning that it isn’t my favorite meat in the world. The adobado was less like al pastor and more like carne asada with lean cuts of pork, it was good but overshadowed by both the carne asada and the chicharron. The carne asada was soft and tender. It had the added benefit of being grilled instead of fried up with lard and such. After the first bite I got the feeling that I could eat many multiple carne asada tacos, multiple times a week. I’m guessing if I was really hungry, after a hike or something, I could drop ten to fifteen no problem. They were of some other higher quality than most carne asadas I’ve ever tasted. Yet somehow I preferred the chicharron. Most chicharron that I’ve encountered is sort of stiff and crunchy, I have always kind of got the feeling like it was something I wasn’t supposed to be eating. However, at Las Brasas, the chicharron tacos were full of semi fatty pieces of pork grilled then crisped on the outside giving it the most wonderful taste and texture you could possibly want out of a bite of meat. It’s somewhere between bacon and really good pork chops. They have a much stronger flavor than the carne asada. I wouldn’t dare eat them in the number or frequency in which I would consume the carne asada but I can’t imagine going to Las Brasas without picking one up.
Cal had a pollo asado and a barbacoa taco. He said he’d had better barbacoa but the chicken taco was delicious. He got a combo plate that came with rice and beans. On a second occasion I did the same. We were both disappointed with the rice in particular, it is sort of soaking in some kind of broth and really soupy. Conceptually, I didn’t get it. It didn’t really taste very good either. Cal echoed my statement adding that he’d had better beans. I liked the beans however, especially when mixed with pickled onions from the condiment bar that also features, cabbage, onion and cilantro, a couple of different kinds of fresh salsa and bottled hot sauces. Henry had the green chile plate which he went after with the enthusiasm of a non roster invitee to training camp.
A second trip with Sean on the weekend showed Las Brasas as a busier restaurant than it seemed when I was there earlier in the week. There were people popping in picking up large family orders for the duration of our dinner and I could tell there were a lot of regular customers. I’ll be counting myself among them for many years to come. I give Las Brasas 9 of the best carne asada tacos I’ve ever eaten.