5 spicy gems from Yuma’s Mexican food scene

5 spicy gems from Yuma’s Mexican food scene

(Photo courtesy of El Charro)

By Teresa K. Traverse

November 6, 2023

Yuma is a popular pit stop for those driving from Phoenix to Southern California. Just under three hours from both Phoenix and San Diego, it’s a perfect halfway point.

Yuma is also home to some dynamite Mexican restaurants, which makes total sense seeing as how the city is less than 10 miles from the border. 

Many of these eateries have been whipping up excellent Mexican dishes for decades. If you’re in town fresh off the 3:10 and craving Mexican food, here are five Yuma spots where you can satisfy your cravings.

El Charro Mexican Café

5 Spicy Gems from Yuma’s Mexican Food Scene
Photo courtesy of El Charro

601 W. 8th St.

El Charro Mexican Café has quite the history. Tony and Lola Gutierrez opened this café in 1949 and served food made from Lola’s recipes. Yuma diners have been flocking to this spot for more than seven decades to get their Mexican food fix. All these years later, many of Lola’s recipes are still found on the menu. The restaurant has occupied the same physical space since 1970, when the family built a larger space to replace the original smaller café. Readers of local newspaper the Yuma Sun have voted this spot as having the best Mexican food in town for six years straight. 

According to El Charro’s website, its most popular dishes are the steak Mexicano dinner, chile relleno dinner, albondigas, and green chile enchiladas. Their homemade tortillas are also noteworthy, as are their flavored margaritas and churros.

Mr. G’s Drive-In

501 S. 4th Ave. 

Mr. G’s Drive-In is where plenty of locals go when they’re looking to get their Mexican food fix—and fast. Its website states “fast, fresh, Mexican” on the home page, and diners can order three ways: dine-in, drive-thru, and online. Customers can enjoy a variety of breakfast burritos served until 10:30 a.m. from Tuesday through Friday and until 1 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday (The restaurant is closed on Mondays). Burritos are hand-wrapped, and the bean-and-cheese burrito is an award-winner. Diners also can order fries, burgers, tostadas, the famous rolled tacos, queso, tamales, taco salads, and quesadillas. 

Much like El Charro Café, Mr. G’s has a rich history. The drive-in has been in business since 1962 and is owned by another Gutierrez Family: Juan and Bessie, who opened their first restaurant, The Chile Pepper, in 1954. Mr. G’s is one of the restaurants in their portfolio and is still family-owned-and-operated today.

Lutes Casino

221 Main St. 

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Located in historic downtown Yuma, Lutes Casino is a historic spot housed in a building with a vibrant personality that dates back to 1901. The décor is beyond colorful; look forward to a mish mash of Americana memorabilia on the 12-foot walls. See if you can spot a Laurel and Hardy poster or an image of black-and-white film star Humphrey Bogart. A Western Union sign is also hanging from the walls, among other items. 

Although Lutes Casino doesn’t serve exclusively Mexican fare like the other restaurants on this list, we thought it was worth a nod. Find potato tacos (a specialty here), a bean-and-cheese taco, quesadillas, tri-tip nachos, rolled tacos, a breakfast burrito, and a hot dog wrapped in a fried flour tortilla. Plus, the setting is unbeatable. When the weather’s nice, consider enjoying your food on the outdoor patio. 

The Original Chretin’s Mexican Restaurant & Cantina 

505 E. 16th St. 

The Original Chretin’s Mexican Restaurant & Cantina is another one of Yuma’s Mexican restaurants that has been in business for decades. In the early 1930s, Jose Maria Sr. and Engracia Chretin opened a dance hall and gradually began selling food made from Engracia’s recipes out of the venue. The food proved to be so popular that the couple opened up a restaurant on Feb. 15, 1946. That location stood for 61 years. 

Although at a certain point the family no longer was in the restaurant business, that all changed in 2018 when Robby Rodriguez, great-grandson of one of the founders, took over. Today, the menu is massive; find a wide variety of burritos, fajitas, tacos, tortas, burgers, salads, soups, sides, and appetizers. Diners also can enjoy daily specials that change each day of the week. For instance, customers can enjoy tamale specials on Thursdays.

 Also of note: Chretin’s has a to-go location located at 3446 US 95 in Somerton, just outside of Yuma.

The Best Taquito

810 S. 13th Ave. 

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The Best Taquito claims to serve … well, you can take a guess … and they’re confident enough to put it in their name. The restaurant was known as El Buen Taquito for more than 14 years before the name change took them from good to best. Find rolled beef tacos, a tostada, flautas, fries, a folded taco, and a variety of desserts including the chocolate chip cookie and milk cake (that’s one cake type, not a separate dessert), a cheesecake, red velvet, and carrot cake on the diverse menu.

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