Taste This Tucson: Culiacán

In a special edition of “Taste this, Tucson,” we took a trip to explore sights, sounds, and flavors south of the border.

Colorful artwork in downtown Culiacán

Just a few hours’ flight from Tucson is the Mexican city of Culiacán, Sinaloa. It’s a city famous for its public parks, professional sports, oh – and El Chapo! But most importantly, Culiacán is popular for the unique street food and traditional Mexican flavors.

First up on our list — breakfast.

Josefa’s Desayunador in downtown Culiacán

Josefa’s Desayunador is a bright and colorful hot spot right in the heart of downtown.

We decided on the “Tu Capricho” (“Your Way”) breakfast special: warm, homemade tortillas, a fried tamale, machaca, chilaquiles, beans with queso fresco, artisan toast and a cup of coffee.

The “Tu Capricho” breakfast special

Next, we took a road trip past Crucero de Badiraguato to the small town of San Francisco for brunch at a small restaurant called Lonchería Naty.

We sampled a little bit of everything on the menu: chilaquiles, sweet corn tamales with shredded beef and a side of sopes (gorditas) y consommé. This is very different than the Mexican food you would typically find in Tucson.

Shredded beef, chilaquiles, sweet corn tamales, and beans

At night, the streets of Culiacán come alive with the smoked flavor of every street food that you can imagine. It was hard to pick just one food truck, so we made our way around, trying as many vendors as we could find. That’s the best way to taste this city.

Grilled carne asada at Taquería el Fili

The carne asada tacos at Taquería el Fili are marinated for days and grilled on a charcoal fire. They’re then shredded on an aged stump of wood for smoky flavor.

And they… have… flavor!

We had our carne asada served up on a thick, toasted sope, and in a mix of potatoes and melted cheese. After the street tacos, we found happiness in a cup.

Esquites – street corn in a cup

Mexican street corn, or esquite, is both sweet and spicy; tangy and smoky. It’s made with fresh corn shaved right off the cob. Then, it’s mixed with cheese, mayo, Mexican crema, and sour cream with a twist. Finally, it’s topped with lime, chamoy and hot sauce for a kick.

Last on our list was dessert. You can’t come all the way to Culiacán without trying their raspados.

“Las Paraguas,” or “The Umbrellas,” has been on this street corner for more than 70 years. The “Obispo” is shaved ice mixed with your choice of ice cream and, of course, fresh fruit.

The “Obispo” raspado

If you ever find yourself strolling the streets of Culiacán and can’t decide on what to eat…

Just follow your nose. You really can’t go wrong.