For those who think Mesa is changing too fast and will never match its past, welcome to El Charro – the return of a local legend.
“There is a landmark in Mesa, El Charro And you can bet it will still be there tomorrow.
The Munoz family has nurtured it all these years.
Through good times and bad, laughter and tears….”
Doc Calhoun wrote that poem, “Munoz,” in 1991. The restaurant launched in 1958 by Freddie Munoz survived its founder’s death in 2012, with Freddie’s daughter Eva Munoz Orta taking over.
Then, in 2017, a “closed for vacation” sign went up.
Patrons of the modest restaurant and bar at West First Street and Country Club Drive patiently waited for El Charro to reopen. And waited, and waited ...
Last Wednesday, this week, nearly four years after it closed for extensive renovations, the Mexican restaurant finally reopened — on Cinco de Mayo, no less.
For now, the cafe is only offering takeout, with no word on when in-person dining and bar service will resume, but the restaurant’s loyal followers will take it. On the first 100 degree day of the year, many waited in line to get their El Charro fix.
For nearly a year, many have anxiously followed the El Charro progress via its Facebook page, which tells a local, updated version of a maddening, Kafkaesque trip through bureaucracy.
Nov. 24 post: “It has been a year since we have been working daily fixing a lot of needed repairs on the restaurant.”
Jan. 29 post: “With a little help from family members, 144 boxes of tile were laid down in the dining room.”
Feb. 18 post: “So sorry we don’t have a reopening date just yet. We are waiting on the city permits.”
March 11 post: “After five phone calls to the Arizona Tax Revenue and speaking to five different people telling us five different things we have to do before being able to get our tax privilege license back the application was mailed today.”
March 27 Facebook post: “We are so glad to know that so many of you have not given up on us yet.”
March 31 Facebook post: “The question that is asked the most is ‘when are you opening?’ In the last three years and nine months we have encountered many setbacks but we are still hanging in there. Our last milestone is getting the last state permit. Since you can only converse through email or phone we have spent many hours on the phone.
“So in the last month we have spoken to nine different people and have never been given the same answers.”
Finally, on April 20, El Charro posted:
“Yes Virginia, there is a Santa Claus! The last two permits finally came and have been hung. We will be opening just for takeout the first month.
“See you on Wednesday May 5th 11-8.”
The day before the opening, when El Charro posted its “limited” menu, dozens responded they could hardly wait.
“I’m so glad to hear they are reopening,” Chris Smigel commented. “For me, it’s a way to touch my family and my past. No other restaurant can do that.”
That echoed what Calhoun wrote, 30 years ago:
“Mexican restaurants in the Valley abound
But another El Charro is not to be found
You can look far and wide, but you will not find
Anything like it, it is one of a kind”