At Mexico In Season, a Chipotle-style restaurant in South Tucson, when you order a burrito, your tortilla comes reinforced—before carne asada or frijoles negros, your large, stretchy tortilla is reinforced with a smaller, stiffer whole wheat tortilla. (You know, to maintain burrito integrity). At Taqueria Pico de Gallo, the corn tortillas are so thick and filling that two of them filled with nopales or carnitas are enough to send you leaning back after dinner, too full for dessert. At Boca Tacos on Speedway, your carne asada arrives cupped in tiny tortillas—small as a palm and cheap enough to order a handful without breaking $10.
In Tucson, the tortilla reigns supreme. And every tortilla is different—thick and moist; thin and dry; large and stretchy; stiff and flakey. It is one benefit of living 60 miles from the U.S.-Mexico border—the diversity of tortillas you encounter when eating out. While many local tortilla makers have managed to get their products stocked in local markets, it’s a whole different endeavor to find an unprocessed tortilla sold in the store. Tortillas are intended to be eaten fresh, moments after their making, which is why so many store-bought tortillas contain ingredients added to “maintain freshness.” As tortillas age, they also harden, which is partly why you’ll see so many vegetable gums added to tortillas stacked in a baggy–to keep them pliable and bendy by the time they make it home to you.