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A Great Grande Tragedy

DSCF0614When I first started as a reporter at the Arizona Daily Star, I had not quite acquired a taste for the red. I had been a green chile fan. I still am. But nothing rivals a good bowl of red chile, and the place I first encountered Nirvana in the form of chile colorado was in 1971at the Grande Tortilla Factory, 914 N. Grande. My city editor, Bill Waters, showed me the way.

The GTF was but a five minute drive from the paper, which was on Stone Avenue, downtown where it belonged then and belongs today. The red chile burro was absolute perfection, wrapped in  the perfectly formed flour tortilla. The beef was as tender as a Hoagy Carmichael ballad. The gravy of meat juices and chile was a combination beyond what I thought humanly possible.

Of course, the GTF was not just about red chile. It was about all things comida Mexicana. There was a long line at lunch time. In late summer, the factory was busy grinding masa for tamales.  On the weekends, customers cued up with big pots in hand, waiting to be filled with menudo.

I have heard the carne seca was a legend unto itself. It was, alas, my misfortune to never discover it. I could never order beyond red.

The GTF is closed now, the windows shuttered. Every time I pass by, I wish the same wish — that it be 1947 and Frank Pesqueira is about to open for the first time.

But he does not. It’s still closed, a tragedy far greater than even Shakespeare could imagine.


  1. So bummed to hear that Grande Tortilla Factory is closed! I’ve been coming to Tucson for almost 20 years and the highlight of my trip has always been to stop in and get a few dozen of their gordita tortillas (and some bottles of Poblano hot sauce) to carry home to Sacramento on the plane. They are unique in that they are slightly sweet and each one feels like it weighs about a half a pound! The man who worked there always remembered me and was always very nice. Do you know if they ever gave out the recipe? I’d love to be able to make them myself since it seems I’ll never be able to buy them again! No one else in Tucson has anything that’s even close. I also loved their chile verde. Damn!

    • No, I don’t know if they gave a recipe. I am partial to the red chile at the St. Mary’s Tamale Factory. I am never disappointed with the red chile at El Indio on South Sixth Avenue, which also happens to have some of the best cocido in the Free World. Then there are tacos, a universe unto itself where you may encounter the ridiculous as well as the sublime.

  2. Bill Waters says:

    Esteban, what a great and pleasant surprise to hear you called; sorry I wasn’t home at the moment.
    Am really enjoying your blog, which I’ve only cracked this morning. The paean to Abe was excellently written and insightful, as your work always has been. The Corbett piece was enjoyable, too! And I’m about to go into your lunch with Ernesto. The bit about prepositional phases a kick, tambien, and your looks at the shutdown are right on.
    I mostly goof off nowadays, although I did translate from English to Spanish a book by David Roybal, who had been a colleague at The New Mexican and is a friend and semi-near neighbor in this isolatedish corner of the world. He didn’t feel confident enough in his written Spanish, and wanted to produce a book in both languages about the man who built his vacation home in Nayarit. We tend to hit the road a lot — five times coast-to-coast since retirement two years ago.
    Hope things are going well for you and Edie, and that you’re still getting in some tennis.
    Abrazos to you and Edie!

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