Tubac’s proximity to Tucson and the Mexico border means it has many influences when it comes to food. The tastes of Tubac reflect the Sonoran desert on both sides of the Mexican border.
“Mexico City is where everything is born when it comes to Mexican cuisine,” said chef Ruben Monroy of Elvira’s. “I went to college in Guadalajara Jalisco, the jalisco in Mexico City. This is the cradle of Mexican cuisine in a way.”
Southern Arizona is the birthplace of a new fusion cuisine.
“I wanted to do that and bring something that they don't have here,” Monroy said. “I started in Nogales doing that and when I came here I really expanded my horizons doing different things. I came up with doing a lot of fusion, with a lot of - I like French and Thai and Japanese and Mexican. I like to play with a lot of ingredients right now, you know, as long as - but without leaving the Mexican scene.”
Monroy is the chef and chief designer of Elvira's in Tubac.
“Elvira, it's my grandmother's. She started this restaurant in 1927 in Nogales, Mexico, on the border with Nogales, Arizona,” Monroy said. “And so it became a travel destination over the years for all these people who used to go to Nogales, Mexico.”
Monroy said after growing up in the food business, he chose a different course in college. He became an interior and graphic designer.
“I wasn't too much interested in the business,” said Monroy. “But then, out of the blue, circumstances of life put you in this, so I ended up taking command of the business, I started to. And then you like it, and here we are here.”
When he took over, Monroy decided the original restaurant needed a few changes. With his background in design, Monroy saw the restaurant wasn’t very updated.
“So I started to remodel my family's restaurant and my father was not happy because you cannot touch something that has been there forever,” he said, “and you come from a big city and you touch it, they wanted to hang you, you know. It was mad. But then people started asking, ‘What are you doing? It looks very nice.’ So my dad was a very conservative person, then he came to me and said, ‘No, no, you're going to start putting more things.’ That was funny, but then I knew, he accepted in a way what I was doing.”
After the remodel, it was time to take his role a step further – into the kitchen.
“So after being here and redesigning the restaurant, I wanted to bring more of what is real Mexican cuisine,” said Monroy. “So I enrolled - I went to culinary in Mexico City. And there I brought a lot of the ingredients we use here like squash blossom and corn truffle and different kinds of mollusks and different things that Americans are not used to it.”
He also brought a more modern kind of Mexico. Now, Elvira's is an explosion of that eclectic culture.
“I like to create spaces that take you somewhere,” said Monroy. “When you have a long day, and you wanna go somewhere, I want to transport you to somewhere else. You know, have fun, then you go back to your normal life. Culinary-wise here, I think we all want to discover and keep discovering more recipes and things, and the more you play with them, the more you want to discover more things.”