Best Of Tucson®

Best Mexican (No Lard)

La Salsa Fresh Mexican Grill

1800 E. Fort Lowell Road 4861 E. Grant Road 7090 N. Oracle Road

READERS' PICK: Two words: Canola oil. End of story. (See Best Lunch Under $5, above; and Best Salsa, page 69.)

READERS' POLL RUNNER-UP: El Saguarito Mexican Food, 7216 N. Oracle Road. It's a long haul to the northside for many of us, but it's well worth the trip. El Saguarito goes way beyond the simple omission of lard to create meatless Mexican dishes that will dazzle vegetarians and meat-eaters alike. Locally owned for nearly a decade by Albert and Blanca Vasquez (Albert's the only non-vegetarian in the family), they've raised vegetarian Mexican dining to an art form. The nopales are a house specialty (cactus leaves, which taste something like a cross between green beans and okra), and make their way into soups, salads and a signature chile colorado recipe baked and served with rice and beans. If that's too exotic, fear not. Choose anything on the menu, and they'll gladly substitute TVP (texturized vegetable protein) -- a granulated one for tacos and a chunky variety for their delicious chile con carne. They also have the best Menudo, bar none -- in no small measure because you won't have to overcome the mental hurdle of chewing on cow stomach to enjoy it. That wonderful TVP replaces the animal products alongside the usual flavors of onion, garlic, hominy and other savory ingredients rounding out this traditional soup. You can find a mobile operation of El Saguarito midtown during football and basketball season on the UA campus, and during spring training at Hi Corbett and TEP ballparks.

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