Best Of Tucson®

Restaurant Rivalries

Tucson saw a royal battle between two downtown Mexican restaurants in 1921. The Chile Queen served not only excellent food, but also catered banquets and provided home meals for families. The competition, the Chile King, offered a special Sunday menu while urging people not to confuse it with its like-named competitor.

A similar name game was going on between Restaurant Carmen and The Carmen Inn. The latter said it had incomparable tamales and enchiladas, while the former offered menudo every night.

The Restaurant Carmen, on Main Avenue at Broadway Boulevard, was established in 1914 by 47-year-old Carmen Carrillo. She moved the restaurant to South Sixth Avenue in 1926.

To help promote her business, Carrillo, along with several other Mexican establishments, ran newspaper advertisements. They chose Tucson's four-page, twice-weekly Spanish-language newspaper, El Mosquito, instead of the more formal, six-page, thrice-weekly El Tucsonense.

According to ads in 1921, on Sundays, La Jalisciense restaurant served soup, mole or green chile rellenos with Mexican cheese. At the same time, a chicken plate at the Mexico Restaurant was only 45 cents.

But Mexican food wasn't the only thing on people's minds during 1921.

Early in the year, Warren G. Harding made the first presidential radio broadcast, and women competed for the first time in the inaugural Atlantic City Miss America Pageant. In addition, the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier was established at Arlington National Cemetery, while race riots killed 85 people, including 60 African Americans, in Oklahoma.

In May, the Immigration Quota Act went into affect, limiting annual immigration to no more than 3 percent of each nationality of U.S. residents, according to the census from 11 years before.

Locally, in early May 1921, a huge fire that threatened Summerhaven on Mount Lemmon was finally brought under control. Hundreds of men, including many volunteers from Tucson, were used to fight the man-made blaze.

In downtown's Armory Park, the annual May Festival was held. Attended by 3,000 public school students and an untold number of parents, the pageant included crowning a May Queen, wrapping colorful ribbons around three May poles, and a series of dances.

At its weekly luncheon a few days later, the Chamber of Commerce heard the city of Tucson was facing a $122,000 deficit, or more than 20 percent of its total budget. To cover the shortfall, the suggestion was made to double the water rate. Another idea, which didn't go over so well, was to eliminate the city's $355 monthly appropriation to the chamber.

More discontent was stirred up when a committee of the Young Men's Business Club proposed the renaming of city streets to honor Tucson pioneers. Among the recommendations: Speedway Boulevard should become Salpointe Street, and 17th Street should be rechristened Padre Kino Street.

But just like Tucsonans were unable to decide which Mexican restaurant in town had the best food, proponents were unable to see these proposals accomplished.