Christian Lopez, a master griller at The Quesadillas, adds a dash of salt to the meat at The Quesadillas.

When The Quesadillas opened in 2016, it was an exciting day for Marcos Barragan.

Barragan, who describes himself as a cook — not a chef, had taken the leap and opened his own restaurant at 2418 N. Craycroft Road.

But no one was coming in.

Eventually a woman who worked across the street at Tucson Medical Center wandered over, asking Barragan if they had burritos. After explaining that they specialized in quesadillas, the woman headed for the door.

That’s when Barragan sprang into action, offering her a plate of tacos to take for free. The woman soon returned with many of her coworkers, who all fell in love with the food he made.

Marcos Barragan, owner of The Quesadillas, flips a steak on the grill.

Since 2016, The Quesadillas has kept customers coming back for their flavorful cooking and quesadillas that will put a smile on your face as soon as you take a bite. Without the help of advertising or social media, The Quesadillas earned their reputation through word of mouth, making it one of Tucson’s best-kept secrets.

When looking at a typical restaurant menu, dishes like hamburgers and tacos might be listed up top, with quesadillas usually found on the bottom. Barragan wanted to start a restaurant that let the quesadillas shine, putting them on top of the menu for once.

Pictures of quesadillas and tacos are plastered on the front doors and when you walk in, you are hit with the sweet smell of carne asada. The kitchen sits in the middle of the space, so you can see Barragan and the rest of his crew hard at work cooking meat and crafting quesadillas.

The Quesadillas, 2418 N. Craycroft Road, has expanded over the years.

Over the years, word began to spread and Barragan’s daughter, Alex, urged him to expand the dining area.

“My dad didn't expect to go as big,” Alex said. “When we first got this location, he was expecting us to stay little and I kept telling him we need to expand.”

Barragan was able to expand the dining area to help keep up with the lunch rush. Once it hits noon, people flock to The Quesadillas to get a taste of their food. Barragan is even working on a shaded outdoor area out back to add more space to the once little restaurant.

All this growth is possible thanks to Barragan’s cooking skills. Al pastor quesadillas, ribeye tacos and Sonoran dogs are just a few of the items on the menu, each made from love and fresh ingredients. But Barragan’s real bread and butter is his carne asada quesadilla.

Barragan’s quesadillas would laugh at the sight of a tortilla warmed up in a microwave with cheese melted on top. It takes real skill to create his carne asada quesadilla, which includes two very important steps: quality ingredients and mesquite grilling.

A birria quesadilla cooks on the stovetop at The Quesadillas.

Barragan does not skimp when it comes to meat; he makes sure to buy the highest quality meat he can so he can ensure the best flavor. He also buys the freshest vegetables for his salsa bar and even makes the tortillas from scratch.

Unlike other places, Barragan cooks all his meat, including the carne asada, with mesquite. Out back, there are stacks and stacks of mesquite logs which are used in the grilling process. By using mesquite to grill the meat, Barragan’s carne asada develops a smokey flavor that takes the meal to the next level.

One the meat is ready, it is finely chopped and spread inside the cheesy tortilla — and they have also mastered the art of adding the perfect amount of cheese. You still want to have an iconic cheese pull when you bite in, but it can’t be so cheesy that you don’t get to taste all the other flavors.

Christian Lopez, a master griller at The Quesadillas, flips the steak while he works the grill at The Quesadillas.

Once you take your first bite, you can’t help but sit back and smile. The flavors of the smokey carne asada mixed with the cheese and homemade flour tortillas blend together perfectly, leaving you thinking about how something so simple like a quesadilla can leave you so speechless.

Aside from ingredients and talent, love is also what makes The Quesadillas so special. Both Barragans take the time to talk to customers, having regulars who have been coming back since 2016. You can taste in the food that Barragan’s passion for cooking runs deep.

Like the woman from Tucson Medical Center, once you eat at The Quesadillas, you’ll run to tell your friends about the hidden gem you just discovered.

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Jamie Donnelly is the food writer for #ThisIsTucson. Contact her via e-mail at