World-renownedfood blogger Mark Wiens, right, ate tacos at Rollies Mexican Patio in mid-June as part of his tour of Tucson’s Mexican food. From left, Adam Lehrman, California restauranteur Jeffrey Merrihue and Jorge from Mexi Papa Adventure.

When Mark Wiens talks food, the world listens.

Or at least the nearly 8 million foodies who follow his YouTube channel and watch the videos he posts of himself eating all over the world listen.

In mid-June, the 35-year-old Wiens, regarded as one of the top food bloggers in the world, focused his tastebuds on Tucson’s Mexican food. He spent a couple of days eating his way through south-side favorites Taqueria El Rapido, Rollie’s Mexican Patio and El Guero Canelo, and downtown’s El Charro Cafe.

Empanadas with Caribbean, Central- and South-American flavors are becoming increasingly popular in Tucson. You can find several variations of empanadas at restaurants and food trucks in the Old Pueblo.

One of the videos focuses exclusively on El Charro, from the restaurant’s rooftop carne seca drying operation to its place in history as the birthplace of the chimichanga.

Wiens, the son of missionaries and a Phoenix native who grew up around the world, posted videos last week of his Tucson visit to his YouTube channel. As of Thursday, July 1, the videos had garnered a combined 1.7 million views, which El Charro’s Ray Flores said was a big boost to Tucson’s restaurant industry.

“I think any attention to the market is great,” Flores said.

Wiens’ Tucson visit was apparently inspired by his friend Jeffrey Merrihue, who owns Heroic Italian Restaurant in Santa Monica, California. Tucson Foodie’s Adam Lehrman offered to be the tour guide and tagged along with Merrihue, Wiens and food blogger Jorge from Mexi Papa Adventures.

Rollies chef-owner Mateo Otero said he was surprised when Lehrman came through the door with Weins.

“I wasn’t expecting it to be Mark Wiens,” said Otero, who said Lehrman had told him he wanted to include Rollies in a video project. “He’s like the new Anthony Bourdain. He’s big. The guy has 8 million followers on his YouTube.”

Otero said he prepared a huge spread for the entourage, including rolled chicken and potato tacos, Nana’s tacos, birria cheese tacos and birria ramen and flat enchiladas.

Wiens could not be reached to comment on what prompted his Tucson tour, but Otero said he believes it was linked to Tucson’s City of Gastronomy designation. Tucson was the first city in America to earn the UNESCO designation back in 2015. San Antonio is the only other American city with the designation, which it received in 2017.


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Contact reporter Cathalena E. Burch at cburch@tucson.com. On Twitter @Starburch