Best Thing I Ate All Week: A Badass Green Chile Tuna Melt

The chill interior of Chula Seafood
The chill interior of Chula Seafood
Chris Malloy
Keep New Times Free
I Support
  • Local
  • Community
  • Journalism
  • logo

Support the independent voice of Phoenix and help keep the future of New Times free.

I can make a good tuna melt. You can make a good tuna melt. My 1-year-old son can probably make a good tuna melt. The components are so simple, so easy to put together. You melt cheese that's on tuna that's on bread. Add spices or citrus, maybe, if you want. A joke to make, right?

And yet, after trying Chula Seafood's tuna melt, you quickly realize something: You, me, my son, your friends, my friends — on the subject of the tuna melt, we really don't know shit.

After trying Chula Seafood's version, you realize the tuna melt you know is no tuna melt. It is a pretender, a pale imitation, some basic union of tuna, bread, and cheese but no tuna melt.

Chula Seafood is perfectly equipped to make a high-level version of this humble sandwich. Co-owners Hogan Jamison and Jon Heflin source all kinds of empyrean fish for Valley hotels and restaurants, They famously use their own boat in San Diego to harpoon swordfish, loading fish right on the California dock. They also have a storefront in Scottsdale, one that peddles lunch and dinner rather than marine life wholesale.

In the shop with blue-painted walls, you can nab alabaster cod, watermelon-red tuna, and carrot-orange salmon for your raw or cooked at-home needs. A range of bowls are on offer, ceviche and poke. Weekly specials rotate. One is the tuna melt.

This past Wednesday, the day of the special, a line of lunchers coiled to the door. As time passed, you moved closer to the counter, shuffling through reggae and the chatter.

Over an iced rainbow of fish, you could see the tuna melts being made.

They crowd onto a monster panini press, capable of handling four sandwiches at a time. The folks at Chula put an aggressive press on your sandwich, ridging the bread with the grooves of the grill. The toasting lasts a while. It results in outer bread with some brown splotches, some burnt spots, and a crisp character that, with another minute of toasting, would be a genuine crunch.

The tuna in the middle, though, is soft. It has been cooked confit-style. That means cooked immersed in fat, a method that yields fall-apart tuna, duck, chicken, or whatever has been cooked.

The chill interior of Chula SeafoodEXPAND
The chill interior of Chula Seafood
Chris Malloy

This tuna melt speaks with a strong Southwestern accent. Green chiles provide low heat, a mere candle flicker of cool burn. You can still get the mild flavor of albacore and the dreamy quality of melted cheese, sprinkled on with a restrained hand. The cheese is queso Oaxaca. The toasted vehicle is Noble Bread, two slices of sexy grill-furrowed goodness. Yep, we're miles from Bumblebee, American cheese, and English muffins.

A little plastic container of chimichurri comes on the side. Dunk your sandwich if you please. The famous South American sauce brims with chopped herbs, parsley, and more. It has some tang, acidity enough to slice through the heft of the cheese and the steak-like density of the tuna.

You may not need that chimichurri. This Wednesday-only tuna melt is good enough sans sauce, operating on a  a different level than the sauce, one of subtleties: textures, flavors, small aromatics. Those pleasantly interlocking qualities, though nothing pyrotechnic, are what make this genre-lifting tuna melt so damn delicious.

Chula Seafood. 8015 East Roosevelt Street, Scottsdale; 480-621-5121.
Open Tuesday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.

Keep Phoenix New Times Free... Since we started Phoenix New Times, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Phoenix, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Phoenix with no paywalls.

We use cookies to collect and analyze information on site performance and usage, and to enhance and customize content and advertisements. By clicking 'X' or continuing to use the site, you agree to allow cookies to be placed. To find out more, visit our cookies policy and our privacy policy.


Join the New Times community and help support independent local journalism in Phoenix.


Join the New Times community and help support independent local journalism in Phoenix.