My inlaws came in last Sat (4 days ago). I was at work until 10:40p (even though I was supposed to be off at 10p), so didn't see them 'til Sunday morning. I worked Sunday 9:45a-5p. sigh. They decided to take us to dinner on Sunday night.
Dave and I have this thing where it takes us an hour or more to decide where to eat. Usually we can narrow it down to two places, then we flip a coin. We've even been known to go through this whole nonsense, get to the restaurant, sit in the parking lot and say, "Let's go to the other place." We're lame.
So Sunday night, we're talking about where to go. Dave says it's up to me and I say the only places I know that are really good, they won't like (Thai and Indian food). We talk about the restaurant we went to a coupla weeks ago but the inlaws aren't crazy about Mexican food either. I say, "Let's try the other Mexican place. The one we haven't tried yet." He says, "Maybe. But what if it sucks? I'm not crazy about the Mexican situation around here." For some reason, that phrase struck me as really funny. Granted, I was very tired and hungry.
There really is a bad situation here for us when it comes to Mexican food! We're used to really good, authentic, inexpensive Mexican food. Tucson was just two hours from the border so you had a huge range of options. Our favorite for traditional style was El Charro. The original, downtown, was opened in 1922! The one on Broadway and Wilmot is pretty good, the original is the best, the other "new locations" are shit. Weird, considering they all have the same menu.
The best by far in Tucson is Cafe Poca Cosa. You will not find fajita, burrito, or enchilada anywhere on the menu. It's traditional, sonoran mexican food. The menu changes twice a day (go at lunch, it's cheaper and they have the "juice of the day" which is always something fabulous like tangerine-cantaloupe or something equally imaginative) and it's all so fresh and tasty! The waiter comes to your table with a small chalkboard with the entrees written in Spanish. They tell you what the entrees are and what's in each dish. At the end of the menu is always the Chef's Choice. Get this. It changes from plate to plate and you can't choose what's on your plate. However, each plate gets a sampling of three things. One beef, one chicken and one of the tamale pie-ish things. (Only once did my third option have the fish.) I got Chef's Choice every time we went and was never disappointed!
The first time I went was with my friend Paul (Paul Yenter, where are you?) when we were still stationed in Ft. Huachuca. We walked in and another table was being served. I remember seeing the waiter put down a small bowl of rice and a small bowl of beans and thinking, 'That's not enough rice and beans!'. Seriously, you get so much delicious food on your plate, you don't have room for the delicious rice and beans! Your plate comes with a salad and some fresh fruit piled on your entree. I'm slavering just thinking about it!
Here in Parker, we've tried 3 of the four Mexican restaurants with mediocre (at best) results. What is it in Colorado about thick tortillas?? We ate at Hacienda Colorado out near Lincoln/I-25. That was really good! They are a "homemade, fresh" restaurant, as described by our waiter. They get food and make things and if there's any left at the end of the day, out it goes. Fresh food every 24 hours. Something like that. When we walked in, the decor (with it's warm walls, iron lighting and stone floors) had me whispering to Dave, "This place looks expensive." It's not! It's very reasonable and the food is excellent! There's not too much in the way of really spicy. The waiter says that they rely on flavor rather then heat to make the dishes good. They have something there! Dave had some dish with the green chile on top. The meat was tender and flavorful. I had the fish tacos. They were simply the best fish tacos I've ever eaten. Even the kids chicken tenders were good!
Here's my Tippa Tuesday:
Whenever I go to a new restaurant, the first thing I do is check the bathroom. If it's dirty, I won't eat there. I don't mean a mess some previous guest made (I know they can't police that every second), I mean dingy sinks, dingy walls, toilets that obviously haven't had much attention. I figure, if they can't keep the bathrooms clean, what must the kitchen look like?
Don't get me wrong, I've eaten in some serious dives and the food their is usually the best! But if it's not a dive, it should be clean. I know, it's a weird distinction that divides only in my tiny brain!
Looking for more (close to us) good restaurants, Ruth!
P. S. Sunday, we ended up eating at Johnny Carino's. I'm usually not a fan of chain eateries but this was pretty good! With the main entrees, you get all-you-can-eat soup or salad. All the dishes were so enormous that we were fine with the prices (btw $12-$18 per plate). There was more then enough of lunch for everyone the next day.