Kirk and the missus are off to somewhere, Cathy has been blogging up a storm in their absence, but today ed (from yuma) wants to help them out by telling you and the rest of the world about an NEW/old Mexican restaurant in Yuma that's really good.
Sadly, El Zarape is no longer operated by Don Chuy. It is now run by the Duron family who have some excellent asada, but, still, I miss this previous El Zarape
When I moved to Yuma over 10 years ago, I thought the best Mexican restaurant in town was El Zarape, which featured the cooking of Pepe Jimenez. Within a few years, Pepe had gone off to open Los Manjares and El Zarape fell on hard times. Two or three different owners couldn't make the somewhat inconspicuous restaurant on Eighth Street a success. Food quality went downhill. The restaurant finally closed after the Great Recession hit.
What I discovered was that one of Pepe's chefs had decided to open his own place here, his daughters (who had been the best servers at Los Manjares) waiting the tables.
I also immediately discovered that El Zarape (officially named, El Zarape de "Don Chuy") is serving some great Mexican food at good prices.
This was perfectly prepared. The two eggs over-easy fit on top of the crispy corn tortilla perfectly. The Ranchero sauce had just a hint of sour tang that played off the natural sweetness of the eggs beneath it. The frijoles were good as were the breakfast potatoes.
Don Chuy aims to please, and will do breakfast plates "al gusto" – as you like them ($5.50-$7.25). So one morning, Tina decided to combine carnitas, nopales (cactus pads), and egg. It looked like this:
Similarly, the restaurant will make breakfast burritos containing pretty much whatever you want for $3.50. Since the carnitas, cactus, and egg combination was so tasty, we had it in a burrito as well:
Another treat here are the quesadillas. To be honest, most quesadillas I've eaten in my life have been unimpressive, often greasy or soggy. Not here – the perfectly prepared quesadillas are grilled to perfection, the edges of the flour tortilla crispy and crunchy:
And you can get the quesadillas with meat and cheese fillings. This one has carne asada:
Great Asada, wonderful melty cheese, perfect flour tortilla.
Or al pastor:
When you open them up, along with the meat, you will see guacamole, chopped tomato, chopped lettuce, chopped jalapenos, cilantro, and on the bottom bun, a thin smear of frijoles:
During the week, El Zarape also has daily specials ($5.50 at lunch) such as decent chicken mole:
A textbook example of carne en su jugo:
The beef was tender, the bacon flavorful, the beans beany, and the broth rich and complex.
Even better than the version at Pepe's. Big chunks of pork on rib bones in smoky and spicy chipotle sauce.
The regular dinner plates also offer some outstanding dishes. Tina has fallen in love with the carnitas ($8.99 – like all dinners, it includes beans, rice, and tortillas) Here is an order packed to go:
There's more meat underneath the pico de gallo. Zarape's carnitas tends to be rich and tender, more on the roast pork rather than crispy side on the carnitas scale.
El Zarape is also one of the few places in town that regularly has birria de chivo ($9.50). None of my pictures of the dish is worth the electrons it would take to post here, so to give you an idea of the birria, here is what a couple of the chunks of goat meat looked like in a little of the broth:
The chile rellenos ($8.99) are also good, as you can tell from this picture:
The camarones a la diabla ($10.99) is an excellent rendition of this classic dish. As Dave pointed out, the muy picante sauce was nearly pure ground dried red chile, wonderfully spicy and deeply flavorful. Mouth filling hotness that did not overwhelm the taste of the shrimp, but rather emphasized it:
The machaca ($7.99) is the best in town:
I was going to say that the full beefy flavor was in your face – but actually, it was in my mouth. Really good. The beef ranged from tender chewy to slightly charred, its meaty textures complemented by the green pepper, onion, and tomato pieces that were not overcooked.
As you can tell by all the photos I've taken, I like this place. While it does not have a menu quite as extensive as Mi Rancho or Los Manjares, there are plenty of choices for everyone. With the exception of the watery house salsa, I have enjoyed everything I have been served, and the prices are as good or better than anywhere else. On top of the constant great value, some items have been truly outstanding – the best in Yuma.
I also like the family aspect of the place. The family cares about the restaurant, the food, and the customers. On Sundays, when Don Chuy's granddaughter helps out, they even have the youngest assistant waitress in town (and she's good):
El Zarape de "Don Chuy," 1905 W. 8th St., Yuma, AZ 85364, (928) 782-7279. Open daily 6:30 AM to 9:00 PM.