Right now Kirk is at a secret undisclosed location, Cathy is somewhere in San Diego, and ed (from Yuma) has just been eating in a new old Yuma Mexican restaurant.
It took one look and a couple of tastes to identify this green chili as a good version of old school Yuman green chili (see this previous post). Chunks of beef, pieces of green chile, bits of tomato, and no tomatillo anywhere, all very mildly spiced ($4.25).
On my next visit, I asked the owner if he was from Yuma, and he responded that he was not only from Yuma but that his family has also owned and operated Mexican restaurants in town for over 50 years. I probably looked puzzled until he stuck out his hand and introduced himself as Johnny Gutierrez. Oh yeah, more than 50 years.
I suspect that everyone who has grown up in Yuma (with the possible exception of strict vegetarians) and almost everyone of us who have moved here in adulthood have eaten at Mr. G's, The Chile Pepper (Mrs. G's), and/or Casa Gutierrez. The first two of these may be the most popular fast food restaurants in the city – around lunch or dinner there is a line of people waiting to order burritos or rolled tacos and another line of people waiting to pick up phone orders. The bean and cheese burritos, in particular, are legendary, the frijoles rich, smooth, creamy, and full of manteca.
A few years ago, I quit picking up food from the Chile Pepper, the closest location to my home, because of long waits, indifferent service, and steam tabled ingredients. Once I waited 20 minutes in line for an order I had called in 15 minutes previously, while huge orders were being filled a head of me and some regular customers were being waved to the front of the line. When I finally got my food, I realized that my order had been sitting bagged up in a warm moist holding area the entire time I was standing in line, so my burritos were a sorry soggy mess.
At Maria's Cocina, on the other hand, the dishes are prepared individually and the Gutierrez family recipes really shine.
I appreciate a breakfast burrito with vegetable ingredients, green chilies, onions, and tomatoes – though I don't understand why it is more expensive than a burrito with chorizo, ham, or bacon.
Basically, a mix burrito has read chile or green chile (your choice) with either beans or rice (your choice) - personally, I love the creamy richness the frijoles add.
Like the green chile, the red chile is packaged for take out and equally savory. For some reason, the red chile at Chile Pepper always has tasted powdery or dusty to me, but Maria's Cocina prepares it so that it has deep rich full smooth dried chile flavors (red chile dinner, $4.25):
Really good, old school, tacos.
You get everything on this tray, menudo itself, a small bowl of salsa, diced onions and cilantro, lemon wedges, grilled bolillo roll (or tortillas), dried red chili flakes, and oregano. The soup itself is deeply flavorful, muy rico, and full of tripe and nixtamal kernals:
None of the food at Maria's Cocina is cutting-edge or unusual. These are standard family recipes. The same stuff Yuma grandparents ate as kids. The food is, however, well prepared and extremely well priced. Those are both good things.
Maria's Cocina, 2241 S. Ave. A, Ste # 16, Yuma AZ, (928) 329-2988. Open mornings through evenings Monday-Saturday.