I really have no idea what Cathy and Kirk are doing today, but they are not posting at mmm-yoso, because Ed (from Yuma) has a post here instead. But before the actual post begins, Ed wants to give a shout out to the fabulous Tamale Festival in Somerton (just a few miles S of Yuma on Hwy 95) which this year will take place on Saturday, Dec 20, 2014. Over 40 different tamale vendors - real artisan tamales, some of the very best I have ever eaten. Come Go!
This is the prime season for dining out – out-of-doors, actually – in Yuma. Here are two places well worth a visit.
El Buen Taquito
Some things change – some things stay the same. El Buen Taquito has been part of the Yuma dining scene for a long time, well before my first post about it. Now EBT has relocated to 8th Street almost across from Food City, and it is only partially a taco truck these days:
As you can see, there is now a semi-enclosed space as well as restrooms; the cooking is done in the separate truck.
Currently, there is no identifier on the building because the signage for the new location is a small billboard facing west at the edge of the lot:
On the other hand, the menu is basically the same:
You go up to the window, place your order, get a number, and sit at one of the tables inside or out. Your food will arrive shortly.
Tina and I started with the consommé:
As previously, this was really good. Both of us appreciated that this broth was more complex than we anticipated – with herbal and citrusy notes that enhanced its beefiness.
Tina ordered two flautas, a taco dorado, and a tostada:
I received two sopes:
and five flautas:
EBT is the king of crunch. The simple potato rolled tacos were magnificent, perfectly deep-fried (who knows in what?). The mild shredded beef flavored the crispy folded taco and the tostada. My sopes lacked the crackle of the other items, but the corn cakes had a nice chew. I found the whole meal to be filling and satisfying. EBT doesn't do a lot, but what it does, it does well.
El Buen Taquiyo seems open from before lunch into the later evening every day, and it always seems to have customers.
Mariscos El Delfin
This is the second year for this small restaurant that occupies the space that previously contained the El Navegante truck (1019 Ave B):
Seafood is not just the specialty here, it is just about the only thing served. The truck seems to be a one-woman operation, and her English is not fluent, but this modest seafood stand with two plastic tables is doing a good job.
Recently I stopped in for her combination coctele – containing pulpo and Camaron (octopus and shrimp) ($10):
The sundae glass nearly overflowing with seafood. The octopus was perfectly prepared, not gooey nor leathery, just fresh and chewy tasting:
The shrimp fresh and perfectly cooked:
As well as sauces sitting on the table, Delfin has a first-rate HOT house salsa that can perk up anything: While the seafood was perfectly prepared, the cocktail liquid was dominated by lime flavors and a bit one-dimensional. I also prefer a wider range of ingredients such as the campechanas at Juanita's or Mariscos Mar Azul.
On the other hand, right now Mariscos El Delfin is making my favorite fish tacos in town:
The fish filets are fresh and hot and flavorful. While the breading could be crunchier, the taco is otherwise wonderful and perfectly balanced.
The shrimp tacos likewise:
Tina and I were also amazed by the ceviche:
While not containing a lot of pescado, the freshness of all of the ingredients impressed. The balance between the citric tang and the crisp sweetness of the veggies was the perfect backdrop for the fish. No way overpowering, but just about right in every way.
Mariscos El Delfin is open 10 AM to 5 PM every day of the week except Monday.
Recently, readers of mmm-yoso have been in Japan with Kirk and in Pasadena with Cathy, but today you get to come over to Yuma with Ed for tacos and more.
It is the fall, the time trees turn color and lose leaves, birds (including snowbirds) head for warmer climes, traffic thickens in town, and Yuma's taco trucks flourish.
Way back around November 2005, Kirk came to Yuma and sampled our taco truck cuisine and dubbed a cluster of trucks in an empty lot "a food court." In the fall of 2013, the newest taco court opened on a large concrete pad in a previously empty lot on the west side of Pacific Avenue just about a block south of 16th St. – not really very far from Yuma Palms shopping center:
There are a lot of parking places and tables and chairs:
And currently at least four different taco purveyors:
Let me apologize here for the limitations of this post. Some of the photos are lousy, and they are the best I had because of bad lighting and unskilled photographer. On top ot that, Tina and I have visited these trucks several times when I had no camera with me. So this post is more of a shout out than a report.
On our most recent visit, we tried Blancurri’s, one of the smaller vendors:
The special that evening was $1 pollo asado tacos:
Pretty good, but a little dry. Our favorite taco that night was what's called the mix chilada taco, a flavorful and spicy combination of carne asada and red chile chicharrones (sorry for the lousy picture):
The adobada torta was good as well, the tender pork chunks slightly spicy and the bolillo roll nicely grilled.
Arianna’s, which has been here since the marketplace area first opened, anchors the north side of the lot:
Tina and I have enjoyed the wide range of tacos here – including pastor and chicharones:
Or tripas and asada:
Tina especially enjoyed the nutty earthy flavor of the tripas and we both liked the chicharrones with red chile.
The hot dogs are another specialty, bacon wrapped, nicely grilled, and served in a hot bun with the full range of condiments:
The Monster truck is located at the other end of the food court:
It features a somewhat different menu including some unusual choices:
For most of Monster's dishes, you get to choose between asada, pollo, or pastor, but the pellizcadas includes all three meats, whole beans, cabbage, and onion on a large soft thick corn tortilla:
Tina and I both enjoy the vampires here, the toasted corn tortillas adding crunch to the meats and condiments. Here is one with asada:
The pastor is also excellent:
The monster taco has a soft tortilla, abundant roasted green chili, and your choice of protein and condiments:
The tortas (in this case with chicken) are extra-large here:
But the true monster on the menu is the hotdog:
The extra-large bacon wrapped wiener is slathered with condiments and coupled with a grilled guero pepper and abundant grilled onions. Truly outstanding dog.
In any case, this is a convenient cluster of interesting mobile eateries, which allows folks to wander around and try different dishes. They all have excellent aguasfrescas. Most of the trucks seem open every evening (if not sooner), and we've enjoyed every visit. Take advantage of our nice weather, try some things here, and let us know what you liked.
Guzmán Marketplace (this seems to be the official name of the foodcourt), 1628 S. Pacific Ave., Yuma, Arizona.
mmm-yoso!!! is a foodblog where Kirk and Cathy post about restaurants and recipes and locations of interest to folks in San Diego country and often throughout the world. Today Ed (from Yuma) has a long post that will mostly be of interest to folks in Yuma. You have been warned.
This last year has been tough for Yuma restaurants. Chains like Mimi's and Outback have closed Yuma locations. Local restaurants like The Mad Greek, Spanky's Chophouse, and El Papagallo are shuttered. Countering this trend, Frank's opened in July at the old Nick's Coffee Mill location, a spot that I considered cursed because restaurant after restaurant there has failed over the last 10 or 12 years:
I guess this location is still cursed. At about the same time this post hit the Internet, Frank's closed this location and moved to 1245 Desert Hills Dr - basically just off of Avenue A, at the municipal golf course south of 32nd. This may be the fastest closure following a post in the history of mmm-yoso!!! Makes me feel like a typhoid Mary (or in 2014 parlance, an Ebola Ed). If Frank's sounds good to you, try the new location.
Frank's, however, seems to be a success, the restaurant and the parking lots generally full at breakfast, lunch, and dinner seven days a week. Most of the booths and a lot of chairs at the front of the restaurant are occupied:
As are the tables in the large back room:
There is a lot to like about Frank's. It is owned and operated by a local family, and almost every time I've been there, Frank himself is watching and supervising. The folks who wait tables are well trained and friendly. When I eat by myself, I am usually called "honey" or "sweetie." Us older gents appreciate that. The prices are also very reasonable, and most folks in Yuma appreciate that.
On the other hand, the food itself has been somewhat inconsistent. The coffee is pretty ordinary:
As is the iced tea:
The restaurant advertises itself as having the "Best Ribs and Fish in Town." So one Friday evening, Tina and I showed up for the ribs and the fish. Friday is all-you-can-eat fish fry ($9.99), and both Tina and I thought the fish platter was good:
I like the coleslaw here, the very fresh cabbage with a slightly sweet and goopy slaw sauce:
On the other hand, the crinkle cut fries are just like you would expect, pretty boring, and not at all crunchy, even when ordered extra crispy. The cod fillets, however, are outstanding:
The breading was crunchy and stayed on the fillets. But they weren’t overbattered. The fish was moist and clean flavored and tasted fresh. I would order this again happily. In fact, I wish Frank’s would add a cod burger to the sandwich choices. That would be yummy.
On the other hand, the best parts about the rib platter were the excellent baked beans and coleslaw and how this half rack looked on the plate ($13.99):
The parboiled ribs had been briefly grilled and then covered in sauce. While they were certainly tender and the meat fell off the bone, there was no discernible smoky flavor (in Frank's defense, the menu does not claim that the ribs are barbecued).
Lunches also have been somewhat inconsistent. On my first visit, I ordered the plain burger ($6.99). I loved the fresh and generous toppings – lettuce, tomato, onion slice, and dill pickles – though the french fries were meh:
The preformed half pound patty was not greasy, but a little overcooked. Next time, I would order cheese, and employ more condiments to flavor the burger:
And I wish Frank's served a better brand of ketchup than First Street, which I find bland and mediocre. Perhaps better ketchup would improve my appreciation of the french fries. Perhaps.
These days, the burgers come with coleslaw, but in the early days a salad (now $2.99) was an optional side. The quality of the greens and veggies were generally good:
I was impressed by the generous portion and the use of mesclun lettuce, instead of iceberg. Fancy lettuces make the salads here a little special.
In contrast, the club sandwich ($7.25) was a disappointment. I’ve been eating club sandwiches for close to 60 years now, and have fond memories of accompanying my grandmother to Woolworth's or Newberry's (she called them dime stores) for shopping and lunch, which for me was always a club sandwich – roasted turkey, bacon, lettuce, and tomato arranged on three slices of toast, cut in quarters and arranged around a small scoop of potato salad.
I knew I wouldn't be getting the potato salad, but I was still surprised by this: The sandwich was buried under a generous portion of french fries. I expected that. The menu had also prepared me for the slice of cheese (cheese?), but the menu had not prepared me for the slices of mediocre ham, which were far more evident than any bacon, and the "oven roasted turkey" had clearly been roasted in an oven hundreds or perhaps thousands of miles away. A really good club sandwich should be focused on the flavors of bacon, real roasted turkey, lettuce, tomato, and mayo. Those flavors go together and complement each other. Other stuff is an annoying distraction. Grumble grumble.
Other sandwiches have been more enjoyable. The hot beef sandwich ($7.25) was more than I could eat for lunch. The mashed potatoes were made on premises and were full of nice chunks of potato. There were around six fairly thick slices of beef and at least two slices of white bread. It was all covered with dark brown gravy:
Nonetheless, the "oven roasted beef" was more like a good quality deli beef thickly sliced than real roast beef. The dark brown gravy was dark and brown and not too salty, but generally flavorless, the sort of thing I would expect to find in a jar of "dark brown gravy." Still, for $7.25, it was a steal.
I also liked the Reuben sandwich (on this day served with non-crinkle cut fries), which was a pretty good attempt at a Reuben:
The pastrami was lean and mild, the rye toast flavorful and well seeded, and the sauerkraut warmed up and placed between layers of meat so that it didn't make the bread soggy. There was a definite layer of "swiss" cheese, and a little bit of thousand island dressing. While I would've liked a bit more dressing for the sweet/sour contrast, this wasn't bad at all and well worth the $7.49.
Overall, the breakfasts are probably the most consistent food choices at Frank's – and now Frank's serves breakfast all day long.
For good old boys and girls, there is the biscuits and gravy special with two eggs and bacon or sausage ($7.25):
Though not ethereal, the biscuits were pretty good and the gravy was nicely flavored and not too thick and pasty. The sausage was decent. Over easy eggs were well cooked though Tina thought they could have been warmer, as if they were plated first, then the sausage patties, and finally the biscuits and gravy.
If the waffle itself had been a little crisper, the Belgian waffle breakfast special ($7.25) would have been outstanding:
The one time I ordered a single pancake as a side ($2.99), I thought it had a better texture and flavor than the waffle:
Maybe the best single meal that I have had at Frank's was the mushroom and Jack cheese omelette ($7.99):
Okay, the hashbrowns were pretty ordinary and not crispy enough for my taste, but the mushroom and cheese omelette was sublime:
The whole meal was good enough that I even tolerated the Smucker' s "jellies":
Similarly, Tina loves the veggie and cheese omelette ($7.99):
Notice the numerous fresh mushrooms, chopped tomatoes, diced onions, and bell pepper strips.
On the other hand, my Southwestern omelette ($7.99) was supposed to contain diced green chilies, onions, tomatoes, and Jack cheese, topped with salsa and cheddar, but there really wasn't very much in the omelette – most of the flavor came from the salsa on top:
One other thing to watch out for, while most of the omelettes are pretty good, twice Tina was served "veggie and cheese" omelettes that had a suspiciously large amount of ham:
In other words, check your omelette before eating.
Reading over this post, I realize I have been a bit picky about some things. It's my curse to get weird about stuff like packaged jellies and club sandwiches. But I don't want to convey the notion that I have not had a good time at Frank's and have not enjoyed the food. Frank's is a value restaurant, not a gourmet restaurant. For the quality of the food and the excellence of the service, the prices are incredibly cheap. Some of the best restaurant deals in town.
On top of that, the last time I was paying the check, the cashier handed me back more money than I expected. "Why am I getting cash back?" "Oh, hon,”she said, waving her hand at me, "you get the senior discount." "I didn't know you guys had a senior discount." "We do now, so you be sure to tell all your friends."
I think I just did.
Frank's Family Dining, 2951 S. 4th Ave., Yuma, AZ 85364, (928) 276-4950. 1245 Desert Hills Dr.
Kirk is somewhere traveling. Cathy is in San Diego County, but she's busy today. So it's another post from Ed (from Yuma).
A few weeks ago, Tina and I were discussing breakfasts in Yuma with some good friends of ours who told us that the best breakfasts in town were at Burgers and Beer. My response was "Huh?"
It's not that I didn't know about Burgers and Beer – this large restaurant has been on 20th St. just east of Fourth Avenue in Yuma since before I moved to town:
This location is part of a small chain in the desert Southwest stretching from Yuma all the way up to Rancho Mirage, but I have only been to the one in Yuma.
Until recently, I thought of it as a good sports bar with a lot of memorabilia:
It is a large space with many booths and tables available:
There is even a small patio space that's great now that the weather around here has gotten very pleasant:
But breakfasts – at a sports bar most known for a wide variety of burgers, a decent selection of beers, and mixed drinks? I have to say I was skeptical, particularly since I rarely have a Bloody Mary with breakfast these days. However, Greg and Loidene insisted that we would like it so Tina and I showed up one morning the following weekend, and we have probably gone back for at least one breakfast every weekend since then.
One thing we love is the large carafe of coffee that shows up automatically when you order coffee ($2.65):
While the coffee itself is nothing special, the carafe is very convenient. Also a nice touch are the sea salt grinder and black pepper grinder on every table:
Over these few weeks, we have had a chance to sample a good variety of breakfast choices, though the breakfast menu is very extensive. For example, in addition to regular pancakes, you can order sweet potato pancakes (two pancakes with a side of ham $5.95):
These were good, a little denser than regular pancakes with a light sweet potato flavor. The ham slice is my least favorite breakfast meat option at Burgers and Beer, being a little too salty and overprocessed for my taste.
On the other hand, the sausage patties are very savory and fully flavored with herbs and spices. They were the star of a waffle combination plate that also included two over-easy eggs ($9.09):
While the eggs were perfectly cooked, the waffle was pretty standard, even though the soft butter and warm syrup provided the perfect complement.
In contrast to the waffle, Tina and I both loved the French toast – again with sausage ($8.19):
The thick soft warm eggy bread dusted with tasty cinnamon is what French toast should taste like.
Another favorite of Tina's is the vegetarian omelet ($8.99), really more like a thin frittata made with egg whites, feta cheese, and perfectly cooked vegetables:
I don't normally think of squash and broccoli for breakfast, but this was tasty and well prepared, a very flavorful and healthy breakfast option. In addition, Burgers and Beer does a great job serving crispy hash browns when you order them that way.
Those hash browns were just as good with this standard two egg breakfast plate with bacon ($8.19):
I was very pleased with this basic breakfast. Not only where the hash browns audibly crunchy and the eggs perfectly cooked, but I also liked getting five strips of bacon.
The crowning touch, however, was other component of the breakfast:
The toast choices included wheat berry, which is my favorite, and the strawberry jam that was available was Dickinson's strawberry preserves. While not as good as what my grandmother used to make, it is way more better than Smuckers. Another nice touch.
Along with the standard American breakfast items, Burgers and Beer may have the largest selection of Mexican breakfasts in town. Look at this chorizo and egg plate with refried beans and chips ($7.35):
The corn tortillas are also stellar:
Even better to my mind is the machaca egg plate ($8.35):
Usually machaca and eggs in Yuma contains a lot more egg then machaca. Not here, however:
Note the onions, peppers, and fresh tomatoes as well.
The chilaquiles breakfast also hit a home run ($7.99):
Here the excellent refried beans and eggs are served on the side and were both good, the scrambled eggs being sufficiently fluffy for my tastes. But the corn chips, still crunchy and covered in spicy red sauce, were outstanding:
Nothing from a can here – slices of poblano pepper and onion in a fresh tomato sauce – from the growers to the kitchen to my plate.
One of the more unusual Mexican egg dishes is Huevos Divorciados ($6.99):
Each sunnyside egg is perched on a corn tortilla and topped with a spicy fresh sauce, one red and one green. The eggs are divided by a row of refried beans covered with melted white cheese. Divorced eggs. I was pleased that each sauce was unique and matched and enhanced the egg beneath it.
Perhaps the most magnificent single breakfast item is the chile relleno omelet ($7.99):
Look at that gigantic poblano chili, roasted at the restaurant, wrapped in egg, and topped off with the great fresh red sauce. On this morning, the thinner end of the poblano was butterflied so that the omelet could lie flatter on the plate:
In this picture, you can see the fresh poblano, the cheese, the egg layers, and the salsa topping.
All in all, I think Greg and Loidene are probably right. Burgers and Beer has some of the best and most creative breakfasts in town. I love the attention to detail and the freshness of some dishes. Funny thing, as I was starting work on this post, I was watching a playoff MLB game. One commercial caught my attention. It was from Burgers and Beer advertising “The Best Breakfasts in Town.” Well if they say that on TV, it must be true.
Burgers and Beer, 321 W. 20th St., Yuma, AZ, (928) 783-3987. Open for breakfasts daily 7 AM-11 AM.
Not Kirk, not Cathy, today it's Ed (from Yuma) enjoying an omakase dinner with you.
Knowing I needed another location for a good sushi dinner, Kirk suggested Kokoro where he had good omakase recently. That made my decision easy.
Finding the sushi bar was harder because its address was on Greyling Drive, which connects to Sandrock, which runs south from Aero Road near Montgomery Field. Traffic on Aero was down to two lanes because of construction, so I distractedly missed the Sandrock intersection and had to come back and try again. Also confusing is Greyling Drive, which is called Gramercy Drive east of Sandrock . Then when I finally found what had to be the right stripmall, there was no evidence of a sushi bar anywhere. I remembered reading that Kokoro was next to a Subway, so I began looking carefully and spotted an anonymous storefront on the back side of the Subway building. I detected an A in the window, and just then, someone raised the window screen and I saw what I was looking for:
Almost as anonymous as Sakura.
Inside there were a few tables, one holding a party of six or eight individuals, and six seats around the sushi bar:
The arrangement of the sushi bar’s workspace itself struck me as unusual. There was no glassed-in display of fish. In addition, a large preparation area adjoined the bar so that the itamae, Akio-san, worked behind the large wooden cutting board and rice tub and handed trays or plates to the server who would then place them in front of me at the bar or people at a table:
Omakase dinners were available at three different price points, the most expensive being $85; however, that required ordering a few days in advance, but Akio-san told me that he could do something for me almost as good. My meal would cost $75.
It began with (stealing Kirk's words) " ohitashi....spinach with mushroom served in the typical kobachi - small bowl.”:
This version had different mushrooms than Kirk's and they were very narrowly sliced. Great knife work. The main flavor was green fresh spinach merely accented by the light dashi sauce.
Next to arrive were three items on a long rectangular tray:
On the left, two slices of skipjack sashimi, accompanied by a lemon slice, propped up by green seaweed, and touched with a thick and complex plum sauce:
Very good and well presented, I thought, the fresh fishy flavors of the tender jack balanced by the sweet umami of the sauce.
The braised duck was the centerpiece of the presentation, laying up against a large fresh shiso leaf and topped by thinly sliced scallion:
As Kirk commented, this rich presentation calls to mind braised pork belly – rich, meaty, and slightly salty. The shiso offered a fresh herbal contrast.
On the right was a sliced Japanese scallop atop sliced cucumber and highlighted with attractive red onion:
The scallop had a great solid soft texture, its mild flavor was enhanced by the sweet touch of light miso.
The next course, the sashimi plate, was the highlight of the meal, and Akio-san explained each of the items on the beautiful plate. In the back, two soft pink pieces of rich toro stood in front of a shiso leaf propped up with shredded daikon. Perhaps not as good as the toro at Shirahama, but really excellent anyway. Like the tuna belly, the other slices of fish were arranged to face me by laying up against little mounds of red and green seaweed. On the left were two slices of wild hamachi, firm and very flavorful but not as unctuous as the toro. In the middle of that central row, two pieces of solid and meaty "snapper, but not real snapper" (Akio-san) provided contrast to the hamachi and toro. On the right of that row, were two slices of rather ordinary tako, not bad by any means but rather mundane. On the right front of the tray, a deep golden piece of nutty and creamy uni tasted just about perfect, its consistency like a somewhat firm custard on its upper surface that melted into a soft rich sea urchin butter underneath:
OMG!! Somebody must have eaten all of that wonderful sashimi before I could remember to take a picture.
Oooooops. But it really did look good before it was eaten.
In contrast to the sashimi plate, the soup that followed was very simple and focused:
I lifted it up to my face and inhaled the light clean aromas arising from the bowl. Very lightly seasoned, excellent. Though the piece of whitefish at the bottom the bowl seemed to have given much of its flavor to the soup stock, the ethereal broth was warm and refreshing.
One thing that I had found wonderful about the meal so far was the variation of dishes served. In contrast to the long parade of sushi at Shirahama, each course at Kokoro was different. For example, this plate arrived in front of me after the soup:
On the left is braised daikon, which as Kirk pointed out is exceptionally good here. The firm bland root has become full of flavor and tender softness. The roasted eggplant wedges had more texture and were perfectly cooked, and the whole dish swam in rich gelatinous crab sauce. Intensely crabby (which is a good thing in a sauce). The thin slices of awabe (abalone) provided more textural contrast than taste.
Black cod misoyaki came next:
This sablefish was flavorful and perfectly cooked medium rare with just a touch of char. Unlike true cod, a dry fleshed fish that stores its body fat in its liver – hence cod liver oil, this black cod easily flaked into rich bite sized pieces. While the marinade certainly broke no new ground, it seemed adequate to me (of course, I have not eaten misoyaki all my life). I even liked the mild pickled carrot athwart the slice of fish.
Gobo root tempura, accompanied by coarse salt, followed:
I've never had this before, but wow! Crunchy and distinctively woody in flavor. Can't think of anything else that matches those flavors.
The nigiri sushi plate, which arrived next, added another dimension to the dinner:
The Spanish mackerel served with the touch with a touch of soy and decorated with thinly sliced scallions was very nice. The ebi next to it was just okay, a bit dry and ordinary:
Similarly, the tuna was fine, but far from exceptional. The sea eel, anago, was the highlight of the entire plate, moist, flavorful, and lightly salted. The yuzu kosho added a spicy tangy complexity. Very satisfying eel:
The tamago (omelet slices) were sweet, firm, and moist, and would have made a fitting conclusion the meal if I had not been offered a choice of Italian style ice creams. I selected rum raisin:
In a recent interview, Bishop Desmond Tutu said that his favorite indulgence is rum raisin ice cream; ice cream this good could become a favorite indulgence of mine as well.
I truly enjoyed my meal at Kokoro. While there were a couple clunkers, I appreciated its variety and the generally excellent quality of the ingredients and preparation. The simple decor and the tasteful jazz music in the background created a space that felt friendly to me. While not garrulous or charismatic, Akio-san was welcoming and helpful. Koji-san at Shirahama projects the humble persona of a craftsman continuing an ancient tradition; Akio-san, even while wearing traditional wooden shoes, displays a certain creative pride. He has reason to.
Kokoro, 3298 Greyling Dr, Ste B, San Diego CA 92123, (858) 565-4113, open 11:30-2:00 and 5:30-10:00.
Usually at the mmm-yoso foodblog, Kirk is the head chef, presenting meals from around the world and in San Diego; many times Cathy serves up some interesting dishes here too; today, however, ed (from Yuma) has some sushi (from San Diego) for you to enjoy.
Like most people, I am a creature of habit. I also love sushi, so when I find myself overwhelmed with desire for a sushi dinner (or two), I head to San Diego. Which explains my two day visit earlier this month.
The first dinner was Shirahama. I had been twice before and posted about it here and here. Because the chef’s presentations on this evening were similar to previous visits, a lot of this post will be pictures with minimal comments.
One thing that has changed in the past two years is the signage at the restaurant:
Something else different were the marinated baby squid that led off the meal:
Koji-san explained that the squid are placed in the marinade as soon as they are harvested to preserve their soft and delicate texture. These little guys were full of umami:
Next came tuna and fluke, much as before:
A mantis shrimp and a solid piece of snow crab were next:
The crab was very good, but the shrimp was rather different from what I would have expected, meaty but a bit dry and lacking in standard shrimp flavors.
The next to arrive were amberjack (kanpachi) and sprat:
The sprat was quite appealing to the eye, shining and reflecting light, a silver strip at each side of the little filet. This relative of herring had a clean fresh fishy flavor. The taste of the amberjack was even more striking – balanced firm richness, worthy of the mmm-yoso dance according to my notes.
Next came Spanish mackerel and a clam:
The mackerel was flawless and nicely accented with fresh grated ginger. On this evening, I was especially impressed by the clam which had a nice variety of textures from crunchy on the edge to soft chewy in the center, all very fresh and flavorful. One of the other customers said to his friends, "mirugai overwhelms rice; this clam is more balanced and refined." It was a good point.
I had started the meal drinking chilled water, but I finally broke down and ordered a 300 ml bottle of Dewazakura sake ($26.50):
Its label says that it has a floral nose and a mellow fruity flavor, along with "a wholesome freshness, a green apple tartness, and a refreshing finish." It seemed fine to me.
Octopus and see bream showed up next:
To me, the bream tasted a lot like good hirame, fresh clean whitefish flavor. The octopus, on the other hand, was uniquely wonderful. Uncooked, it was creamy and moist with a firm soft chewy texture and mild molluscy flavor. Three stars in my notes. Certainly one of the highlights of the meal and even better than the clam I had fallen in love with just a few bites earlier.
Fresh sardine and squid followed:
The ika was fine, pristine and mild in flavor, making it a perfect foil for the sardine, which had a big mouth filling flavor, the taste of the sea but not overly fishy, rich but not unctuous. Another excellent fish.
Koji-san had already wondered if I was finished, but I simply couldn't stop the wonderful meal. I did worry, however, that he might be running out of interesting sushi. The toro and yellowjack that he delivered next convinced me that he had not run through his bag of tricks yet:
The jack was okay though I am hard-pressed to remember much about it because the toro sitting beside it was so absolutely wonderful. Tender and buttery. It melted in my mouth, dissolving into creamy bliss. Wow!
The last item was sea eel topped with a few of salt crystals:
I thought it good, but not exceptional.
One thing that did seem exceptional that evening was this:
I took that picture of the gari as a reminder to myself. Shirahama’s pickled ginger that night seemed especially floral, complex, and sweetly spicy, so good it almost made me doubt my taste buds.
Shirahama is still on its game. Rather than trying to say what I have already said in some new way, I’m just going to plagiarize myself: Koji-san is the master of the traditional and old school and understated. Like a rock garden. If you have some extra money sitting around (this meal was $111) and want to have real Japanese sushi in a Japanese environment, this place is for you.
Sushidokoro Shirahama, 4212 Convoy, San Diego, 92111, (858) 650-3578, open daily 12:00-2:00 and 5:30-10:00
Kirk and Cathy get another day off - well at least a day off from posting here. Today Ed (from Yuma) is writing about a good place to slake a thirst in this desert community.
Being a very occasional blogger here at mmm-yoso, I sometimes feel plagued with bad timing. On two occasions, for example, I almost had a post about Mandarin Palace ready to go when the restaurant changed its menu or format, so none saw the light of day. Sometimes, I post about great places like Maria's Cocina, Mariscos El Navegante, or the crêpes truck that soon go out of business. While I was accumulating pictures of dishes at Grand China and then writing a post about them, Asian Star started up, took away most of the Chinese restaurant business in the area, and caused Grand China to close (It is now Yuma Palace). A while back I posted about Brewers, impressed with the six or eight taps of craft beer available there. About the time the Brewers post was up and running, the Pint House opened on Main Street and the beer scene in Yuma was transformed.
This recent beer list (August, 2014) shows why:
If you are counting, there are 52 taps of mostly craft beers, ales, and ciders. The list changes often, so if you see a beer that you've always wanted to try, you should probably order it because it may not be on the next list. Here's a Hoppy Bitch IPA:
A Kiltlifter Amber Ale:
And a Northwest Blood Orange Wheat Beer next to a Funkworks Saison:
This range of brews is truly amazing for Yuma, and the Pint House seems to be doing good business and keeping their beers fresh.
The bar and grill occupies the space on Main Street that was previously Carla Renée's and had been numerous other restaurants over the years:
Right next to The Old Town Wine Cellar, the Pint House is also accessible from Maiden Lane:
At that side, there is an outdoor seating area, not much populated during the days of summer:
The interior is nothing special:
The space is much like a sports bar, but patrons get to listen to music instead of blaring television sports commentary. In other words, it's easy to ignore the game/games and focus on the beverages and the food.
The menu includes numerous appetizers including some crispy crunchy fried calamari ($8.29):
Accompanied by a garlic aioli, these are a great beer snack – very crunchy, slightly salty, and not greasy at all. Of course, there is a lot more deep-fried crust than mollusk in each bite, so not my all-time favorite calamari, but still an addictive nibble.
Speaking of mollusks, another item we like as an appetizer is the pound of steamed clams ($14.29), drenched in a "boozy" garlic cilantro sauce accompanied with two large slices of crunchy bread:
The clams have always been fresh and not overcooked. The sauce is a little salty for my tastes, but it accents and balances the natural sweetness of the clams. It also makes a nice dipping sauce for the bread. (If you're looking for this on the menu, it is a "Pint House Signature" dish.)
The Pint House also has a range of salads. The wedge ($8.29) is a fine version of this old school iceberg lettuce treat:
Tina and I also like the garden salad ($6.29) – this is a split portion with ranch dressing:
Less to my taste is the side salad, here with the house raspberry dressing:
While the lettuce was perfectly fresh and cheese was okay, there wasn't much else going on in the salad and that raspberry dressing was nothing special. Truth be told, however, this picture is from several months ago, so it is possible that the side salad has morphed into something more interesting.
Alongside that ordinary side salad, sits one of my favorite menu items, the mushroom Swiss burger ($9.29):
The hand formed rich Angus patty is topped with melted Swiss cheese and generous layers of well grilled mushrooms. Very tasty.
Overall, I find the burgers and sandwiches to be the strongest parts of the menu. They all come with french fries or side salad, but you can upgrade to sweet potato fries or onion rings for a dollar extra. Here is a blackened chicken sandwich($9.99) with a side of onion rings (+$1):
Though the chicken breast slice was a little dry, the sliced tomatoes and avocados made this a good sandwich.
The onion rings, on the other hand, suffered from the same problem as the calamari – too much crunchy breading and not enough main ingredient. Each of those onion rings has one thin slice of onion only. Of course, the onion rings are great beer food; everybody loves hot, crunchy, and slightly salty snacks with beer.
On a good night, Tina and my favorite sandwich is the Cubano ($9.99):
A generous serving of flavorful shredded pork is enhanced with crunchy house pickles on top and a layer of cured meat (the menu says salami, but the sandwich this particular evening had pastrami:
Coupled with a garlic aioli on the top half of the baguette and mustard on the bottom half, the sandwich as a whole presents a very complex flavor profile – touches of smoky richness with contrastive tang and crunch. Really excellent.
The french fries, on the other hand, are pretty mediocre and generally soft, even though we ordered them extra crispy. Oh well.
Recently, the restaurant has added an extra page to the menu including items ranging from deep-fried bacon wrapped jalapenos to a caprese salad. Tina was instantly attracted to the blackened chicken salad wrap ($9.50):
This kind of chicken salad is the sort without mayonnaise. Served with a spicy salsa, it was basically a chicken Caesar salad wrapped in a flour tortilla. Tina liked it.
The Pint House also serves certain daily specials. A couple of times, I've been at the restaurant for Taco Tuesdays, where they offer a range of different tacos, including oyster:
The first time I had them, I thought they were incredible. The deep-fried oysters had been perfectly prepared so that their moist ocean funky flavor contrasted with the crunchy crusty batter. Even though the taco got pretty messy quickly, the flavors were amazing. Unfortunately on another occasion, the oysters were not as pristine, pushing that funkiness a little beyond pleasant.
On hotdog Mondays, a good range of excellent quarter pound all beef franks are served in a variety of ways. Here is a black and blue dog ($4):
Being old-fashioned, I had the chili dog ($4):
The chili was mildly spiced hamburger with onions and tomatoes, the whole dog topped with cheese and chopped onions. Maybe not the best chili I've ever had on hotdog, but the beefy sausage itself was excellent. And needless to say, excellent beer food.
The Pint House is a treasure. It makes me want to drink more beer – and clearly not just me. While the food items are somewhat hit and miss, a Yuma establishment with 52 taps, most pouring craft beers and ales, is a testament to the beer revolution that has been going on in this country for over 30 years. Sometimes my timing isn’t good, but The Pint House clearly has time on its side.
The Pint House, 265 S Main St, Yuma, AZ 85364, 928-782-0499, open daily 11 AM - 2 AM
Today, Kirk and Cathy get a vacation from this blog; instead, Ed (from Yuma) has a long post about a place that's been around even longer.
Brownie's is an institution. Founded in 1946, it's almost the oldest restaurant in town – it’s even older than me. Its original and distinctive standalone building is like a landmark on 4th Avenue:
And this is the view from the parking lot side:
The interior includes a counter area, one large table area, a smaller back room, and booths along the north and south walls and has miscellaneous decorations: some American flags, a stuffed deer head, drawings of John Wayne, Jimmy Dean, and Elvis (among others), artificial plants, and lots of historical pictures of Yuma, including this photo of Yuma High School when it was located in the abandoned territorial prison:
Students and sports teams at Yuma High are still fondly called Criminals. So, yes, folks here can say, "The best times of my life were the four years I was a Criminal."
On a summer weekday around 11:45 AM, there is plenty of open seating:
Most of the time, particularly around breakfast hours, Brownie's is packed:
The wait staff is extremely friendly, but also efficient and professional. Some servers specialize in seating customers, cleaning tables, and bringing beverages to the table; others take orders and bring out plates of food. The front of the menu fits the place perfectly:
So why haven't I blogged about Brownie's? Partly, I had already eaten at Brownie's a bunch of times before I ever met Kirk or even owned a camera; plus I assumed that damn near everybody in the Yuma area already knew about Brownie's, so what was the point?
But also a number of things that I had tried at Brownie's back in the day were underwhelming. The beef vegetable soup, chicken salad sandwich, and even a roast chicken dinner (when Brownie's was open in the evenings) were pretty much meh. The burgers were okay, but nothing to write home about – or even blog about. The side salads have always been ordinary at best, and their dressings don't taste homemade:
Recently, one of the salads even had a couple rotting leaves in it:
So why am I blogging about this restaurant now? Partly because Tina sometimes likes to go out for a weekend breakfast, and breakfasts are what Brownie's does best.
While the coffee here is pretty standard American diner coffee, it is always fresh and the cups are frequently topped off. You even get half and half though it comes in those little plastic packages:
Both Tina and I generally like their egg breakfast combos. For example, the inexpensive minced ham and eggs breakfast ($5.95):
There is abundant ham, the eggs are not overcooked, and hashbrowns were prepared extra crispy as requested. The little cup of salsa adds a nice local touch.
Similarly, the Brownie's special with ham ($7.95) is a good basic breakfast:
Another favorite with many people is the chicken fried steak and eggs:
On this day, however, the overworked kitchen didn't fry a good crust on the beef, so I have no photograph of the really good versions of the chicken fried steak. But most of the time, it is tasty. (Rich of Offbeat Eatslikes it too).
A little more unusual is the Ham and Eggs O'Brian ($7.95) with a ham slice, three eggs, and peppers and onions on top of hashbrowns:
For me, this combination actually works pretty well even though it gets pretty gloppy looking:
There are a number of omelet choices, but Tina and my favorite is the country omelet ($7.95):
The omelet itself contains sausage, cheese, and Ortega chilies all topped with Brownie's pretty decent country gravy – mmm, country gravy:
My only complaint about most of the egg breakfasts at Brownie's is that they come with toast:
It's not that the toast is bad – though it is very generic– it's that the jams and jellies are those little packets from Smucker’s:
I remember the old commercial "with a name like Smucker’s, it's got to be good," and maybe it once was good, but most of the little jellies these days are made from fruit juice, high fructose corn syrup, corn syrup, fruit pectin, citric acid, and sodium citrate. Certainly doesn't sound like my grandmother's recipe. Grumble grumble.
So sometimes we will choose the "Country Boy" combination with sausage, eggs, and biscuits and gravy instead of hashbrowns and toast ($7.95). This picture shows the half-size portion with bacon and only one biscuit and gravy ($5.95):
Another way to evade toast is a waffle ($4.95 à la carte), served with syrup and soft butter. Pretty standard, but a nice non greasy, crusty surface and lots of little wells to hold the butter and syrup:
similarly tasty are the thick pancakes – here part of a hot cake, sausage, and egg special ($4.95):
One other treat on the menu are Walt Kammann sausages (available in an egg combo or $2.95 or one, $4.95 for two):
Walt Kammann brought this German style sausage recipe with him when he moved from Wisconsin to Yuma in 1934 to manage a pecan grove. A community minded individual, he served on the governing boards for the local hospital and college. Originally he and his family made these sausages for their personal consumption, but soon they were serving them at civic events, such as the annual Rotary Sausage Fry. While no longer made by the Kammann family, this is the traditional recipe – coarsely ground meat with no filler, well spiced with abundant black pepper:
In addition to the generally good breakfasts at Brownie’s, some of the lunch choices are also pretty tasty. Their version of the chili burger ($7.95) is a decent presentation of one of my favorite truck stop meals:
Covered with chopped onion and cheese, the Western-style chili with beans makes a great topping for the preformed hamburger patty. Nothing revolutionary here, just an old favorite fixed in a traditional way.
One nice touch is the sprinkling of seasoned salt on the otherwise undistinguished crinkle cut french fries:
Of course, sandwiches like the fried ham or the BLT that use breakfast ingredients are also good choices. In addition, the restaurant roasts its own beef and turkey. Therefore the French dip sandwich au jus ($6.95) comes with real jus:
While the French roll is nothing special, the warmed roast beef tastes real and beefy:
Just like the roast beef, the turkey is real roast turkey and is available as a dinner plate with veggie, potatos, stuffing and gravy:
or as an open faced sandwich with whipped potatoes and old-fashioned turkey gravy ($7.95):
Open faced, gravy covered sandwiches like these always bring back good memories of my 10 years in Columbus, Ohio.
The same roast turkey stars in Tina's favorite lunch at Brownie’s, the Big Bird sandwich ($7.50):
The generous portion of roast turkey on grilled sourdough is enhanced by bacon, tomato, and American cheese:
It tastes even better than it sounds.
I have grown fond of Brownie's over the years. Even though it is sometimes a bit hectic and the food is not always top notch, the restaurant has a real down home friendly environment that fits Yuma very well. The menu and food also remind me of the restaurant my parents owned and my mother managed back when I was in junior high and high school in Medford, Oregon. I must have washed thousands of dishes and chopped dozens of onions back then. Sometimes I even took orders and brought out food. Looking back 50 years, those seem like pretty good times, and I always did think washing dishes beat mowing lawns. Brownie’s is the kind of place that does bring back memories of 50 years ago – at least for those of us who have memories of 50 years ago.
Brownie’s Café, 1145 S 4th Ave, Yuma, AZ 85364, (928) 783-7911, open daily in summer from 6 - 2:30, longer hours in the winter.
This is Ed (from Yuma) writing again today. A big thanks to Kirk (and Cathy) for letting me post stuff here and a big thanks to you for reading it.
I have already blogged about this small Mexican restaurant recently. It feels strange to do two posts about the same place, particularly when it is not even in Yuma, even though Tina and I have had two more interesting meals heresince my last post. So I promise this is my final post about Antojitos Como en Casa. Even if Anthony Bourdain asked me to meet him here for lunch, I would not blog about it; you would just have to see it on Parts Unknown.
The plain exterior has not changed:
The bright and colorful interior is the same as well, but here is a picture of a wall in the side room:
And this is the area that is a tribute to Jorge Negrete (or is that Pedro Infante?):
The service at Antojitos has always been excellent, the waitstaff attentive, friendly, and helpful. On every visit, chips and salsa arrive in an instant:
Here is a close-up of the brightly spicy green salsa, largely mashed roasted green chiles:
And a close-up of the rounder and deeper dried red chili salsa:
Again, the aguasfrescas ($3 large, $1.75 small) have been outstanding; in particular, on our visit in June, the watermelon fruitwater, which we had never had before, was crisp and flvaorful without being a sugar overload:
On that June visit, Tina and I both had soup. She chose the chicken soup whose name I can never remember:
Remarkably, this excellent and rich soup was different from the chicken soup I had a few months previously. Mine had had abundant chickpeas – Tina’s was more like a caldo de pollo, full of vegetables as well as tortilla strips, cheese, and red onion slices.
The broth in my menudo ($8.50) was fully flavored, savory and rich. In it, soft, succulent, yielding little pillows of tripe contrasted perfectly with abundant nixtamal:
On our next visit, we ordered two different aguasfrescas (Antojitos always has 3 choices, but the choices have never been the same on any two visits). Tina had the cucumber/pineapple:
I had lemon/strawberry:
As good as hers was, I loved my lemon accented, intensely strawberry water even more. This place has the best aguasfrescas I have ever tasted – by far.
Since this visit was on a Saturday, Tina and I were looking forward to sharing an order of the lamb mixiote, available only Friday through Sunday. It soon arrived at the table:
We decided on the option with beans and rice ($18.50), so we got a small bowl of soupy but tasty frijoles and plenty of Mexican Rice:
The lamb also came with homemade yellow corn tortillas, smaller than regular corn tortillas with the bright golden color and a very corny taste:
When we peeled the tinfoil back, we saw a whole lamb shoulder with a bone protruding at one end, the meat covered with parchment paper and surrounded by a rich and flavorful consommé:
With the paper removed, we could see the moist braised shoulder, laden with herbs and spices, looking tender and inviting:
The meat made wonderful simple tacos:
Maybe the most flavorful braised lamb I have ever savored, and I have eaten (and cooked) a lot of lamb shacks over the years. One of the reasons for the savory complexity of the dish was the layer of maguey leaves we found underneath the mixiote:
The owner/manager of the restaurant said that their particular version of the dish is native to Hidalgo, a state in central Mexico just east and north of Mexico City. This restaurant’s roots in central Mexico help explain the cuisine here and why this place seems unique in the American Southwest border region.
Since Tina and I happened onto Antojitos, we have been finding excuses to go to El Centro – there are some different stores in their mall; there's a Costco; it's a convenient stop on the way to LA. I never realized how many reasons there were to visit El Centro. However, since I will not be blogging about this place again (at least not in the immediate future), you now have a reason to visit El Centro yourselves - to find out more about Antojitos Como en Casa.
Antijitos Como en Casa, 425 Desert Gardens Dr, El Centro, CA 92243, (760) 482-5621, open 8 am – 8 pm every day, except Mondays. website
Today Kirk and Cathy can concentrate on their real work (or just kick back and relax) because Ed (from Yuma) has a post about a restaurant up in Paso Robles.
Tina and I had wonderful memories of a lunch at Thomas Hill Organics back in 2009, so we wanted to be sure to go there with Steve and Helen. Again we entered through the larger and fancier alley entrance to the restaurant:
This side of the restaurant has the larger indoor dining room, the Park Street side has a long skinny room with the bar and small tables, but whenever possible, we like to eat in the central covered courtyard in the middle of the restaurant:
Remembering a wonderful watermelon gazpacho from our previous visit, Tina and I decided to share the avocado-corgette cold soup with coconut milk and chili oil ($8):
What can I say? The cool smooth green avocado blended with the summer fresh squash seemed like the essence of a late spring harvest – rich, vegetal, tangy and complex. The chili oil added a touch of spicy hotness to balance the cool green creamy depth of the soup.
For Helen, the soup was her main dish, though she did share some of Steve's skirt steak sandwich:
All of the sandwiches came with extremely fresh field greens tossed with a light basil vinaigrette and a few grains of quinoa:
Along with the soup, Tina opted for the local grass fed beef hamburger ($17):
Her burger was topped with Cambozola cheese, caramelized onions, and abundant applewood smoked bacon, all accented by nut romesco and roasted garlic aoli. It was really wonderful:
I had the pork belly banh mi:
I love banh mis, but this seemed a little over the top for my tastes. While the pickled carrots, avocado, and chopped cilantro were good, the two thick slices of pork belly seemed excessive and were a bit chewy. Call me old school, but I also missed the light crunchiness of a good Vietnamese baguette:
Tina and I had always wondered about dinner at Thomas Hill, so we decided to have our last dinner in Paso at Thomas Hill Organics. The menu seemed wide-ranging, we liked that many produce and protein sources were identified on the menu, and it is hard to beat the ambience of that courtyard.
Our dinner began with ahi tataki style ($16), a plate that looked like a beautiful little tuna topped volcano erupting ginger/scallion relish :
This was very nicely done. The excellent fresh ahi was lightly seared, and the ponzu sauce was perfectly flavored and did not overpower the other ingredients. Speaking of other ingredients, when Tina and I removed and divided the tuna, the rest of the appetizer was visible:
There was a large clump of wakame (seaweed salad), slices of avocado, wedges of pickled apricot, rounds of beautiful purple radish and cucumber, sunflower sprouts, and that ginger and scallion relish. For Tina and I, these flavors worked well together.
The next course was an unusual ceviche ($15) with local yellowtail and Oregon baby shrimp accompanied by chunks of Rocking Chair Farms nectarines and white peaches with purple radishes, cilantro, shaved shallots served on tostadas made from plantain and drizzled with coriander/honey coconut milk:
In most ways, this was an ambitious and very tasty ceviche presentation. It was not too tangy/sour to accompany our wine (more on that soon), and we loved the combination of stone fruit and seafood – though I would have liked even more of the seasonal fruits:
For us, the only things that didn’t work in the dish were the discs of plantain. They were more chewy than crunchy, and while they stood up to the ceviche toppings, the flavor/texture profile just didn't appeal and we actually left most of one round on the otherwise cleaned plate.
Because we were starting with two seafood courses, we began with glasses of Lone Madrone 2011 Points West White ($13), a very tasty Rhône style blend of 4 grapes, the rich and creamy roussane being the most prominent. We had tasted that very same wine the previous afternoon at the winery and had enjoyed it very much. It did not disappoint with dinner, and of course, the stemware was excellent and the pours very fair.
Our next course was called Jewel of the Spring Salad ($15):
In that picture, you can see what they called a Fabergé farm egg, attractive and hard-boiled. The greens in the salad were wild arugula and pea leaves and tendrils. The orange carrot ribbons, dark pink macerated red onions, asiago cheese shavings, and abundant sweet pea pods added body, color, and variety to this lightly dressed and unusual salad, dense with the taste of spring:
From the moment we had been seated in the courtyard in the middle of the building that evening, we noticed a chef attending to the woodfired pizza oven:
So our last course just had to be one of their woodfired pizzas. Called the Verde Green pizza on the menu, it was topped with mozzarella cheese, black truffle salami, pistachio nuts, roasted zucchini, basil leaves and a light sprinkling of Romano cheese ($17):
It was excellent, the crust light and crunchy and the toppings tasty but not overpowering. We shared a glass of Enfold 2010 Jazzy Zinfandel ($13), which went well with the pizza.
We had a good time at Thomas Hill Organics, the service, ambience, and food were all first rate. Much of the food was local and organic. The wine list was well focused on local wineries. If we had any complaint, it was that we ordered too much food, so had to take about half of the pizza back to our room with us. Oh, hold on here, why am I complaining about a midnight snack?