It's about time for Ed (from Yuma) to post about some place Yuman. So today, Kirk gets to explore, and Cathy gets to rest, but as always at mmm-yoso, there is food on the menu.
Clearly the flavor of the year in Yuma is BEER. The newest player in the craft beer pub game is A & R Bar and Grill located on 4th Avenue between 7th and 8th Streets. They play the game pretty well:
The place has a clean, fresh decor, offset by plenty of sports memorabilia. Of course, flatscreen TVs, tables of various size, and a bar fill the smallish space:
The changing tap list is a little more limited than Pinthouse, but most folks have no trouble finding something interesting and tasty:
Tina was especially amazed by the grapefruit ale, which was remarkably refreshing and perfect for a hot day in spring:
Also interesting, though I thought less impressive, is the spicy Mango Margarita:
The menu includes tasty appetizers and salads, like the Caesar salad with chicken:
or this quesadilla with pulled pork,: but most of the menu is fairly standard bar food sandwiches, accompanied by decent french fries or with a salad or onion rings for little more legal tender. Usually, the cooks at A & R prepare the sandwiches just right and the bar clearly sources quality ingredients, making the resulting sandwich plate a cut or two above what one would expect:
I loved this pulled pork sandwich (here with a side salad, $2 more). Though not at all smoky, the pork was moist and tender and its flavor came through the sauce and accompaniments:
This chicken sandwich is a pretty standard version, but tasting of the grill and accompanied by very fresh lettuce, tomato, pickle (and cheese if you wish):
The french fries are also good, again better than one would expect.
When I ordered the turkey sandwich, the helpful and friendly waitperson said that I needed to order it with all of the accompaniments – bacon, spinach, cranberry, Swiss cheese, and tomato:
It was generally tasty, and I was happy to see that the turkey slices had been grilled, but I was a little disappointed that the chef had not spread enough the cranberry sauce.
I was also personally disappointed in the fish tacos, mostly because all of the sauces supplied were pretty spicy, but the fish filets seemed to me to need a little bit of more neutral crema help. Your results would probably differ:
In contrast, the sausage sandwich, which comes with grilled onions and two different mustards, is pretty impressive:
Made on premises, the sausage is robust with a complexity of flavors that I prefer to the old school Kamman sausage, the local favorite.
Tina and Greg both think that the sausage plate, with two large sausages and fries is even better than the sandwich, though I like me my carbs:
I realize that hamburgers don't break any culinary barriers, but A&R make very tasty burgers. I haven't tried the peanut butter and jelly burger that some folks on the Internet rave about, but this standard cheeseburger with extra crispy fries was very good. The smoky char of the patty (cooked a perfect medium rare), the melty cheese, and the super fresh condiments were all spot on (fries were good too):
Even better is the mushroom burger –with a side salad in this pic:
I can't add much to that picture. I also couldn't add much to the A&R burger, the star of their burger selection, here shown with the ordinary onion rings:
The tomato, cheddar cheese, and bacon show up on a lot of pub burgers, but not usually paired with grilled onions, spinach, and a fried egg:
Overall, I like A&R Grill. While I don't frequent the place late at night (these days, I don't frequent much late at night), the service has always been friendly and competent; the owner (manager?) pays attention and is concerned; and the place is pretty friendly and low-key. The food is cooked to order and sometimes takes a while to prepare, but that's what beer is for.
A&R Grill, 712 S 4th Ave, Yuma, AZ 85364, (928) 783-0260
If you are looking for something by Kirk or Cathy, today is not your lucky day. If you want to read a fairly long post by Ed about a new brewpub in Yuma, sit back, relax and enjoy.
The old town/downtown area in Yuma was economically devastated by the sprawl caused by modern roads and highways and the explosion of population in Yuma in the post-World War II era. When I moved to Yuma 15 years ago, the area was still pretty desolate – a lot of for rent signs, empty buildings and vacant storefronts. These days, however, the area is undergoing a renaissance. Not only are new businesses opening, but a lot of places – wine shops, restaurants, and galleries seem to be doing very well.
One of the newest additions to Main Street is The Prison Hill Brewery. Located next to Da Boyz on Main Street; you can enter via the front door:
or the back door:
There is a dog friendly outdoor patio area:
as well as a large dining areas with bars and table service. Here's the bar area:
The main room:
I have been wanting to post about this place since the beginning of January, but I have had other things going on and then it seems like every week somebody else wants to eat at Prison Hill Brewery, so I keep accumulating pictures. Today, however, I am going to put them all together and try and do a post with as few words and as many pictures as I can get away with.
All of the sandwiches and many of the entrées come with one or two side dishes, so let's start with sides. The healthiest side is the grilled mixed vegetables, crispy tender and lightly seasoned, here pictured next to the decent thick chips which are served with many of the sandwiches:
Maybe my favorite side are the Sidewinder fries:
Though not made on premises, these fries are some of the best in town because each end is crunchy while the centers are potato fluffy.
The coleslaw is spicy hot with mustard (and cayenne?) and is fresh and tasty:
I also like the sweet beans:
but I think the macaroni salad is a little bland. Others however tell me that they love the mac salad because it goes with the stronger flavored menu choices. To each . .
The appetizers are kind of a mixed bag. For example, the giant pretzels are outstanding – it'll bring out the German in almost anyone:
Likewise, the tortilla soup (often a special, and sometimes available other times) is an excellent version of this Southwest favorite:
Remembering the soup, the word abundance pops into my head. It was packed with tortilla strips, the tomato Chile broth was outstanding, and the toppings were attractive and tasty.
I was less impressed by the combination appetizer plate:
The pretzels were excellent, of course, but the pieces of fried chicken breast were just adequate, and the two kinds of meatballs ranged from pretty good to pretty mediocre.
Similarly the hummus:
There are a few things that I love as much as good Middle Eastern hummus with the natural flavors of chickpeas and tahini – San Diego has many good Middle Eastern restaurants whose hummus I love. Prison Hill’s dry version lacks soul, and has a background citrusy taste that I suppose masks the missing flavors and freshness. Not to mention the tired and doughy bread.
On the other hand, a bunch of us really liked the poutine (good food, bad pic):
Covering the Sidewinder fries with a dark guinness gravy and patches of melted cheese only makes them more irresistible – if somewhat less healthy. To be honest, I have no idea how this dish would match up to the real thing in Canada, but it works for me in Yuma.
My salad eating friends like the salads – they are not just some "healthy" item to balance out the menu. Our friend Stacy enjoyed the vegetarian Big House Salad, impressed by the freshness and variety of the greens:
Tina loves the Cobb salad here:
In this case, she added smoked tri-tip to her salad, but she was also impressed by the mixture of greens and insisted that I take this picture to show how abundant and fresh they were:
Speaking of the smoked tri-tip, smoked meats are the main ingredient in most of the sandwiches and entrées. Behind the restaurant stand two full-size smokers, so all the smoked meats are smoked on premises:
Two of their popular sandwiches are the Verdict (brisket):
and The Tip (tri-tip):
I actually preferred The Tip because it seemed to have more going on; The Verdict was just a bit drier. The smoked meats in both, however, were perfectly flavored for my tastes, smoky without being only smoky, if you know what I mean.With sandwiches like these, your results may differ based on which piece if beef was just pulled from the smoker.
The cold smoked turkey sandwich (the Jailbird) is excellent also with bacon, tomato, lettuce, and mild cheese, sort of like a smoky club sandwich:
Though not the best I've ever had, the pulled pork is moist, smoky, and porky and topped with coleslaw :
Sometimes, the restaurant has a smoked turkey leg, sort of entrée at sandwich prices:
Lauren thought it was really good. Similarly, one of my favorite dishes on whole menu is the entrée they call The Quartermaster:
Along with the sides, you get a perfectly smoked, moist, tender chicken leg quarter. I loved it.
Of course, not everything is smoked. They make a good chicken salad (here pictured on a sandwich, but perhaps even better on a salad):
(Sorry about that picture)
The menu also includes burgers, hand formed thick and meaty. The American classic is like nothing from my childhood:
And the Shank has a cheese and bacon stuffed patty topped with a deep-fried avocado (yes that's yummy):
When I finish a meal at Prison Hill, I usually don't think about desserts, but the restaurant does do churros:
and a sundae:
and my memory tells me that both were sweet and tasty.
How did I get to the end of a post about a brewery without mentioning beer?
Oops! Prison Hill currently brews several different beers, however their brewing process takes a month and their production facilities are limited, so that they offer usually only one or two of their own. However there is a varied selection of other specialty beers. My beer drinking friends always leave happy, sometimes very happy if you know what I mean:
There’s also an adequate wine list – for small brewpub. The service, occasionally slow, is very professional and sometimes downright friendly. Truth be told, this is a place where I feel comfortable stopping in by myself or with friends. I consider the prices reasonable: sandwiches and burgers (with sides) run $9-$13, salads are generally under $10, entrées range from $11-$14, and appetizers from $6-$12.
Prison Hill Brewery, 278 S Main St, Yuma, AZ 85364; (928) 276-4001. Opens 11 am daily - closes at 10 pm most nights and 2 am Friday and Saturday.
If you have visited here before, you know mmm-yoso is KirkK's foodblog, mostly featuring his wonderful reports on dining in San Diego and worldwide. Cathy helps keep the blog going and has an encyclopedic knowledge of San Diego eateries, particularly those that the rest of us might miss. Some days, Ed (from Yuma) will post about eating on his travels and especially about dining in Yuma. Today is one of those days; you have been warned.
The most exciting new addition to the Yuma dining scene is The Farmhouse Bistro:
Its location – set back from the street with limited signage and lighting – makes this a tough location and many eateries have occupied this site for brief periods since I moved to town, including Mi Playita, TJ's Marisquero, Viejo Loco, Small Fries, Rusty Spoon, and most recently Spanky's Chophouse. But long time Yumans know the location as "where Hensley's Beef, Beans, and Beer used to be," a steakhouse that thrived here for 20 years, 1979-1999.
The interior is small and simple. Of course, there are a couple flatscreen TVs and a bar area that can't yet sell alcohol:
But most of the dining area is filled with about 10 tables of various sizes, and the rustic painted walls are reminiscent of a rural farmhouse (and when packed at lunch, the room almost sounds like the mess hall at a ranch):
While the decor is nothing to speak of, the menu looked interesting right from the start.
On my first visit, my friend and former colleague, Dawn, wanted the lamb burger ($12), so I went conventional and had the basic burger ($14). Hers looked like this:
She said the flavor of the ground meat had a distinct lamb flavor, and she loved the brie cheese topping. My farmhouse burger looked similar and different:
I was happy. I loved the char from the grill, the medium rare doneness of the patty, and the beefy taste of the meat. The restaurant tries to source all of their meats and produce locally – if possible. Maybe that’s part of why it tasted so good.
We were both delighted by the french fries (and surprised as the menu had not mentioned that they came with the burgers). While not crispy crunchy, they were full of real potato flavor – clearly none of them had ever seen the interior of a freezer. People with more perceptive tastebuds may have detected the touch of truffle oil on the potatoes, but I was just happy to get real honest french fries.
On my next visit, I had to try the pork belly tacos ($12) –who could pass up Korean style pork belly tacos? There were 4 well filled tacos:
This close-up gives you a better idea of what is going on:
The thick chunks of pork belly were simply prepared; I could detect no Korean marinade or seasoning, but I was delighted by the smoky char of some pieces. The coleslaw with red and regular cabbage was lightly dressed and definitely not sweet or goopy. As far as I could tell, the only "Korean" seasoning was the ground red chili powder sprinkled over the slaw.
Nonetheless, I had no complaints. The flavor of the pork belly was excellent, and the preparation of the tacos emphasized the chewy, porky, chargrilled flavor of the meat. I would have this again.
Currently The Farmhouse has no liquor license, which is a bad thing for the restaurant I am sure, but it can be a good thing for customers because diners can bring bottles of wine (and maybe beer?) with them to enjoy – and pay no restaurant markup on the beverage. I'm not sure when they will get a liquor license, but let me suggest that my wino friends come try the bistro now when you can save money.
For those not interested in alcoholic beverages, The Farmhouse offers your standard choices plus this amazing beverage ($3):
What you are looking at is a glass of kale lemonade (no I'm not making that up). It is complex and refreshing and probably even healthy for you. Welcome to 2015.
Since two lunches had been a success, Tina and I decided to come by for dinner. We started our meal (after the kale lemonades) with the most unusual sounding item on the menu, fried pickle ($7):
The restaurant brines a range of vegetables – this night included green beans, zucchini slices, small cauliflower florets, sweet potato chunks, and onion strips – dips them in tempura batter, fries them, and serves them with their house sauce, a spicy teriyaki mayo.
Eating the fried pickles was a treat for the palate. Sour, salty, and crunchy/greasy all at once. These were definitely addictive, if a bit repetitive, and we ate every piece.
The main courses continued to challenge our taste buds and our expectations. Tina chose the diver scallops ($26), which were perfectly cooked – charred at each end and rare in the middle. But look at how they were served:
What a treat for the eye. The scallops were perched atop a mound of beet risotto. The little white puffs are goat cheese quenelles, and the mound is surrounded by a buerre blanc sauce.
And what a treat for the mouth. The riced red beets with rice balanced the scallops nicely and contrasted with the goat cheese much like the old school borscht/sour cream combination. Tina (with a little of my help) happily ate everything on her plate.
I chose the duck breast ($28):
The breast, topped with garlic lemon purée, was served on a bed of lemon risotto, accompanied by three superb giant fresh local asparagus spears. I love asparagus and it doesn't get any better than those three spears. Moist crunchy tender flavorful.
The duck breast was cooked a perfect medium rare:
I enjoyed how the chef used the garlic and lemon flavors to contrast the richness of the duck breast. Certainly the best duck I have ever had in Yuma. The risotto was perfectly prepared, the rice being both creamy and al dente. If I had any quibble, it would be that the lemon risotto flavors were monochromatic. While the risotto was a perfect match to the duck breast, it was less interesting by itself.
For dessert, we had wanted to try the grilled peach, but of course, peaches aren’t in season (even in Yuma) so we opted for the banana crema ($9):
The small mason jar is a nice farmly touch. The banana crema itself was the bottom half of the desert. A layer of crunchy banana flavored cookie crumbs separated it from the raspberry/banana flavored crema at the top. The desert was certainly rich and unusual. It was also nice to see cheese courses on the dessert menu.
For me, The Farmhouse has exceeded expectations. The menu is certainly the most varied and interesting in town. The kitchen can turn out a wide range of dishes skillfully. Farm-to-table ingredients – witness that incredible asparagus – should be a perfect fit for Yuma, at least in the winter. In addition, the place is well staffed, and the service on each visit has been professional and personable. Of course, The Farmhouse is in a tough location, and the menu with lunches or salads between $9 and $14 and entrées from $25 up may intimidate some folks, but the restaurant has been busy and I hope that Yuma will support creative quality cuisine.
The Farmhouse Bistro, 2855 S. 4th Ave., Yuma AZ 85364, (928) 276-9735; open11- 2, and 5-11 Tuesday through Saturday, Sunday brunch 9-1. Closed Mondays.
Kirk and Cathy are busy elsewhere, so today a short post from the banks of the Colorado River. Although it may not seem like ice-cream weather in much of the US, Ed (from Yuma) and the Yuma Visitors' Bureau want you to know it is always summer here (OK, almost always).
At about the same time Arizona inaugurated a governor who made his reputation and fortune selling gimmicky ice cream franchises (yes, you heard me, Cold Stone Creamery), I thought it appropriate to focus on a local, family-owned, independent ice cream shop in Yuma:
Like Baskin-Robbins, Solano's offers you a lot of flavor choices, but unlike Baskin-Robbins, the friendly folks at Solano's are creative, inventive, and maybe a little weird. Every time you come in there will be at least 18 different flavors of ice cream arranged in tubs with labels explaining your choices:
Here's another photo of some tubs:
While I don't have a complete list (maybe one doesn't exist), we have encountered flavors like balsamic strawberry, sweetcorn raspberry, cinnamon toast, maple walnut, vanilla bean, fruit loops, Yuma Fire Dept (with red hots), malted milk balls, coconut, toasted coconut, pineapple, orange dream sicle, Oreos and cream, sweet cream, rocky road, chocolate, red velvet cake, butter pecan, pistachio, strawberry rhubarb, blueberry habanero, and everybody’s favorite maple bacon (okay maybe not vegetarians’ favorite).
You can buy cups of ice cream with three different flavors – and more than three scoops it seems. If memory serves, on our first trip, Tina chose Yuma fire department , maple bacon, and sweetcorn raspberry:
She liked them all.
More conventional, I picked maple bacon, cinnamon toast, and?:
Maple Bacon is an idea that should spread. Just perfect flavor. The cinnamon toast had the right flavors of cinnamon and toast, but lacked the crunch I was hoping for.
Of course, you can get single scoop waffle cones (maple walnut?):
Or single serving cups – here Solano’s sweet cream:
And if you're really hungry they have a range of Sundaes:
Here's a Sand Dune Sundae (I think):
And a Pecan Grove:.
It took me three evenings to eat this sucker; it was so rich and sweet and filling. And good!
Solano”s is truly a family operation:
I believe I've seen at least three generations working together to make the place of success. I don't have a current price list, but you like good ice-cream, you will find the prices fair and portions large. Some hot evenings in the summer, the service is a little slow, but it is friendly, so I have always enjoyed the weight – correction, the wait.
Solano's Homemade Ice Cream, 1452 South 4th Avenue, Yuma, AZ 85364, open noon to 10 PM every day except Wednesday
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