mmm-yoso!!! is Kirk's blog with his amazing posts from San Diego and around the world. Cathy posts here too, about San Diego County and beyond. But today, it’s Ed (from Yuma) writing about somewhere in Yuma.
I had a birthday coming up, and Tina offered me a dinner – my choice of restaurants. It was an easy decision; over the years, I have celebrated more birthdays and special times at River City Grill than any other place in town. About the same time I moved to Yuma, over a decade and a half ago, Nan and Tony Bain opened River City Grill (website) in a nondescript building at the corner of 3rd Street and 6th Avenue:
It soon became my favorite restaurant in town. Its eclectic menu might include curries, pestos, hummus, or spring rolls. There were always vegetarian and vegan dishes, a wide range of seafood entrées, and more. While the food was not consistently great, it was usually pretty good, generally adventuresome, and occasionally outstanding; the service always professional and friendly.
The seating in the inside dining room is pretty standard:
But the room has always featured at least one hip and edgy mural:
Even the restrooms have unusual decor:
So why have I never posted about this restaurant before? Well, laziness explains a lot, but also River City seemed like a comfortable old friend by the time I started blogging. But River City really deserved a post, and my birthday dinner offered a perfect opportunity.
We arrived in the early evening, and enjoying the mild weather, chose to eat outside on the adjacent patio:
We were each given a chunk of baguette accompanied with olive oil and balsamic vinegar for dipping:
Tina usually likes to begin with a martini from the cocktail list – this evening a lemon drop martini ($7):
Made with citrus vodka, triple sec, and lemon juice shaken together and served in a sugar rimmed glass, it was tasty.
While we were figuring out entrées, I looked over the wine list, and since it was my birthday, I decided on a bottle of Cakebread Chardonnay ($68):
It was (IMHO) an excellent wine, full-bodied with good balance, nice structure, and pleasant flavors and aromas of pear and melon and other fruits. River City has always maintained a well-chosen, if limited, wine list with reasonable markups (double retail or less). That's been one of the reasons I've kept coming back.
As an appetizer we ordered the Thai curried mussels ($10), something we'd enjoyed previously. The mussels arrived looking like this:
At first I thought the kitchen was using some type of green curry, but it didn't taste like curry. "Pesto," Tina said, "that's basil pesto flavoring." I tasted again, and yeah, that's what was going on.
We mentioned it to our server, who looked kind of puzzled, but when he checked with the kitchen that's what it was. I should say the mussels themselves were excellent, but the basil/coconut milk combo seemed weird.
The entrées at River City always come with a choice of soup or salad. Tina wanted the roasted tomato and red pepper bisque, which arrived looking beautiful:
I've never quite understood why they call this soup a bisque since it doesn't seem to have any cream in it, but it is an excellent soup, full of the flavor of roasted red peppers, their sweetness balanced by just a hint of vinegar tang.
I opted for the Mediterranean salad:
While smaller than it used to be, this has always been my favorite salad choice. The fresh greens, chopped marinated tomatoes, roasted yellow peppers, Mediterranean black olives, feta cheese and balsamic dressing work well together.
Tina's entrée, mustard crusted tofu with spinach ravioli in Alfredo sauce ($18) arrived at the table:
This was quite good. Tina was delighted with the tofu because it was not thick and dense, but almost fluffy with a perfect light crunchy crust. The ravioli and sauce were flavorful and rich. The olive tapenade provided a bridge between the Asian/Mediterranean flavors. The mixed vegetables were . . . mixed vegetables.
I ordered the tequila snapper with black beans and rice ($20):
The two small fillets were lightly breaded, spicy and moist, and laid across a generous portion of black beans and basmati rice. Overall, the entrée had a nice spicy kick accented by the pico de gallo and roasted pepper/corn topping. Really good. And there were mixed vegetables.
For dessert, we shared a cinnamon apple bread pudding ($6), drizzled with caramel and served with whipped cream and a small scoop of vanilla:
It was soft, almost creamy, and very satisfying. And you gotta love the birthday candle.
While River City in 2016 is no longer cutting-edge and its menu does not change much any more, Tina and I will gladly return. The dishes are generally good, the kitchen prepares seafood very well, the decor is enjoyable, the servers are well trained, and the prices are extremely reasonable. In fact, the bottle of birthday wine cost more than all the rest of the meal - heck yes, we'll be back!
River City Grill, 600 W 3rd St, Yuma AZ 85364, (928) 782 - 7988.
Kirk and Cathy are doing something else today, so Ed (from Yuma) is posting.
Yuma is blessed with numerous Mexican restaurants, but seafood places are not common. Of course, there is Juanita's and usually one or two other seafood trucks, but Mariscos Mar Azul has been the premier local seafood house ever since it opened. But now with La Resaca, Yuma has two excellent options:
Located somewhat off the main drag on 3rd Avenue, where the Mad Greek used to be, La Resaca has a large main dining area with many modern booths:
a bar area with more tables:
and even a small stage for music some evenings:
When you sit down, you are soon served whole crunchy tostito rounds, a few saltines, flavorful and spicy salsa, and a bunch of lime wedges:
On my first visit, I decided to start with tacos:
They were served with a mayo based basic crema and a chipotle flavored one:
The shrimp taco was excellent, the flavorful fresh shrimp nicely breaded and perfectly cooked:
Similarly, the fish taco was about the freshness of the flavorful breaded fish rather than crunchiness:
And the mantarraya was also nicely prepared, full flavored but not too salty, fishy but not funky:
Food this good I wanted to share, so the next evening Tina and I showed up for dinner.
As appetizers, we picked tostadas. One was ceviche:
the other octopus:
The octopus was sliced well and had just the right amount of chew and mollusk flavor. We were especially impressed by the ceviche. The fish and vegetables tasted very fresh and the whole tostada had a very pleasant flavor and multiple textures.
That evening we also tried a couple of cooked seafood entrées. Tina chose the albañil, shrimp grilled with bacon, poblano and jalapeno peppers, and onions, served on corn tortillas:
The shrimp were well-prepared (not over-cooked) and the bacon and grilled vegetables really added to their flavor. Tina loved the abundant avocado, The rice was okay and the salad had no dressing – though I suspect we could have asked for some.
I had the pescado Veracruz:
I liked the fish preparation. There were four or five little filets of tilapia, lightly breaded and nicely grilled, covered with a very mellow Veracruz sauce, much like a ranchero sauce with onions, celery, green olives, peppers, and a lot of carrot slices. Good food.
On my next visit, I had to try a seafood cocktele; after all, La Resaca specializes in cruda (raw). They come in three sizes with your choice of mariscos – shrimp, octopus, oyster, scallop, and/or snail. I ordered a medium "campechana," a combination:
That is a nice looking cocktele:
The cooked shrimp were pristine and juicy. The scallops clean and fresh tasting. The octopus was fine. And the snail pieces (you can see one hiding under the scallop in that picture) added some chew if little flavor to the contents of the sundae glass.
I was especially impressed by the quality of the cocktele water. Smooth flavors of the sea, with a little lime tang, balanced by a touch of ketchup sweetness. My only complaint would be the lack of an oyster in the cocktele.
So when I got together for lunch with Greg, I made sure to order a half-dozen oysters:
They were very fresh and pristine, mildly flavored but distinctively oyster. Next time I will try some of the 10 bottles of salsa on the table to see which goes best.
That day Greg selected the house special tostada:
You can see why the folks at La Resaca choose this tostada for the first page of their menu. It is a combination of their basic cold mariscos along with avocado slices, onion slices, and a dice of vegetables . As tasty as it is attractive.
My first version of this post ended right about here, but Greg called me soon after I was finished (so I thought) and we decided to go back to La Resaca the next day. We tried three more dishes.
The first was fried calamari:
This was pretty standard stuff, might even have come from a Sysco truck. Strips of squid steak, decent texture but little flavor. The breading substantial and crunchy. Served with the chipotle crema and a first-rate cocktail sauce. Not bad at all.
Aguachile – the original red version – came next:
The cool lime and chile broth was just right for my tastes, tangy but not sour, picante but not fuego. There was plenty of avocado, sliced red onion, and seeded cucumber, but the real star of the show was, of course, the wonderful raw camarones:
Their fresh clean taste matched their impeccable white color.
Last to show up was caldo de siete mares (seven seas soup):
The best version I've had in the United States, for sure. And well presented. A good seven seas soup needs to have claws, legs or tentacles projecting out from the bowl. The seafood and tomato flavored broth contained sliced red onion, sliced poblanos and jalapenos, chunks of carrot, and chopped cilantro. Along with those veggies and that crab (what kind of crab is that?), the soup contained shrimp, mussels, clams, tilapia, octopus, and sea snails, and yes, that adds up to seven seafoods. It was good enough to remind Greg and I of our first bowls of siete mares over 25 years ago in a restaurant overlooking the Pacific right by Bufadora park near Ensenada.
As you can tell, I am delighted that La Resaca decided to locate in Yuma. With other locations in Calexico and El Centro, the restaurant has the experience to know how to do things right. The menu is large and interesting, everything I've eaten has been tasty, and the service and decor are good as well.
La Resaca, 1725 S 3rd Ave, Yuma AZ 85364, (928) 276-3280
Tomorrow Kirk or Cathy will be posting, but today Ed (from Yuma) is talking about a restaurant he found (in Yuma).
Someone told me that there was a Birrieria on 8th Street. Thinking that it would be easy to find, I didn't ask for – or perhaps remember – any more details. But the place seemed to be hiding. It was a couple months later when I finally spotted it, and then it was closed. But I read a sign on the window that said it was open Friday through Sunday, so the next Friday I showed up:
As you can see, Del Pueblo has no bright signage and it presents an inconspicuous storefront wedged between a smoke shop and a $.99 store across from Food City. Inside, however, there are two large tables and at least eight smaller tables arranged on the sides of the dining area:
The room is clean and brightly painted, and a couple nice decorations make up for the folding chairs:
Love these boots:
The small menus are on the sides of the napkin dispensers:
First visit, I ordered a torta:
It was generously sized, the roll had been nicely grilled, and I wanted to eat it immediately. However, I knew I had to open it up and show you, dear reader, what the insides looked like:
All the basics: avocado slices, crunchy lettuce, tomato chunks, and of course meat. I had been offered the four standard carne options – res, chivo, lengua, or cabeza – and had chosen the beef cheeks:
The meat was tender, rich, and flavorful. I also was impressed the meat had been properly drained before it was loaded onto the sandwich, so the bolillo roll did not become soggy and fall apart, and the sandwich went into my stomach instead of onto my shirt.
So of course Tina and I had to visit Del Pueblo that weekend. And on weekends they serve menudo and birria de chivo. She ordered one and I the other.
First we got our beverages (Mexican Coke), a bottle of the fiery house salsa, and the wheel of condiments:
While we were waiting, I went back and watched the cook prepare corn tortillas:
Taking balls of masa dough from the bowl, she flattened them in the tortilla press, then grilled them on the little flat tops.
The tortillas arrived tasting fresh and warm:
The menudo was rich and mild flavored, filled with tripe and hominy:
Maybe not the best in town, but pretty darned good.
The birria de chivo was outstanding, deeply flavored by the extra savory broth: And packed with tender tasty goat flesh.
A couple of weeks later, I joined Deb W and Lauryn at Del Pueblo for a Friday lunch.
Remembering those homemade tortillas, I ordered tacos, which came with the same wheel of condiments:
The taco de res was filled with a lot of well-drained shredded stew beef:
The cabeza was as rich and meaty as on the torta:
And the lengua had perfect texture and mild flavor:
The girls ordered beef burritos. Our server returned a minute later and explained that they were out of the large burrito sized flour tortillas and asked if it would be okay if the burritos were made with more than one tortilla. "No problem," they said, so the nicely grilled burritos were a little unusual looking:
Having eaten with me and my camera before, Lauryn cut open her burrito so that I could get a picture of its insides. And then she photo bombed the pic:
If you ignore the hungry mouth, you can see the steaming burrito filled with res, frijoles, arroz, and queso. Both Lauren and Deb approved.
I'm glad I finally found Del Pueblo. The menu may be limited, but they are good at what they do. And the prices are cheap. The friendly young server (I think it’s a family operation) tells me that the restaurant will open weekdays once the weather cools down and business heats up.
Del Pueblo Birrieria, 1225 W. 8th St, Yuma 85364, (928) 750-8678.
While Kirk and Cathy are doing important things like working or resting, Ed (from Yuma) is posting today.
Usually, after I've written a post on a place in Yuma, I don't visit again for a while, maybe feeling a little burned out. And when I do visit, I don't bring my camera. So when I had lunch at Crouse’s Flat Top Grill in early March I didn't have my camera with me, so I didn't take this picture of the entrance that day:
I ordered one of the sandwiches that I hadn't tried, the smoked brisket. When it arrived it looked something like this:
It was a great sandwich – a crunchy long roll filled with two thick smoky slices of brisket, crowned with abundant sweet grilled onion, and served with a choice of barbecue sauces on the side. Even the potato salad, which I had largely ignored before, was wonderful, the sour spicy crunchy pickle pieces adding true zest.
It was a meal so good that Tina and I have been eating at Flat Top Grill regularly, and of course I've been bringing my camera along.
Although the restaurant has a very modest wine list:
and a limited number of changing taps,
I can always find at least one or two interesting beers
On our most recent visit, Tina ordered an amazing watermelon, mint and jalapeño Margarita:
The rim of her glass was coated with Tajin, and that lime chili salt added one more level of complexity to the cocktail. Spicy, sweet, sour, cool, and smooth, with a touch of salt and a hint of mint. A real winner.
Since that last post, we have eaten a bunch of different things. For example, we were dining there with friends and they wanted to try the loaded JoJo's:
That could be somebody's dinner. The potatoes were nicely cooked and there’s bacon, cheese, and sour cream. Glad our friends had their teenage son with them.
Tina enjoys the tri-tip salad:
The fresh lettuces are nothing special, but the meat is well flavored and she loves the cilantro lime dressing that adds a Sonoran accent.
Of course, we often have sandwiches. Recently, Tina had the hot dog – split in half, grilled, placed atop a strip of bacon, and thickly covered with guacamole:
That same night, I had the guacamole bacon burger – we must have had guacamole on the brain:
In the last post, I complained about an overdone burger; this one was on the verge of under cooked, but the flavorful hamburger, ground on premises daily, had excellent flavor. And bacon and guacamole.
My favorite burger is the green chili burger:
8 years ago I posted about the mutant green chilies found in some Yuma Mexican restaurants, which are always made with beef, usually finely diced or ground. The green chili here is another variation on that theme. The beef is coarsely ground and is the focus of the dish. The chili has some good heat and green chili flavor. It is topped with melted cheese, pico de gallo, and chopped scallions (also with sour cream, but I ordered that on the side).
We have eaten several entrées as well. The Turkey dinner is an amazing combination of familiar and unusual:
On the left side of the plate, covered with gravy, was first rate red skinned mashed potatoes. The Turkey breast slices, like the ones on their turkey sandwiches, were grilled and pretty ordinary, but the waffle made with turkey dressing underneath was something I'd never seen before:
Kindof a Thanksgiving dinner like no other.
And yes, during evenings The Flat Top Grill does have good old-fashioned greens as a side dish. I'm talking serious greens, smoky and meaty:
A little less interesting – though still very flavorful – was the chicken with mushroom gravy. Two thick slices of grilled chicken breast rested on a bed of those mashed potatoes, all covered with delectably creamy mushroom gravy:
On a couple of weekend nights, we ordered specials not on the menu. Once it was the rib special:
Wonderfully spiced, deeply smoked, and fall off the bone tender. Though there is barbecue sauce on the side where it belongs, it really wasn't needed. We took the leftovers home and had biscuits, ribs, and eggs for breakfast. The corn was a little tough and flavorless, but I was still happy.
And if you are ever at Flat Top Grill and they are serving chicken and waffles, you should be eating chicken and waffles:
The waffle was crispy chewy and served with two different syrups, one maple and one spicy. The moist chicken was encased with a flavorful hard crust. Wonderful deep frying technique.
mmm-yoso!!! is a blog about food and travel. Today, Kirk is traveling, Cathy is busy eating, and Ed (from Yuma) is blogging.
"You eaten at Mad Tacos?" It was my friend and former colleague, Dawn.
"What? Where?" She then explained that it had won some awards and was supposed to be really good, and asked if I wanted to join her and a couple other folks there for lunch on an upcoming Friday.
The answer to "Where?" was a little complicated as well, because Mad Tacos is inside a pharmacy, Sant Drugs, that has had a lunch counter ever since the days when lunch counters and soda fountains were commonplace in drugstores and five and dimes: This is what an old-fashioned lunch counter looks like:
Here is the view in the other direction:
With such limited seating, and being open only weekdays from 8:30-6 pm, how can they stay in business? This pic is part of the answer to that question:
Every time I've eaten there, people have come in for takeout, sometimes a lot of takeout.
So why is this little place really busy? I think because the food is really good and the prices are really cheap.
Case in point – Friday is fish taco day, so this taco cost $1 on a Friday (prices as of May, 2016):
There is nothing skimpy about that taco. There are numerous chunks of breaded fish and a lot of toppings including spiced mayo. And if you like your fish tacos to have some crunch, you won't find a better one in town, crackling crunchy.
What's more, the two house salsas are excellent:
The one on the left is the guacamole sauce, smooth and creamy from the avocado, with a lime tang and a spicy zip. Really excellent on the fish tacos, but also great on some of the meats, like asada.
The sauce on the right is a complex, smoky, dried chili salsa. This is not a chip dipping salsa, it is a spicing up flavor booster, perfect for a lot of things like these tostadas (regularly 2 for $5, but Thursdays $1 apiece):
So good. Underneath the cotija cheese, pickled red onions, chopped lettuce and tomato, and spicy mayo, lurked pieces of carnitas and a nice smear of frijoles. Even the crunchy tortilla was first rate, substantial enough that I could eat most of the tostadas with my hands and get no fallout on my shirt.
And if you look carefully at the salsa, you can see numerous tiny flakes, flecks, and bits, many red, but others green, black, white, yellow, and translucent. The complexity of a pointillist painting.
Maybe the most amazing lunch special is rolled taco Monday. Potato tacos at $.50 apiece. So this is a $3 plate:
The quality is also superb. The mashed potato is copious and flavorful, and the shell is deep fried crispy.
As I was leaving that day, I mentioned to Mannie (the head cook and proprietor) that his rolled tacos were better than my previous favorites at Buen Taquito up the street.
"Yeah," he said, "they don't flavor the mashed potatoes and their salsa is real basic." A spot on evaluation, and he could’ve added that his are larger in addition to better tasting. But his answer showed that he knows the competition, pays attention, and focuses on quality.
That's also evident in this bacon wrapped hot dog ($4):
While not as overloaded as some bacon dogs, the grilled and charred onions, chopped tomatoes, spiced mayo, mustard, and ketchup are enough, and the real focus here is on the quarter pound sausage:
That's a good hot dog. It has the right texture, excellent flavors, and abundant juiciness.
The quality also shows up in the plate of 3 tacos (choice of pastor, asada, carnitas, pollo, or pescado), a good value at $6:
In the photo, I’ve got a pastor, a fish, and an asada taco. There was a lot of asada:
and I was particularly impressed with the seasonings and grilling of the pastor:
Similarly, the chicken at Mad Tacos is not just bland generic white meat, but is nicely spiced and grilled. Look at this quesadilla ($4):
About as good as a quesadilla can be. The grilling of the tortilla is perfect, the cheese melted creamy, the chicken flavorful, and the roasted green chili strips abundant.
One day I decided to try takeout, so I called in an order for a chicken burrito ($6). When I walked to the counter, everything was almost ready, so Mannie could assemble it quickly, and my burrito was perfectly fresh and nicely packaged:
That burrito was also very tasty:
I realize that a lot of folks don't like lettuce in their burritos, but here the lettuce, pico de gallo, refritos, and abundant guac sauce complemented the warm spicy chicken chunks.
So is everything at Mad Tacos really great? Well, truth be told, the french fries ($3), are pretty ordinary:
Not bad, but not great. Otherwise most things here are real good eats and real good value. Thanks, Dawn.
Looks like Ed (from Yuma) is less busy today than Kirk or Cathy. That’s why you’re reading this post today.
In my last post about this restaurant, back in February, the focus was on breakfasts, but The Patio does a lot of things, most of them well.
Take for example appetizers. Recently at an event here, Tina and I really loved the crunchy deep-fried calamari and oysters Rockefeller, but I did not have my camera with me. So the only appetizer I have pictured is the pretty Quesadilla:
The red pepper flour tortilla surrounded creamy mellow cheese, shredded chicken, and chorizo. A step above most quesadillas.
The first time I ate lunch at the Patio, I chose the Reuben sandwich, which came with the house made chips:
Those chips are warm, thick, and crunchy and went well with the sandwich. The Reuben itself was marvelous:
The Rye bread was grilled perfectly and there was a generous amount of corned beef and sauerkraut. For my palate, this was a great sandwich and a great lunch.
Not quite as successful was this BLT, which I ordered with the french fries ($1.25 extra):
There was nothing really wrong with the sandwich though I should have added avocado to it for some extra creaminess. Those huge fries have a lot of potato taste, but not as much crispness as I like in french fries.
The burgers are uniformly excellent. Look at this close-up their standard burger patty topped with avocado:
What's not to love? Hand formed patty, char marks, juiciness. All those things add up to a first-class burger.
That even applies to the very basic Basic Burger:
Sure, the burger toppings (lettuce, onion, dill slices, tomato) are standard, but the patty was so good they were all that the burger needed. I left the mustard, mayo, and ketchup untouched.
I had requested the house “kale slaw” instead of chips that day because it's a crunchy, tangy, pretty salad with an excellent balsamic dressing.
I had discovered that wonderful thing when I tried the fish and chips:
The two fish filets were outstanding. The beer batter was good and the sea bass tasted moist, succulent, and fresh. The chips were okay, but less interesting than everything else on the plate.
Usually I don't like to include photos of things that I haven't eaten, but Evonne loved her Asian Short Rib Tacos, so here is a picture:
She swore they were as tasty as they look. They are topped with pickled cucumber, spicy mayo, and sliced red onion. They come with the same slaw, but the deep-fried things in the back are not chips, but chicharrones. Gotta have this on my next visit.
Tina and I have also had a couple of nice dinners at the Patio. When the weather is temperate, you can sit outside:
There's even a little fire going:
While the wine list is small (though featuring Bogle wines) The Patio has a full bar and specialty drinks like the Moscow Mule:
This old time favorite features primarily ginger beer and vodka, and Tina approves.
All of the dinner entrées come with your choice of salads, both excellent. Here is the wedge:
Old-school decadence. Iceberg lettuce smothered in ranch and topped with blue cheese, real bacon pieces, and diced tomato. The drizzle of reduced balsamic adds complexity.
Here's the garden salad:
The half a heart of romaine is topped with dried cranberries, pepitos, chopped cucumber, chopped tomato, shredded carrot, and roasted corn. The sweet tang of the dressing plays well with the other ingredients. Excellent salad in both taste and plating.
The entrées also come with soft dinner rolls and balls of butter:
So far, Tina and I have tried four entrées. Here's Italian sausage meatloaf, a thick slice wrapped with bacon and stuffed with mozzarella cheese:
It lay on a pile of mashed potato and was covered with gravy and topped with crispy fried onion strips. Tina loved the Italian sausage flavor of this rich and decadent meatloaf.
That same evening, I had short ribs:
Braised in stout, the large chunks of tender beef sat atop cheddared mashed potatoes and both were enhanced by the stout gravy. All surmounted by mini onion rings and a tangle of deep-fried carrot shreds that resemble Donald Trump's hair. Outstanding flavors, nonetheless. I'd order this again.
The next dinner we ate indoors, and Tina was looking for something healthier, so she selected the grilled zucchini lasagna:
This tasted much better than it looks in the picture. Basically, it's slices of seriously grilled zucchini covered with cheese and tomato sauce. This close-up may give you a better idea about the entrée:
I wanted lamb chops, which turned out to be two double boned chops slathered with chimichurri sauce and set atop mashed potatoes (and again bewigged like the Donald):
This was tasty. The mildly flavored lamb was tender and not overcooked. The sauce was green and garlicky. That little bowl sitting on the back of the plate was brimming with Mexican-style yellow corn, just like you'd find out on 8th Street:
Roasted corn kernels, charred from the grill, swimming in a rich combination of butter, crema, and Parmesan. Total yummy.
This last year has been good for us Yumans who like eating out. A lot of interesting and tasty new restaurants. The Patio, in particular, offers a great range of various foods in a nice setting. Service is first rate, and many of the dishes are out of the ordinary. That chef Alex's cuisine often reflects Yuma (like that street corn)is an added bonus.
Kirk and Cathy aren’t posting today; Ed (from Yuma) is posting and he is a happy man
Last Saturday, I nearly caused an accident on 8th Street. Disappointed and hungry, we'd given up on locating an elusive truck that I had been told about beyond Ave B. So we were just cruising 8th St to some place open when I glanced over to the right, hit the brakes, and swerved.
On a little building behind the Los Compadres truck, just to the west of El Zarape, were written magic words:
I went around to the front and was disappointed to see that it was CLOSED, but the curtains in the window and the signage let me know that someday soon it would be OPEN:
I went through at least seven stages of grief, finally accepting that it was gone, pretty much giving up any hope.
Now OMG it's back.
Around 5:30 pm, May 5, 2016, Tina and I dropped by and saw that it was open. With smiling faces we opened the door, walked in, and immediately saw Lucia smiling behind the counter. Her first day in business at this new location.
The interior space is very small, but clean and bright. There are only four tables; here’s one:
The building is much more modern than her last location and seems to have an effective AC system:
The aguasfrescas ensalada are still very sweet and chocked full of fruit:
The tamales de pollo may be even better than before:
Extremely rich, but complexly flavored. Note the green and red flecks of herbs and spices in the masa:
And completing the tamale striptease, here's a shot of the juicy hot tender flesh within:
Tina had sopa de pollo, a large bowl packed with bone on chicken, chayote, potato, zucchini, carrot, and chicken broth:
The soup came with colorful rice
and 2 thick handmade corn tortillas:
The broth was light and clean tasting, picked up by a generous squeeze of the lemon. And the portion so generous that the leftovers became Tina's next lunch.
I had pollo en salsa, chicken braised in a light tomato sauce, served with rice, chopped lettuce, cucumber, tomato, and radish, and of course 2 thick corn tortillas:
That picture is somewhat deceiving because the thin but very tasty tomato sauce was put on top of the chicken and rice and then the lettuce and vegetables were plated, so I took another picture just to show the hidden "salsa"
The chicken was moist, fall apart tender, and savory. The rice was perfectly prepared and married happily with the tomato sauce. The lettuce etc. was more condiments than salad. Downhome goodness.
The rebirthed Cabañas did have one new item, a very special cornbread:
We took a simple looking piece home for dessert and were amazed by its complexity. Covered with a sprinkling of sesame seeds and a light glaze, it was dense, slightly sweet, corny, and cheesy. Waves of flavors. Only after we had eaten some did I realize I needed a picture of it.
The new Pupuseria Cabañas has hit the ground running. Early on opening night, there were two other tables occupied and people grabbing to go orders.
Because I have written so much about Cabañas in the past, I probably won't be updating information unless something remarkable happens. Based on this one meal, I expect the reincarnated Cabañas will measure up to its former self – and maybe even exceed it!
Lucia plans to be open every day: 8 am through 9 pm Wed – Sat, and Noon through 8 pm Sun – Tues. Every day she expects to have one or two soups and one or two entrées available as well as tamales, pupusas etc. Thursday will be bean soup (woohoo) and Sunday Sopa de Pata, my favorite, sort of a muy rico Salvadoran Menudo.
I feel like I just ran into a dear old friend who I thought I would never see again.
mmm-yoso!!! is a foodblog focusing on San Diego and the world. Kirk posts most, Cathy posts often, and today Ed (from Yuma) posts this.
Every year the Yuman food truck culture spawns more spots. Here's a couple:
Angie, Tina's manager at work, was raving about a fantastic seafood molcajete at a place on Ave B, just a little south of 8th Street. So a couple of weeks later Tina and I found the place, Mariscos Güero, tucked behind another truck on the east side of B:
There are a few tables and folding chairs sheltered under canvas with windbreaks on all sides. On the truck there’s a menu with no prices (though prices are fair):
On our first visit, in the evening, there were few customers (and the nice folks at the truck said they would be closing evenings once the main season was over). At weekday lunch, the place can be quite busy:
On our first visit, Tina and I had a molcajete:
It was packed with cooked shrimp, octopus, and surimi. The seafood was mixed with large slices of red onion and cucumber pieces, all topped with generous wedges of avocado. The sauce was exceptional –flavors of seafood, lime, chili spice, and even a touch of soy sauce. Overall very good.
We also ordered a ceviche tostada:
Also very good. The sweetness of the fresh raw and cooked shrimp came through the lime. The fresh chopped onions and cucumbers and crunchy tortilla gave textural balance.
On my next visit, I ordered two fish and one shrimp taco:
Here's a close-up of a fish taco:
The tortilla, cabbage, and tomato were fresh and fine, but the crema was awfully thin and lacking in flavor. While the breading on the seafoods was not crunchy, neither the fish nor shrimp were overcooked so they tasted fresh and moist.
On my last visit, it was time for a campechana:
That's huge. And it is filled with a lot of good stuff:
When I ordered the mixed seafood cocktail, I was asked if I wanted it with "blood clam." "Sure," I answered, "con todo." I hadn't run across a campechana with blood clam (also known as concha negra, black clam) since Tio Juan’s disappeared from 8th Street. Here is one of them:
In any case, I am still alive and feeling good, so I guess I dodged another bullet (picture smiley face of your choice here). I also had the joy of consuming a really wonderful campechana. The octopus and shrimp were not overcooked. The surimi had a pleasant sweetness that I liked. But the mollusks were the stars: the abundant octopus had a perfect chewiness and octopus flavor; the clams had a different chew and were distinctly clammy; and the few fresh bay scallops were tender and lightly flavored. The cocktail juice tasted of cooking water, tomato sauce, (Clamoto?), lime juice, and a hint of soy. With a little bit of salsa it was perfect for my palate.
Taqueria San Pedro
This taco stand on 8th Street has long been a favorite of Tina and me. Though they quit serving hotdogs, their carne asada and other tacos, as well as the attractive ramada area, made it a good place for a quick dinner.
We had noticed, however, that the place seemed to be deteriorating slowly – the leather seats becoming ragged and torn. Then one evening San Pedro was not open. No sign and no sign of life. Oh well, we shrugged, that's the world of taco trucks.
A couple of months ago, we were cruising 8th Street and saw billows of fragrant looking smoke rising from the back of a lot. "Oh My God," Tina exclaimed, "it's San Pedro!" And so it was:
Pedro himself was still there being grillmaster. But the interior had been renovated – now more closed off and refurnished:
Wow. Fancy tables and chairs, a tiled floor, even a heater. The menu, still very small, is on every napkin dispenser:
After we ordered, the first thing brought over was a cup of frijoles:
Good, simple pinto beans in a light broth. Good by themselves, but made even better by adding some of the condiments:
Notice the spicy and the roasted salsa. The guacamole sauce was thinner than eight years ago, and many of the other items were nothing special. However, we really enjoyed the mild and fresh pico de gallo:
and loved the roasted jalapenos, mellowed and sweetened by the grill:
Then came volcanes:
Basically, a volcan is just a vampira except that the cheese goes atop the carne asada rather than between the meat and the desiccated corn tortilla. This was excellent, crunchy and toothsome with meaty asada.
The taco San Pedro is another Sonoran specialty, matching cheese, roasted green chile pepper, and quality asada:
This night, the cabeza was decent but nothing special:
What was our favorite? The tripa:
Tripa is difficult to get right. Sometimes too musty, often too rubbery, and usually too flavorless. This one, however, was perfect. Crunchy in places with a little char, and what was not crunchy was tender chewy. Porky good. Yum.
Kirk and Cathy are really busy today, so another post by Ed (from Yuma).
When the long defunct Indian restaurant on 4th Ave. was transformed into a taco shop, the change was instantly apparent:
So of course I had to drop in and see what was going on. On my first visit, if memory serves, they were serving only quesadillas, or pastor, asada, or cabeza tacos, so I ordered three tacos. I was pleasantly surprised when a wheel of condiments showed up on my table:
The guacamole sauce was pretty standard, as was the salsa, cabbage, onion/cilantro, and lime wedges. I enjoyed the thick slices of cucumber which I dipped in the guacamole sauce and topped with a little salsa. My taco shop appetizer.
Looking around, I could tell that the new owners had painted the inside as well as the outside, cleaned the place up, and put in new furniture:
The tacos were decent, if nothing really special:
All the meats, even the very red pastor, were lightly seasoned – the basic flavors coming through.
On my next few visits, it was clear that the restaurant was thriving with customers in the front, back, and side room:
No longer was the young son of the family wandering around amazed at the restaurant and the customers. Many more choices were written on a whiteboard:
Covered with fresh chopped lettuce and tomato and sprinkled with crumbly cotija cheese, a beef and frijoles sope was tasty as well:
The beefy rolled tacos (topped with cabbage) had plenty of crunch:
And I could wash everything down with real Mexican Coca-Cola:
Since this is an independent family restaurant, there is some variation from visit to visit. For example, most of the time the chicken taco looks like this:
But one day, the chicken had lingered longer on the grill and had a more interesting crispy texture:
On that same visit, the cabeza was really outstanding, muy rico:
And of course, all of these things came with that same condiment wheel.
And Tacos El Zamy continues to get better. The whiteboard has been replaced by this electronic menu:
And the wheel of condiments comes with an extra spicy salsa on the side:
One thing that hasn't changed is the friendly and personal service. I have always been well treated. For example, when I recently ordered three tacos, my friendly server reminded me that at El Zamy 4 tacos are only $5. I couldn't resist what was basically a $.50 taco, so this platter soon showed up at my table:
The cabeza, chicken, and pastor were pretty much the same as before, but the birria (de res) was wonderful – rich and savory.
I couldn't quit thinking about that birria, so on my most recent visit I ordered the birria plate (after all, this post wouldn't be complete without trying one of the plates, right?):
The wheel of condiments and the warm corn tortillas on the side were fine. And even though the rice was subpar and the beans a bit runny, the birria was really great. I left happy and satisfied.
In many ways, El Zamy is like a taco truck in a building, featuring many of the basic taco truck favorites done well. Unlike a taco truck, the restaurant offers protection from wind and weather. The ambience – such as it is – makes this the kind of place where a Yuman could give Cousin Fred and his wife Nancy from Nebraska a good quality authentic Yuma taco experience without subjecting them to plastic chairs, a dirt parking lot, and inclement weather. And the food is good and prepared with love.
Tacos El Zamy, 2071 S. 4th Ave, (928) 366-3269 or (928) 817-2461
Kirk and Cathy are busy doing important things today. So Ed (from Yuma) is filling in with a post about a new place in Yuma.
Longtime Yumans still identify the space at 2855 S 4th Ave as the location of Hensley's Steakhouse (a.k.a. Hensley's Beef, Beans and Beer). They assure me that the Hensley family owned and operated that successful restaurant for 20 years.
But for the entire time that I have lived in Yuma, this spot's been cursed. It has hosted Mi Playita, TJ’s Marisquero, Viejo Loco, Small Fries, Rusty Spoon, Spanky's Chophouse, The Farmhouse, and probably some others I can't remember. Now it has been reborn as Crouse’s Flat Top Grill:
Inside, the decor is clean and minimalist. There are tables of various sizes and not a lot of decoration on the walls:
There is also a small bar area:
The minimalist ambience with hard flat surfaces means that it gets loud when the tables are full. And because of the food, these days it has been getting loud alot.
For example, just look at this pulled pork dinner:
The bread grilled up crunchy, the beans decent, the battered fries nicely crisp, and the pile of pulled pork magnificent:
The meat tasted every bit as good as it looks in that picture– charred, smoky, rich, with a nice meaty chew.
In fact, it was a pulled pork sandwich on my first visit to Flat Top Grill that convinced me that the kitchen could put out stuff that was seriously wow:
There's a whole lot of good on that plate. The pulled pork, of course, was amazing. The tangy sweet barbecue sauce staying in the background where it belonged. The fresh coleslaw added crunch. The whole thing was so big, that I turned it into two open faced sandwiches just to get it into my mouth, and I still ended up taking leftovers home (our dog was delighted).
Even the mac salad – the sandwiches come with your choice of side – was outstanding. Abundant diced sweet/sour pickles, shredded cabbage, and small cubes of cheese gave the salad a complexity of textures and tastes. Very enjoyable.
Speaking of sides, for two dollars extra you can get maybe the best onion rings in town:
These homemade rings are the standard by which all other onion rings should be judged. The breading was outstanding – the exterior had a crispness that gave way to a firm chew. Inside, the onion slices themselves were sweet and flavorful. The only shortcoming, a lack of equally incredible dipping sauce.
The cheeseburger with extra crispy fries was another tasty lunch:
This day, the battered french fries had an nicely seasoned crackly crisp exterior wrapped around a pillow soft interior. The half pound burger was obviously hand formed and coarsely ground on the premises – great texture. The pickles were sweet/sour, slightly spicy, and nicely crunchy. A good burger that would have been great if it had not been slightly overcooked, so there was no moist pink center to the patty.
The chicken Club was another good sandwich:
The chicken was nicely grilled and seasoned, the bacon chewy and flavorful. If only the avocado slices had been riper and creamier the sandwich would have approached perfection.
Speaking of perfection, it's hard to imagine a better red chile cheeseburger than this open faced example:
The picture does not do justice. In my years, I have eaten dozens of versions of this truck stop/diner standard. Back in the day, my parents’ eatery served a good version, topped with my dad’s recipe chili. The Crouse’s is in a different league entirely. Even with beans, the red chile is deeply flavored and rich. Everything oh my god good.
One more example of the really tasty food at Flat Top Grill, the tri-tip sandwich:
The potato salad is fine if not spectacular and the split ciabatta roll was pretty ordinary. On the other hand, the tri-tip, grilled over oak, Santa Maria style, was rich, tender, and smoky. And look at all that meat. Three slices were plenty for the sandwich, so I took two of them home (happy dog again). Also notice that there is no mayo, mustard, ketchup, cheese, or sauce on the bread. The tri-tip is rich and fatty enough that the sandwich – just roll, lettuce leaf, and meat – needed nothing else. Wow again! – or as the dog would say, Bow Wow!
With the opening of Flat Top Grill, I think the Crouse family has finally killed the curse.