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.
While Kirk is out of the country adventuring and eating and taking photos that he will share with us later, Cathy is doing most of the posting here at mmm-yoso. Some days Ed (from Yuma) helps out, and today is one of those days.
I really don't eat a lot of breakfasts, and when I do, it is often instant oatmeal or toast or a burrito from Jector's. But on weekends, Tina and I like to go out sometimes for a morning meal. The problem is that a crowd of people breakfast out on weekends, particularly during our tourist season, and a lot of restaurants stop serving breakfast after 11 am. So when we heard that a talented young chef had taken over the Patio Restaurant at the Desert Hills Golf Course and was serving breakfasts beginning 6 am every day and continuing on Sundays until 3 pm, we just had to try it.
The restaurant is located in the clubhouse building,
and you enter through the main door,
walk back toward the well-equipped bar, and then wait to be seated:
Of course, there is seating indoors and at the bar,
but weather permitting, Tina and I enjoy outside on the patio itself with its views of the golf course:
The menu is one page, but Tina and I had no trouble finding several things we wanted to try. I opted for the Eggs Benedict:
The hollandaise was smooth and subtle and the eggs perfectly poached, so the yolks and sauce mingled together and flavored everything. On the other hand, the tomato slice, while lightening things up a bit, seemed to soggy up the muffin halves, and I wouldn't have minded a little larger round of ham.
No complaints at all about the home fries. They were lightly dusted with seasoning and had been crisped up on the grill. Overall, this was an interesting and tasty breakfast.
Tina chose the mushroom and spinach omelet:
A real winner. Alongside those same good potatoes, lay perhaps the best spinach and mushroom omelet I've ever tasted. Fully flavored and packed with spinach and mushrooms:
My only complaint was Smucker's fruit flavored high fructose corn syrup spreads masquerading as jam or jelly:
Our meals, including coffee, came out to just over $21 (before tax). Good value we thought and some excellent preparations.
Since then, we have been back a couple more times and always enjoyed our food. I'll admit that the stack of blueberry pancakes looks pretty mundane:
but they were made with a flavorful batter, griddled to a slight crisp, and packed with oversized blueberries:
The enchiladas and eggs, one of the house specialties, looked like this:
The scrambled eggs on top were nothing special, so we would probably order them over easy or poached next time, but everything else here was outstanding. The house made sauce – dark, rich, and mellow – flavored everything. The corn tortillas (also house made?) were thick with substantial mouthfeel and intense tortilla flavor. Usually the tortillas fly under my palate’s radar when I order enchiladas, but these yelled out, "pay attention to us." And there was, to my taste, just the right amount of quality cheese, not gloopy gobs of gluey blandness. This dish worked on so many levels, the ingredients complementing and enhancing each other.
Equally outstanding was the chicken fried steak and eggs:
While the potatoes were not quite as good as before, the chicken fried steak was beyond exceptional in flavor and crunch, and good creamy gravy only made the steak better. I did a little yoso-delicioso dance in my chair.
Of course, with food this good (and inexpensive) for breakfast, Tina and I and friends have been back for several other meals, but descriptions and pictures will have to wait for a different post.
While the service and ambience at The Patio are good, one extra thing makes the place special and that is chef Alex Trujillo:
Several times we've seen him go table to table asking if everything was okay and making sure that we all enjoyed our meals. Nice to see a chef talented both in the kitchen and the dining area.
Tomorrow this food blog will have an outstanding post by Kirk or Cathy. But they are taking today off so Ed (from Yuma) – who has lots of days off – can write about a little grocery.
About 10 years ago, Kirk came over to Yuma and spent a couple days looking around and taco trucking. While in town, I showed him The Oriental Gift Shop that sells a wide variety of Asian trinkets and wigs and has a cooler and freezer in the back with kimchi and other mostly Korean specialties. A few shelves in that part of the shop offer rices, sauces, spices, and marinades. Kirk called it the 49.5 market, but as far as foodstuffs, it is a 9.9 ranch market at best (still my go to place for kimchi, however).
So I am delighted that Asian Store (not to be confused with Asian Star) now exists in town. From the back of the parking lot at Eddie's Grill, you can get an idea of its general location:
If you look along this strip mall that parallels Catalina Dr, past the location that was once a Staples, past the Dollar Tree, and beyond the Salvation Army thrift store, you will eventually find Asian Store right next to a Little Caesars:
The nondescript market has four aisles. The one on the far right has the carbohydrates. A large supply of various Asian rices:
Look for dried seaweed above the sushi rice:
Across from the rices are the noodles:
Along with such specialties as bean thread vermicelli, an amazing array of Cantonese style noodles:
And I have fallen in love with Thai rice sticks, which add a whole new dimension to my gringo stirfries:
The next aisle contains a miscellaneous assortment:
An area of canned goods including bamboo shoots:
and large jars of sour bamboo shoots:
You can also find sauce packets and spice mixes: soup bases and spices:
Thai curry pastes:
and Hawaiian spicy chicken seasoning:
The other side of the aisle displays many different teas – Japanese:
or Jasmine if you prefer:
That side also has dried beans and Panko:
The next aisle displays bottled and jarred condiments and sauces on one side and a huge variety of snacks on the other:
You can buy a bag of fried pork skins:
or roasted green peas:
Across the aisle, Kirk could find his Aloha soy or teriyaki sauce:
or pungent shrimp sauce:
Of course there's Sriracha:
an entire area of various vinegars:
and such specialties as Pad Thai Sauce (which is pretty good):
At the backend of that aisle you can find some fresh produce that doesn't need refrigeration, like kabocha squash, lemons, and these shallots (only $1.19 a bag):
Which leads me to my favorite part of the store, the refrigerated produce area at the back of the westernmost aisle. Shelves full of choys:
Or long beans, bitter melon, eggplants:
including my favorite king oyster mushrooms:
Fresh papaya strips, ready to be turned into a salad:
And if you want that salad spicy, plenty of Thai chilies:
And don't forget the time-saving peeled fresh garlic cloves:
Between the fresh foods and the front of the market are shelves filled with frozen goods:
I spend less time in this area, but you can find a wide range of frozen product. Like mochi sherbet or ice cream:
or even pork paste or fish paste (?):
Though I am puzzled or confused by some of the items for sale, you can understand why I am delighted to shop in a market like Asian Store. Their prices are very competitive and sometimes better than Fry’s or Albertsons. The produce is fresh, seasonal, and various. In so many ways, this little grocery makes me a better and more adventurous cook. And that makes both Tina and me happy.
This post by Ed (from Yuma) is here today because Kirk is jet lagging and Cathy is resting up for the holidays.
I cannot remember a time in my life before Chinese food. Of course I am not speaking of truly authentic Chinese food as found in Hong Kong, Beijing, Shanghai, or Chengdu, but of the more pedestrian Americanized versions that exist in places like Columbus Ohio, Long Beach Washington, Monterey California – or Medford Oregon, where I grew up.
My mom had a rule – she cooked six days a week, and like God, she rested on the seventh. That meant we went out to eat once a week. My dad had lived several years in Asia and truly loved rice. That meant I grew up eating a lot of “Chinese” food at Kim's Restaurant on S. Pacific Hwy at the south edge of Medford back in the 50s and 60s.
Therefore, finding edible sortof-Chinese food wherever I am living is important to me. Which is why this post focuses on two "Chinese" restaurants in Yuma. First, Yuma Palace: The last time I posted about this location, it was called Grand China, so it is still a large traditional Americanized Chinese restaurant space. This picture just shows part of the half of the restaurant where the current management seats people most days: The other restaurant is named Asian Gourmet (do not confuse it with Asian Star): When I moved to town, AG was called The Fortune Cookie. Then it became another location for Highway 95 Café. After a long slow decline, the ownership changed (though some of the old crew are still around), and the restaurant was remodeled and given a new name. Here's a shot of the new interior: I like eating out for lunch, so I love lunch specials. Asian Gourmet has 20 different ones (currently $6.55 or $7.55). Yuma Palace offers more choice – around 40 options – at $6.25 or $6.99. All of them come with rice (white, brown, or fried) and a cup of soup.
Yuma Palace offers four different soups. Egg drop: Wonton: Miso: or hot and sour: The egg drop has a good broth and plenty of egg. Although the wonton soup broth is good, the filling reminds me of hamburger more than traditional porky mystery meat. The miso is pretty standard with some miso flavor and a fair amount of tofu. The hot and sour is spicy and assertive.
At Asian Gourmet you can choose one of two with your lunch. Egg drop: or hot and sour: The egg drop is a particular favorite of mine with a rich broth and some vegetables along with the egg. Compared to Yuma Palace, the hot and sour is less strongly flavored, but has more complexity.
It's interesting to compare lunch specials from the two restaurants. Here is mix veg shrimp from Asian Gourmet: And rainbow shrimp from Yuma Palace: While the shrimp taste fresh and well-prepared at both places and the range of vegetables is similar, the portion size is larger at Yuma Palace. Of course, at Asian Gourmet, the specials come with a fried wonton and eggroll.
Here is the orange chicken from Asian Gourmet: And from Yuma Palace: There are some similarities. In both cases, the chicken was fried well. The differences, however, are more striking. At AG the chicken pieces are more uniformly sized and come with several steamed pieces of broccoli. I also loved the dice of fresh onion and bell pepper – extra texture and color. Again, the portion size at YP is larger, but the chicken pieces are more heavily breaded and the single broccoli floret looks very lonely on the plate. The sauce at YP, on the other hand, is much more strongly flavored with bits of orange peel and charred dried chili throughout.
Since YP offers more choices, I have more pictures of their specials. When I'm feeling like a vegetable, I can have garlic sauce on either eggplant: or string beans: While the Thai curry chicken doesn't really remind me of an authentic Thai curry, it is nicely crunchy, very spicy, and curry flavored: Even though I don't quite understand having rice alongside a noodle dish, YP offers some noodly specials. Here’s lo mein with pork: A little greasy for my taste, but I happily ate it all.
The phad thai special: Okay, but not real good.
Noodles, on the other hand, are a specialty at Asian Gourmet. I think their phad thai is the best in town with pretty much the right taste and a pleasant complexity of flavors and textures: The house combo lo mein is pretty standard but also pretty good: Chow Kueh Teoh, a Malaysian seafood noodle dish, is simple but very tasty. The egg, squid, shrimp, and mussels come together nicely: Noodle soups are also featured on the menu at AG. Here is the roast pork with wonton noodles soup: I like the broth, and the wontons and vegetables are fine. Sadly the char siu slices are dry and chewy, but this filling bowl of soup is only $.26 more than a lunch special.
The seafood tom yam noodle soup is very tasty and very spicy: To my gringo palate, this tastes like authentic tom yum soup broth with distinct chile hot and lemon grass sour flavors, a lot of noodles, and some seafood and veggies.
The coconut curry noodle soup has a lightly spicy, rich and mellow curry broth: Along with the pieces of fried tofu, chicken chunks, shrimp, and some veggies hide amidst the spaghetti like noodles.
One can also have the a similar Curry flavored sauce (or teriyaki) on a bowl of noodles (or rice) either with just mixed vegetables – as in this picture – or with barbecued pork, jumbo shrimp, or teriyaki chicken: Actually cheaper than a lunch special.
At current prices, all of the noodles I've pictured are well under $10 – that’s a good deal to me. For just a few additional shekels, you can get this beautiful “Julianne Pan-Fried Noodle": The crunchy golden nest holds a nice combination of beef, chicken, shrimp, and assorted vegetables in a mild sauce. As well prepared as the somewhat similar dish at China Max.
Yuma Palace, on the other hand, also has some real strengths. It has a liquor license, so you can get basic beer, wine, or cocktails. It has enough room for sizable group of people. It also has a lot of choices and a wider range of "Chinese" dishes. While the egg rolls have never impressed, other appetizers, like the sesame pork ribs, are pretty tasty: The sauce was a bit sweet and a touch too syrupy, but we ate every piece.
They have standards items like mushu, or shrimp in lobster sauce, or this double cooked pork: Tina and I also enjoy the black bean shrimp:and the Hunan chicken: YP also features some sauces unusual in Yuma. Here is shrimp in sacha sauce: and cumin sauce with beef: Yeah, I wish it were cumin sauce with lamb, but still a tasty dish.
Also notice the variations of veggies in each of these YP entrees.
Along with standard fried rices, they offer a pineapple and seafood version: or this house special: Bear in mind, however, that Yuma Palace launches a few duds. Avoid the homestyle bean curd with its dense chewy tofu triangles: and the crispy sesame tofu was god-awful – not crispy, not flavorful, just cloyingly sweet. Similarly, the Japanese offerings are (at best) hit or miss. Here's a Bento box: The picture largely speaks for itself . Still way better than Asian Star.
The sushi and sashimi lunch special looks okay, and would probably be fine if bathed in enough wasabi/soy sauce, but . . . (I am picky about sushi). Also a bit confusing for me putting this post together is that the online/to go menu isn't identical to the one in the restaurant. Not sure why that is.
Asian Gourmet, though having a smaller menu and mercifully no attempts at Japanese cuisine, does prepare a range of standards such as a decent twice cooked pork: a fresh tasting champagne fish with some complexity in its sweetish sauce: and a pretty boring moo goo gai pan (called mushroom chicken on the menu): My favorite entrée at AG is pattaya shrimp. This picture shows why: The plentiful shrimps have good flavor, complemented by numerous chunks of fresh pineapple, abundant slices of onions, bits of dried shrimp and whole dried chilies. The sweet tangy chili sauce brings it all together.
I am glad both of these restaurants are in Yuma. Their cuisines (and ambience) are markedly different from the simple Mexicali/Cantonese of Yummy Yummy. It is interesting to me that none of these three are typical old school ABCDE places – though they all certainly cater to Americanized Yuma tastes.
If you have read this post all the way to the end, I want to thank you for your patience and persistence.
I also want to wish every reader Happy Holidays and remind everyone that the 2015 Somerton Tamale Festival will take place on December 19 in Somerton Arizona. It’s certainly the biggest food event in Yuma County, and you won't believe the quality and variety of the tamales – muy rico!!
Ed (from Yuma) revisits a restaurant in Yuma today. Kirk and Cathy are happily doing something else.
I feel like it's time for me to start posting about the Chinese/Asian restaurants in town again because things have been changing. In fact, the only local Chinese restaurant that over the years really hasn't changed (well except for higher prices) is a favorite of mine, Yummy Yummy, a Mexicali style Cantonese hole in the wall that is still doing well.
On the other hand, back in 2011 when I first posted about it, Asian Star was a stylish new restaurant with a sophisticated space, SGV type service, and generally good Chinese, Thai, and Japanese food. Since then, however, I heard that they lost their chef and I had two poor meals, so I had not wanted to go back until their latest menu arrived in the mail and piqued my interest. Okay, time to check it out again.
The exterior is unchanged:
The ambience and decor are still pleasant:
I decided to start with lunch specials that all come with your choice of soups. The egg drop is properly eggy:
The hot and sour soup was balanced and flavorful:
The miso soup had little miso flavor, but a lot of little tofu cubes, a few pieces of seaweed, and a nice light broth:
When the Phad Thai lunch special landed in front of me, I was kind of amazed by the weirdly pink tone of the noodles:
Okay, I guess. Mostly sweet and hot. Not a great version of the dish, lacking the complexity and interplay among the various elements of excellent Phad Thai. On the other hand, I was pleased by the sizable amount of tender chicken, shrimps, and fried egg that were hiding under the noodles:
The shrimp and vegetable lunch special looked pretty normal:
There was a nice selection of vegetables, but the mushrooms and carrots seemed undercooked while the shrimp were overcooked and dried out. Not terrible, but overall meh.
Here is a shrimp tempura bento box:
Those two cubes in the middle of the box had a pleasant seafoody flavor and a faux scallop texture. The best part of the lunch.
In the upper right corner was shrimp and vegetable "tempura":
Except for being deep-fried, this has little relationship to real tempura. The vegetables were heavily breaded and a bit greasy. I liked the juiciness of the mushroom and the freshness of the zucchini slice. On the other hand, the thin slices of eggplant and carrot were lost in fried batter. The shrimp had a bit of Panko crunch, but were desiccated and flavorless.
Look at the salad:
The ice cold iceberg lettuce tasted like crunchy cold water. The dressing was mostly pure gloppy goo without much redeeming flavor. For some reason, every time I look at this picture I think about the last time our dog was sick.
Even the rice was disappointing: Odorless, flavorless, and chalky.
The worst component of the meal, the California roll, actually looked promising:
Pick up a piece, add a touch of wasabi, dip one corner into soy sauce, pop into the mouth, chew, and begin to swallow – and then OMG, the overwhelming taste and odor of foul ammonia throughout the mouth and nose. Yuck!
Without question, the worst California roll I have ever tasted.
In the worst bento box I have ever been served.
Your results might differ – for your sake, I hope so. But I have no plans to return.
I do not enjoy badmouthing local eateries. However, . . .