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Mexican Breakfast in Fresno--Report

I’m starting a new threat on Mexican food breakfasts in Fresno; even though this thread overlaps two previous threads that deal with similar topics, some of the stuff I have to report is slightly off-topic of the other two threads:

On breakfast burritos in the Fresno area:
http://www.chowhound.com/topics/show/...

On huevos rancheros in the Fresno area:
http://www.chowhound.com/topics/show/...

CUCA’S RESTAURANT. Very extensive and impressive breakfast menu. Other sources frequently mention the captivating-sounding “huevos con wieners.” Breakfast available all the time.

Wife ordered migas. I don’t see migas on many menus in California, though I recall seeing it on a lot of menus in Texas. Migas is tortilla strips fried with veggies (at Cuca’s it was onion and some tomato thrown in there somewhere) and scrambled with eggs. The word “migas” is Spanish for “crumbs,” so I’m guessing that traditional migas might be a bunch of left-over material thrown into some scramble eggs for breakfast. I’ve seen some places in California call that chilaquiles, though chilaquiles is normally a bit different: tortilla strips or pieces fried in sauce (frequently red sauce, though green is not uncommon), sometimes slathered with cheese, with eggs on request. Cuca’s has chilaquiles, too, though we haven’t tried them yet.

Anyway, the migas at Cuca’s was made with actual tortilla strips (not corn chips, as some slacker places might do), and chunks of raw jalapeno pepper. Wife said they’d be better if they had some sauce and/or cheese on them. Next time we may try the chilaquiles instead.

I had the huevos rancheros. Chunky tomato ranchero sauce on top with long strips of onion and big chunks of bell pepper. Some huevos rancheros have a fresh-made sauce; others have a simmering-all-day sauce. This sauce tasted like the fresh-made variety. Eggs were definitely soft-cooked—perhaps sunny-side up.

Let’s take a minute and discuss the eggs in huevos rancheros. I prefer my eggs over-easy and a little more cooked than these were, but it seems to me that sunny-side up eggs (or slightly undercooked eggs) are the norm for huevos rancheros. (That is, at the places that don’t ask you how you want your eggs. Some places do ask, and I guess I need a name for that test of a restaurant, because the “They ask you how you want your eggs test” doesn’t have much of a ring to it.

)

Sides included beans & potatoes. The beans were definitely flavored with spices but not spicy hot. The potatoes appeared to be lightly deep-fried; by themselves they were only okay but they were good when mixed in with the rest of my plate.

Prices seemed reasonable (though I can’t remember the specifics). Service was pretty slow, though they were very busy, and we were expecting slow services after reading some reviews and recommendations. Ambiance is cute and has a bit of an "I'm eating in Mexico" vibe (whatever that is).

Cuca’s Restaurant
936 E. Olive Ave. (between Van Ness & Wishon in the Tower District)
Fresno, CA 93728
559-237-0111

JULIA’S MEXICAN RESTAURANT. PolarBear has mentioned this place, and his BIL is right to rave; a definite winner here. I ordered huevos rancheros while my wife ordered chilaquiles. I was pleased to find the huevos (I was asked how I wanted them cooked) resting on a fried corn tortilla (instead of an uncooked tortilla) with a light amount of chunky, fresh-variety ranchero sauce on top. Going light on the sauce was wonderful since it allowed the taste of the eggs and tortillas to come through.

Beans on the side were delicious (probably pretty high on the “lardometer”). Potatoes were shaped like thick-cut French fries though they were not cooked to crispy on the outside like fries would be normally. Like the spuds at Cuca’s, they were not fabulous in and of themselves, but when combined with other foods on my plate were good. I suspect that those who don’t care for potatoes with their Mexican breakfast will not approve, though rest assured there weren’t many of the offending spuds on the plate. Corn tortillas brought on the side were store-bought variety, but that didn’t take away from the deliciousness of the plate as a whole.

Wife said the chilaquiles were yummy: crispy corn tortilla strips (not chips), tasty ranchero sauce (probably the same thing I had on my huevos rancheros), melted cheese, chunks of pepper, and scrambled eggs. They were served with beans, potatoes, and tortillas on the side.

Salsa brought to the table was a smooth, roasted hot sauce. Excellent heat. Excellent smoky taste.

Behind the cash register was a sign listing weekday (iirc) “to go” breakfasts available in small & large sizes. Most were breakfast burritos, though I believe they had other portable breakfast items listed as well.

On the way out the door I spied someone eating what was probably the chile colorado. It was the most beautiful color dark red I’ve ever seen on a plate of food. Can’t wait to try it on my next visit.

Service was fast. Prices very reasonable: wife and I had two breakfasts and two iced teas for less than $12.00 before tip. Ambiance was definitely budget: harsh lights and white walls; but somehow it seemed to fit; they focus on their food, not their decor. We'll definitely be back for more.

Julia’s Mexican Restaurant
2160 H Street (at Divisadero St.)
Fresno, CA 93721
559-233-3437

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  1. I grew up in Fresno but have lived all over the world since 1972(in Colombia for the last 13 years). We always ate well in Fresno, both out and at home (my cousin Elaine started the Dai Ichi restaurants). My earliest memories of eating out were at the Fuji Cafe in the 50s in the west side. While at FSU, I went dancing and beer drinking at La Fiesta and El Gato Negro, and ate in the west side Mexican cafes. Have they all disappeared?

    1. FWIW, I'm in the over medium to hard category. If the HR are too runny it doesn't work as well.

      2 Replies
      1. re: tavmark

        Sometimes HR are "runny" because the eggs are on the soft side (or even undercooked). Sometimes they are runny because there's a lot of sauce on them. Just curious: since you don't like runny eggs, do you dislike runny sauce, too? Or is it just the runny eggs you don't like?

        1. re: alanstotle

          When we were at Cuca's a couple of weeks ago I noticed that in addition to the regular huevos rancheros they had a special HR that was served in a bowl. It sounded like huevos rancheros served with extra sauce so that it was more like an HR soup or something.

      2. Finally got by Julia's for the Huevos Rancheros and agree completely with alanstotle's assessment. Eggs cooked perfectly over easy as requested, skeptical of the potatoes until I started mashing them with the fork and sopping up all the juices.

        I really liked the (slightly) crisped corn tortilla base, adds a great textural contrast. Has anyone found any other place in the area that does this? I found two in Santa Barbara, both fried theirs to the consistency of a tostada shell that I thought worked very well.

        Link to Santa Barbara HR report:

        http://www.chowhound.com/topics/show/...

        1. Wife and I took PolarBear's recommendation and tried breakfast at COUNTRY FARE CAFE this morning. Another winner.

          I had a chile colorado omelet. Big chunks of pork and chile colorado sauce on the inside (along with some grated white cheese iirc), topped with more sauce but no pork. Tasty, tasty, tasty. Sauce was thick and chile-gravy-like.

          My wife had huevos rancheros: soft but not crispy corn tortilla, eggs over-easy as requested, and a good slow-simmered and meaty ranchero sauce on top.

          Both breakfasts came with a side of beans, fried potatoes, and tortillas. Beans were yummy: high on the lardometer, but thicker and a little chunkier than others we've had a places like Julia's. Spuds were definitely home-sliced and fried (you could tell by the way they were cut and stuck together that they were not pre-packaged spuds). I was not too impressed by them because they seemed a little bit undercooked to me. My wife liked them more than the "fries" we had at Julia's, though she says potatoes are not her primary criterion for judging a restaurant. I agree. Tortillas may or may not have been store-bought, but they were pretty tasty. We were given two salsas: one was a typical Mexican restaurant salsa that was quite mild; the other was a plastic bottle of something that had good flavor and more of a kick.

          Both of our breakfasts and two sodas came to $15. Ambiance was bare and energetic but not out-of-control. Service was pretty fast. Restaurant was very busy while we were there, yet our order was taken quickly and our food arrived quickly.

          Our overall impression was that the food was a bit more gringo-ized than other Mexican places we've eaten at (such as the oft-mentioned Julia's and El Conchinito Contento) but that the food was still delicious and definitely worth returning to.

          A couple side notes: the parking lot in back is small, crowded and probably a good place to avoid. While parking and returning to our vehicle we watched someone try to park and back their car into a fence, we watched a pickup backing out of a space bump into another car (lightly, but a bump nonetheless), and I had to back our car out of our space in such a way that another car could park there so we could get out of the parking lot. On the plus side, there were a number of guys in that parking lot offering car washes while we dined.

          Country Fare
          4662 E Belmont Ave
          Fresno, CA 93702
          (559) 255-9764

          As part of this trip, we also drove past Cafe Valadez (northeast corner of Chestnut & Butler) and it appeared to be permanently closed with the space for lease. However, in the same shopping center they were currently putting in a Vallarta grocery store. Vallarta is a chain we've seen down in Los Angeles, and it will probably be similar to the Fiesta Foods currently at First & Tulare.

          A couple of weeks ago we returned for another breakfast at EL CONCHINITO CONTENTO in the Tower District. My wife had the breakfast burrito again, only this time she asked is they would put avocado in it in place of the meat. They were happy to oblige. I had the machaca, which had big pieces of onion and bell pepper in it. I liked it more than the huevos rancheros I had at my previous visit.

          1. I suspect the number of postings to this thread are likely to wind down a bit--a conversation with PolarBear convinced me that we're starting to suffer from Mexican breakfast overload! But I'm sure there will be an addition here or there.

            Like right now!

            Wife and I had breakfast at JULIA'S MEXICAN CAFE again. What a charming and yummy place. My wife had a bowl of chicken soup. A big ol' bowl. Service of the soup to the table reminded us both of a bowl of pho: broth was a thin chicken broth with huge chunks of meat and vegetables in it, with a small bowl of rice on the side, and a plate of garnishes like chopped onion and jalepeno pepper. Broth was delicious: thin texture but with lots of flavor of chicken and probably some lime or something tangy. In the soup was a half of a boiled potato, a drumstick and a chicken thigh (the meat of which was predictably fall-off-the-bone), a thick slab of zuchini, and other veggies. The rice poured into the soup was also good.

            (They also serve pozole and menudo on weekends, chicken and beef soup every day, and albondigas soup on Wednesdays.)

            I tried the much-anticipated huevos con chile colorado. As I expected it was a beautiful dark red color. Flavor was a bit bland--though not bad tasting--and there were not many chunks of pork in it. Maybe it's time to try the chile verde. After eating my eggs and tortillas and pork, I mashed the rest of my colorado sauce, beans, and fried potatoes together for a messy, wonderful treat. Service was speedy and attentive--just like last time.

            We sat near the back and I noticed that there was not a man to be seen working in the place. In the kitchen were three women kicking out dishes like nobody's business, laughing and chatting with each other. I asked my wife if that was why the food tasted so good. She just smiled.

            On the breakfast burrito front: tried the burrito at CILANTRO'S at the corner of Shaw and Cedar. Eggs, potato squares, cheese, salsa, and meat (bacon, sausage, or chorizo). Less than 3 bucks. Burrito was assembled from ingredients on a steam tray, but it was warm and tasted fine. Bacon was in chunks (not strips) so most bites got a piece of meat. Spicy salsa had good heat. Medium size burrito and constructed tightly for good portability. Not an "authentically Mexican" breakfast burrito, but worthwhile if you're looking for a basic breakfast (meat, eggs, and starch) all wrapped up in a tortilla.

            On the other hand, across the street at the PUB at the UNIVERSITY CENTER on the Fresno State campus, the breakfast burritos are best to be avoided unless you're really hungry and don't want to eat the doughnuts over at the union snack bar. Eggs and potatoes ($2.50), and meat (choice of bacon, ham, or chorizo) for a dollar more. No cheese, and you have to ask for salsa on the burrito (and it's not very hot salsa, either). They're not bad per se, just executed poorly. Without cheese they tend to be dry and boring, even when you get salsa on the burrito. And your burrito will almost certainly drip grease. (How's that for what seems to be a contradiction: the burritos are both dry and greasy.) I've tried to figure out where the grease is coming from, and my best guess is that it's the artificially-flavored butter substitute they cook the eggs or potatoes in.

            Also managed to try a machaca burrito at CUCA'S a while back. PolarBear is right: this is serious machaca. Big chunks of onion and bell pepper; nice, ropey, chewy beef; and just a touch of egg (enough to give it some variety and hold it together). I ordered the small but wished I had ordered the large so that I could eat more of it.

            1. I love Cuca's, especially for their delicious, soft, thick handmade corn tortillas.

              Cuca's corn tortillas + machaca = Heaven

              The description of "nice, ropey, chewy beef with a touch of egg" is a perfect description. It has just enough grease to give flavor.

              Usually, I order their albondigas soup, even for breakfast. The veggies are in large chunks and the meatballs are huge, so it's a knife and fork soup. The corn tortillas nicely sop up the beefy, tomato-y broth. I always ask for extra tortillas in lieu of the rice usually served with the soup.

              2 Replies
              1. re: sillyrabbit

                You've mentioned the tortillas before. In fact, it was your description of them that got me into Cuca's in the first place.

                1. re: alanstotle

                  I'm sorry. I tend to get very excited about good food!

              2. Had huevos rancheros this morning at The Dam Diner in Friant, the little town just below the Friant Dam.

                The HR was made with chili verde which, as my wife pointed out, means it wasn't huevos rancheros since ranchero sauce is red. So it's called huevos rancheros but it's really huevos chili verde. Nonetheless, it was quite tasty.

                Two uncooked corn tortillas with two eggs to order on top. I ordered mine over-easy and they came out perfect: wet yokes but not overly gooey. Chili verde on top was tangy--probably a lot of tomatillo--and lots and lots of browned pork meat. A side of chunky salsa had a lot of tomato in it and also a really good kick of spiciness.

                My meal was huge! The plate they served it on was at least 15 inches across, half of it was filled with chili verde, the other half filled with refried beans and cheese. Then there was a second plate with some hashbrowns (I asked them to substitute hashbrowns for the rice) and two giant flour tortillas. All that for about 8 bucks. I brought half of my food home and I'll be able to make at least one, if not two, more more meals out of it.

                Coffee was pretty out-of-the-way-diner stuff--watery but drinkable. Service was very friendly and accommodating. The menu here is mostly American breakfast food, but there are three or four Mexican breakfast items, too. Perhaps not the very best Mexican breakfast I've had in the Fresno area (I'm having more dreams of Julia's) but based on this one experience I'd rank it up there as one of the better breakfast stops I've made recently and I'd return to eat there again.

                The Dam Diner
                17304 N. Friant Ave.
                Friant, CA 93626
                559-822-2220

                1. Had an interesting version of huevos rancheros a couple of weeks ago at a fairly new place at Clinton and 99, called Nuevo Leon Steakhouse. Eggs were a nice golden color, fresh tasting, over easy as requested, and were topped with a spicy, kind of orange colored (iirc) sauce that had a pretty good kick to it, instead of smothered in the more traditional ranchera sauce. They said they would gladly crisp up the corn tortilla under the eggs if so desired. Served with beans and hash browns, everything quite good.

                  2341 N. Parkway Dr.
                  559-237-3239

                  It's just south of Clinton on the west side of Hwy 99, immediately after the road curves south to parallel the freeway and lead to the southbound on ramp.