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Culinary Adventures in Tucson - reviews of Poca Cosa/Mi Nidito/J Bar/Parrilla Suiza

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I went to Tucson for a combination business/personal trip last month. Of course prior to the trip I did research on chowhound to scout out possible dining places. Thought I will do a write up of some of the restaurants we went to that may be of help to others in the future.

- Cafe Poca Cosa
Went there on a Saturday and ordered to Poca Plata and a Pollo Mole. The Mole was very good, but the rest was average to bad. The beef in avocado sauce in the plata was overly salted. The corn cake was OK, even if slightly too sweet. What I don't like about the plate is that everything is piled together. I don't know what possessed the chef to put salad on the same plate as the rest of the food. If I put the salad dressing on the plate, it will run into the mole, and of course the mole ran into the salad. Not very appetizing. The side of rice and bean was not great either. The plain white rice was sticky, overcooked and oversalted. Lastly, way too much food!

- food stand at Mission Xavier
Various stalls sold fried bread tacos, and burritos. It looked pretty good so after we came back from Tubac (Tumacookery was great there for cookware) we stopped there for a late lunch. No seats, everything was dripping grease, but the food was pretty tasty in a peasant/rustic way. I had a green chili fried bread, hubbie and kid had the beans and cheese. I am sure it's really bad for you health wise, but a good occasional indulgence and a guilty pleasure.

- Mi Nidito
We waited for an hour to get in, but the food was worth the wait. The margarita was OK (had guava and mango) - a bit too weak and tasted like it was made from a slushy machine. I had the chili rellenos and it was easily the best I had. Lots of cheese, thin batter, and the chili wasn't over cooked. Hubbie had the dried beef, which was tasty. The chorizo burrito I ordered for my son was a bit too salty, however.

- J Bar
Went there for my birthday. Had the calamari appetizer, which was tasty, but wish the batter was more crispy. Shrimp tacos was way too soggy, but had a good favor. The beef dish I ordered wasn't very good (seems to be off the menu now). My husband's salmon was OK, but the quinoa was interesting. They gave me a little dessert for the birthday - tasted like an almond cookie but it's very pretty. Also ordered the chocolate souffle which was really more a molten chocolate cake rather than a souffle - still very good nevertheless.

- Parrilla Suiza
Went there for lunch prior to our departure. I love the tortillas with the salsa, since avocado salsa is one of my favorites. I had the chicken enchilada suiza, which was OK. I guess I was expecting a green sauce but it was actually more like the normal red sauce. Hubbie and son had the asada taco. The corn tacos had a good fresh corn favor, and the beef had a good chargrilled favor as well. Overall, not bad.

- AJ's Fine Foods
We went to AJ's one day for lunch. Got the pizza for my son (he was lobbying for it instead of going to the sushi place at the same mall). The pizza was cheap at least at $2, cheesy but the crust was dismal. I got the rainbow roll - edible but the rice was a bit too mushy. Can't expect much from a premade roll. Got a pint of cookies and cream gelato at the freezer, but it wasn't really very good gelato. The grocery store is amazing though - very good selection, even when compared to LA stores. Picked up some more exotic salt, powder chipotle peppers, Santa Cruz chili paste, more Arizona/New Mexico regional coffees and teas.

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  1. Thanks for the report. Most folks on the board seem to love Cafe Poca Cosa, but I'm with you, and had the same reaction to the salad. I wouldn't go again. Tried to do a link to my post, but it seems to be one that disappeared with the move to the new board (found a reference to it in another post, and that link didn't work either). So, for those contemplating a visit: there are at least two dissenting voices out there on that one...

    I haven't eaten at La Parilla Suiza in years, but have had some good meals there. It is a chain with branches in the US and Mexico; I think it was started in Mexico City.

    1. Make it three dissents on CPC (as I mentioned the other day on this board, linking to my 2001 report). It has been a while since I've been there, though.

      Glad to see you also enjoyed La Parilla Suiza and Mi Nidito. I've had some fun meals at both places.

      1. Wow, I couldn't disagree more. We just love CPC, think La Parilla Suiza and Mi Nidito very over rated (all that cheese!). And, the JBar, love it, never had a bad experience there. Their shrimp tacos are consistently a favorite, great bar, too, wonderful ambience, especiallly sitting on the terrace.

        AJ'S GREAT. Really good hot dogs, bratwurst, and, sometimes, hamburgers (depending on who is at the grill). Easy to park, easy to get a table, and, just a good place for a quick, or, long lunch. The iced tea is really good, and, very large. Shopping there fun, too.

        1. At CPC: Pretend you're European and eat the salad last. I've found the various sauces mingling with the greens to be quite tasty.

          1 Reply
          1. re: JK Grence the Cosmic Jester

            Just to clarify: the salad is only a minor gripe to me. Especially since I do in fact always eat my salads after my main when I have a choice. So that aspect I do appreciate. What I don't appreciate is that the salad is so much of what is on the plate, and doesn't seem to fit with the place's somewhat condescending 'we know Mexican food better than you possibly could' attitude (while I've eaten many salads in Mexico most have not been primarily mixed greens). Of course, the rest of the food wasn't that good anyway so I guess having the plate filled with salad isn't necessarily the worst thing in the world...(I still remember how tooth achingly sweet the corn cake was. Sweeter than most desserts I ate that trip! And NO, I don't like to eat my salad after my dessert...)

          2. So funny on the quantity of food and the salad on the plate, I posted about CPC about a week ago and my only complaint was the massive amount of food on the plate, it made it difficult to eat.

            Overall, I really loved it though and I'll hit it again.

            1. The problem is I don't like salad dressing on my entree, and I don't eat salad plain, so the option of eating salad before the entree doesn't work for me.

              Plus I got the mole sauce on the salad, so visually it's not very appealing. It's a simple fix - I don't know why they just don't put the salad on a separate plate.

              Don't get me wrong - the mole was good, but it's just that the rest of the food were average to blah.

              Maybe JBar has an off night - the shrimp tacos were so soggy that the tortillas fell apart.

              Still wishing that there's an AJ's here. Went to Bristol Farms (a yuppie gourmet market) just the other day and the selection just doesn't even compare. I've never seen so many salt and pepper choices in one supermarket.

              1 Reply
              1. re: notmartha

                The one time I ate at J-Bar I was less than impressed by most of the food so it's not just you.

              2. Parilla Suiza is the only place in Phoenix that serves good chilaquiles - or serves them at all. My family will go specifically to order them because you really can't them anywhere else. Mexican comfort food. :)

                1. i think the only item to order at cpc is the mole. it was the best around. and the salad, it seemed was just more of a garnish.. too hard to eat before.. and having it sit in the various sauces.. well, i just move around it.

                  and at mi nidito, i love the bean and cheese chimi. the dried beef is a little... sodium heavy.

                  1. i forgot to mention... i remember when janos lost a star. quality of food, staff and attitude fell all at the same time. it was expected. and the j bar is better than eating at janos anyway. the service is better and the food comes out faster too.