Yuma Visit - Twice!
I happened to be in Yuma for work last week, and found an old recommendation for this restaurant here. I was so pleased, I went back the next day.
First impression: It's what you want a down-home Mexican restaurant to look like. It's in a converted home, with two small, cozy, well-worn dining rooms and an outdoor patio serving area. I could see the kitchen from my seat, and it's old and cramped back there. Don't come here for a modern dining experience.
If you like Horchata, get a big one. It's home-made, not too sweet, and perfectly balanced between rice and cinnamon. And the big one is BIG - probably 32 ounces. Chips and salsa are automatic, and both are homemade as well. The salsa is tomatoey, with a heat that builds. That's what the Horchata is for.
I had the Especial de Pepe the first day, which is a plate of marinated pork pieces in a roasted tomatillo sauce with rice, beans and tortillas. The sauce is earthy, complex and a perfect complement to the tender pork. The rice is simple and fairly fluffy, and the beans are refried but not runny. Both were well-seasoned, but not salty. By the time I finished the meal, I knew I ate too much, but none of the portions were huge.
Caldo was calling me the next day, and with about five to choose from every day, I figured they must treat their soups seriously. I was not disappointed. The quart-sized bowl of posole arrived steaming and velvety-red, with onions, cilantro, and lemon wedges on the side. Tortillas are also provided with all soups.
This posole was a bit different than I am used to, with less hominy and more big chunks of meaty, fatty pork (that's where the velvety texture came from), and hardly any other vegetables - just a few large sheets of onion and roasted peppers. I will take this kind of posole as the new standard, though - the pork absolutely melts in your mouth, contributing a sweetness to the bitter, earthy broth.
The only miss was the chile relleno I ordered on the side. While the pepper was nicely roasted, it was clearly not the sturdy Anaheim or Guajillo that is the staple of chiles rellenos. It looked like it had lost a fight with Mike Tyson, its cheese mingling with dismembered breading all over the plate. The flavor was good, until I got to the upper half, where the seeds (all the seeds, as well as the core) jumped in and turned everything bitter.
Despite the chile relleno, I would have paid $25 for less-pleasing meals at most Los Angeles-area sit-down Mexican restaurants, even the lower-end family-owned joints nowadays, but both meals barely broke $10, including drink and tax. As I told my server on the way out, I'd be fat if I lived in Yuma.
Los Manjares De Pepe
2187 W 8th St, Yuma, AZ 85364
I don't know if you ordered the relleno based on the article in Arizona Highways. I can't speak for the other restaurant recs (the 25 best restos in AZ), but the information about Pepe's was out of date (he hasn't done pollo al carbon in years) and just strange (why chile rellenos, why no mention of the other great chicken dishes?). For all I know he Yelped the restaurant, but the writer clearly hadn't eaten at Pepe's in years.