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Authentic Mexican ( y mole!) in Tucson?

I am still looking for a great, homemade outstanding Mexican restaurant in Tucson, especially one with a killer mole. The type of restaurant I would find would be located in the south side of town and there would be little to no English spoken. There may be exceptions to these rules, but one of them certainly would not be Cafe Poca Cosa. I was unimpressed with the food here. What I want is an abuela in the back tearing it up and her hermana on the tortilla press in the front on Sundays. If they ask me I want a flour tortilla, I am out. I would think that there would be tons of these places, but they seem to be undiscovered.

Yesterday, I went to both BK and El Gueros. The hot dogs were fun and we did our own comparison, but neither of these places are what I am looking for. They had menus in English and El Guero has only carne asada or pollo for a taco. I got a couple tacos at BK and they were ok, but they did not even double wrap the tortillas and they broke. The al pastor was so dry that I may have chipped a tooth (though I liked the cabeza).

In any case, if anyone knows of something like what I am attempting to describe out there in the desert let me know. I'd love to find that perfect, authentic Mexican dive.

Thanks a lot!!!

-C.

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Cafe Poca Cosa
110 E Pennington St, Tucson, AZ 85701

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  1. "If they ask me [if] I want a flour tortilla, I am out."
    And why is that, exactly?

    4 Replies
    1. re: slidewinder

      It is not Mexican. Flour tortillas are used in southwestern cuisine. I realize that Northern Mexico now uses flour tortillas commonly, but traditional tacos are on corn. Additionally, corn has a lot more flavor and texture than flour.

      I have been noticing this week that even in the most traditional taquerias here in Tucson they ask if you want flour or corn. I suppose this is part of the internationalization/americanization of the cuisine or maybe just cause I was a gringo.

      1. re: sekelmaan

        Strange concept, idea you have of what's Mexican and what isn't. Flour tortillas are as Mexican as corn tortillas. Visit Mexico one day, and you'll see for yourself. The variety of tortillas varies by geographical region .. with flour clearly more popular in the north and corn in the central and south, but both can be found being made at home and/or served in restaurants throughout the nation. About the Menu in English, the reason you see that in so many restaurants almost exclusively Mexican ... is because that's what the (Mexican/Mexican-American) customers and owners want, in addition to having them in Spanish. I know lots of Mexica-Americans who speak less Spanish than I do. Let go of some of the stereotypes and you'll have a better time. About the mole ... it's labor intensive and not easy to make and I've never found a really good house-made version in Tucson. I'm interested, also, in learning if others have. It might just be that because the mole's are very or most often associated with central and southern Mexico that finding them in a region (Tucson) strongly featuring Sonoran-style food will be more difficult. Thanks.

        1. re: gomexico

          Flour tortillas as far as I can find have only been around since the early 20th century. Corn tortillas have been around for centuries. I thank you for your reply, the list of restaurants was very useful.

        2. re: sekelmaan

          Incorrect. 100% incorrect. Wheat, wheat bread, and wheat-flour tortillas are very Sonoran ingredients that crossed the border south-to-north. Your idea of "Mexican" excludes e.g. Hermosillo. And if you think that corn has a "lot more" flavor and texture then you haven't had a truly good wheat flour tortilla.

          "I have been noticing this week that even in the most traditional taquerias here in Tucson they ask if you want flour or corn. I suppose this is part of the internationalization/americanization of the cuisine or maybe just cause I was a gringo."

          It is because it is the local style on both sides of the border.

      2. Which Poca Cosa did you go to? The Little Poca Cosa on the north side of the library (Stone and Alameda, if I remember correctly) has hands down THE best pollo en mole negro I've had, anywhere, ever. And Sandra (sister of Suzana who runs the big one) is something else, to say the least. I've lived in Arizona all my life, I've eaten a LOT of Mexican food, and the Little Poca Cosa is easily my favorite Mexican restaurant in the entire state. Or anywhere.

        I think you'll be happiest at Taqueria Pico de Gallo, on 6th Ave and 36th Street. If I remember correctly there's no mole on the menu, but everything else is very much the real deal. Corn tortillas are made to order, and cabeza and lengua share the menu with chicken and carne asada.

        I do agree that a taco is best on corn tortillas, but the search for a good flour tortilla (especially when stuffed to the gills as a burro de carne seca) is a very enjoyable journey.

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        Little Poca Cosa
        Stone and Alameda, Tucson, AZ

        9 Replies
        1. re: JK Grence the Cosmic Jester

          Ahh. Thank you very much. This is very different from the trendy and not very authentic "Cafe" Poca Cosa. It was really confusing me when I was reading on some of the Cali boards that Poca Cosa was the best Mexican in AZ. I must have found the wrong one. I will go to Little Poca Cosa tomorrow for lunch or dinner.

          Yesterday, I found a taqueria called Asadero y Taqueria Sonora at S. 6th Ave and Irvington. I posted on this board also. They had amazing chicharron tacos. Mini ones for .99 cents. I will try Pico de Gallo as well. Again, thanks for the recs.

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          Little Poca Cosa
          Stone and Alameda, Tucson, AZ

          1. re: sekelmaan

            Little Poca Cosa is only open for breakfast and lunch Monday through Friday; the big one is open Tuesday through Saturday for lunch and dinner. I will say that the big Poca Cosa is a stronger choice for lunch than it is for dinner; the food is almost the same at both meals. The main difference is price; she drops the price a little at lunch to draw in the business folk, then jacks the price up at dinner to more than make up for it with the turistas.

            I'll bet you would have enjoyed the big Poca Cosa in its former incarnation at the Clarion Santa Rita hotel, now a vacant lot on the SE corner of Scott and Broadway. The place had more of a Mexican folk art feel to it. I'm not a fan of the sleek new look, but I still adore Suzana's cooking.

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            Little Poca Cosa
            Stone and Alameda, Tucson, AZ

            1. re: sekelmaan

              Were you to eat at Commander's Palace or Charlie Trotters would you complain that the food is "not very authentic"? The prices are a bit lower but Poca Cosa is that kind of restaurant.

              1. re: bkalafut

                Definitely agree. I think it's a little easier to find well-made corn tortillas, but there are some truly excellent flour tortillas to be found across the Southwest. I love both the Sonora-style paper-thin version (my favorite is Carolina's in Phoenix, but I'm sure Tucson has some contenders too), and the thicker, puffier style you tend to find in NM and West Texas (Frontier in ABQ, as well as the uniquely excellent local Taco Cabana franchises). I do think it's much more common for flour tortillas to be bad as compared to corn; even up where I live in Santa Fe, where there are way more generally great Mexican restaurants than there are Starbucks, underwhelming flour tortillas seem to be the norm.

            2. re: JK Grence the Cosmic Jester

              God. Even more confusing, it is officially called The Little Cafe Poca Cosa.

              http://www.littlepocacosa.com/

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              Cafe Poca Cosa
              110 E Pennington St, Tucson, AZ 85701

              1. re: sekelmaan

                If it's a "dive" you want with good Mexican and Tohono O'dham dishes and minimal English spoken..........try La Indita at 622 North 4th Avenue. My son went there all the time when he was at the Uof A.......college students always find the good cheap places to eat!

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                La Indita
                622 N 4th Ave, Tucson, AZ 85705

                1. re: johng58

                  La Indita has been dinged with quite a large number of health code violations recently, and according to fellow food centric friends of mine, the quality has gone far down hill.

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                  La Indita
                  622 N 4th Ave, Tucson, AZ 85705

                  1. re: johng58

                    "Tohono O'dham"

                    Tarascan. La Indita herself is from Michoacan. If you want Tohono O'Odham you have to drive to Sells to the Desert Rain Cafe. That's sort of sad; we're missing out in Tucson.

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                    La Indita
                    622 N 4th Ave, Tucson, AZ 85705

                2. re: JK Grence the Cosmic Jester

                  I adore Little Poca Cosa, Sandra and Marcella. Favorite place to go by far when we're in town for the Gem Show, and thoroughly agree about the mole as well as the barbecoa and their breakfast eggs with machaca.

                3. Flour tortillas are a northern Mexico adaptation. It's not dry enough anywhere else in the country to grow wheat. I prefer corn too, for the most part, but flour tortillas are a valid Mexican ingredient.
                  Have you tried Leo's, on east Speedway at Rosemont? I can't say that much for the atmosphere for some reason, but I've never had a bad meal there- in fact it's always delicious, and his mole has always been very good.

                  1. I almost always opt for a Mole when dining. I was blown away by the Mole at Elvira's in Tubac. Not exactly in Tucson, but not that bad a day trip. Beats the Mole at Cafe Poca Cosa I thought.

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                    Cafe Poca Cosa
                    110 E Pennington St, Tucson, AZ 85701

                    Elvira's Restaurant Bar
                    2221 E Frontage Rd Bldg A, Tubac, AZ 85646

                    1. Alejandro's baby-sized flour tortillas are great. Take it from NoHurry.