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Nov 18, 1999 04:18 PM

Tucson Restaurants

  • b

I am visiting in Tucson area (staying in Patagonia) and I am seeking advice on some non-trendy restaurants with a range from sushi to Mexican.

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  1. When we stayed in Patagonia a couple of years ago, we depended on the little place (sorry, the name escapes me)just on the left as you get into town (coming from Tucscon). I think the name had something to do with baseball...The Home Plate, maybe. Homemade sw mex food.

    Are you a birder? Don't miss the Pattons.

    1. You're not going to a culinary hellhole, despite the lack of serious response to your query.
      I've been visiting Patagonia for the last ten years, and things are looking up, food-wise.
      In Sonoita, just up the road from Patagonia, don't miss the Sonoita Cafe for great Tex/Mex/Sonoran food and check out Er Pastoro for, oddly enough, decent Italian.
      In Nogales, just down the road the other way, try Las Vigas Steak Ranch (where the muchaca is damn fine) and Mr.C's.
      In Patagnia itself, there's a place right down from the Wagon Wheel bar that's a home-grown Mexican cafe -- great for breakfast.
      As for Tucson, check out Jim Leff's descriptions at this site -- right on the money!

      1. n
        Norris Heintzelman

        Apparently St. Mary's Tortilla Factory (as discussed at the bottom of the list) has been renamed. On our visit to Tucson last week, we found "St. Mary's Mexican Food" at 1030 West St. Mary's Rd. But if the name has changed the quality hasn't (at least not in our humble opinions).

        I know a lot of space has already been devoted to explaining how good that place is but I've got to say it again. It was amazing! There was not a lot of cheese or heat, but only because it didn't need that kind of flash. It was complex, and warm, and made us feel loved. Obviously, there is somebody's grandmother back in that kitchen.

        We were floored by the birria tacos. I think birria is made from goat meat. Whatever it is, it's delicious and juicy. The green chile burro, and the tamale were also outstanding. Heck, we even loved the rice and refried beans (the rice had this great nutty flavor). As for the flour tortillas, soft, slight smoky flavor, very thin, perfect.

        We had dinner there Thursday night (we got in just before they closed, we were lucky) and then stopped again for lunch on Friday on our way out of town. But it wasn't enough, I'm hankering for another taco platter right now.

        We left the directions to the place with our B&B hostess so hopefully, we've increased its Tucson clientele as well as its out-of-state fan base.

        Thanks for the tip, Pete! You wouldn't happen to have that birria recipe would you?

        3 Replies
        1. re: Norris Heintzelman

          "I know a lot of space has already been devoted to explaining how good that place is but I've got to say it again."

          .and we're all glad you did! Corroboration, disagreement, and digression is encouraged around here! It helps fill in the gaps on these places (we'd all much rather read 20 chowhounds' reports, each with a different tint, than one guidebook or review!)

          1. re: Norris Heintzelman

            I was in Arizona this past week and was also able to get to St. Mary's. Yes, I agree, the place has retained its Sonoran integrity. The "carne seca burros" are as salty, greasy (the good greasy)as ever.

            Birria means "deformed or grotesque". According to Diane Kennedy it is usually made with lamb or goat, but to Sonora/Arizona transplants the only meats are beef, pork, and chicken. The meat is usually sauced with a chile laced mixture then barbequed or baked. To me the birra @ St. Mary's was too much like supermarket bbq wrapped in a tortilla (but what a tortilla) to be special. However that was 15 years ago on the birria and there's been a Mexican Tradition renaissance so they may have returned to a more traditional prep. My recommendation is for you to find Diana Kennedy's CUISINES OF MEXICO look at her recipe for Birra and play with her recipe till you get a reasonable facsimile of it. (use less cloves, no cumin, substitute 1 or 2 ground chile pequins (chiltepins) for the 18 peppercorns, don't roast the chile pods, boil 'em. And maybe no tomato) That would be the Sonoran way.

            Later, when I'm less jet lagged I have some more recommendations ala Tucson--one from South Tucscon that is fast becoming a regional bite on the level of Buffalo Chicken Wings, Philly Cheese Steaks, St. Louie toasted raviolis: The Sonoran Hot Dog.

            Thanks again

            1. re: Pete Feliz

              I'm happy to report that I can now make BBQ as good as your supermarket, Pete!

              Thanks for the tips on how to Sonorify Diana Kennedy's recipe. It took some trial and error, but I finally made some darn good tacos this weekend and I've got packets of birria in the freezer for quick and tasty tacos later on. Now the question will be, "did I write down enough of what I did, to do it again?". But I guess we'll find out in a few months.

              Thanks again!

              (And if the husband talks me into going to Tucson for the big Rock show again next year, we'll definitely try the Machaca burros and I'll report back)