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Dec 20, 2000 03:39 PM

Yuma Mexican restaurants

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I have been living in the Yuma, Arizona, area now for one year after vacationing here for several years previously. I consider myself no expert on Mexican food, but I do consider myself at least a chowdog for my obsession with food.

First, let me say that there is so much good to excellent Mexican food in the Yuma area that I can imagine no one being disappointed with it. If you are visiting friends here and they recommend a local restaurant that is their favorite, by all means go with them. There are over 40 Mexican restaurants of various sorts here and I have not yet been able to try all of them. So it is with some trepidation that I list my favorite Mexican restaurants:

El Zarape (1905 W 8th St)-This place is almost too good. Its customer base is growing so fast, it is hard for the staff to keep up. This small restaurant features wonderful pollo asado cooked right outside on a huge barbecue. The chicken can be ordered just with tortillas or as part of a dinner plate with rice and beans, and this wonderful chicken is featured in all the chicken dishes prepared here-try the chicken taco salad for example. But everything except the service, which can be very inconsistent, is excellent. The caldo de res is my favorite in town. Their birria is rich with dark brick colored chili broth. And some of their specials (albondigas, chicken machaca burritos, posole) are great whenever available. And their regular Mexican dishes (chile relleno, for example or enchiladas) are also first rate.

La Fonda (1095 S. 3rd Ave.)-One of the oldest restaurants in Yuma and the most Sonoran of all I've been too. Decent albondigas is always available and a cup of it can come with most lunch specials. Good pollo asado, and the grilled tacos (with flour tortilla please) are an incredibly good and different Sonoran treat. What Father Fowler would call Sonoran enchiladas are here called patty enchiladas-their Sonoran enchiladas are just regular enchiladas done with flour tortillas.

Chretin's (485 S 15th Ave.)-The oldest restaurant in Yuma has been serving Mexican food for over 50 years. No longer family owned, the restaurant's new owners do try to keep the same cuisine. Even though it is stuck right in the middle of a poor residential neighborhood, this place has become a gringo favorite, partly for its good margaritas and nachos, and partly because it has been serving good Mexican food for a long long time. While I don't like their green chile (no tomatillo tang), their red chili is a great version of what some would call Texas style chile con carne. Their albondigas is the best in town IMHO.

Tacos Mi Ranchito and Mi Rancho (188 S. 4th Ave./2701 S. 4th Ave.)-These two places are very good and feature the same cuisine. The first, closer to the freeway, is small and funky. The second is newer and fancier. Both have excellent al pastor, succulent and tangy chile verde, and good caldos. In fact, the caldo de pollo on a good day can rival any chicken soup I've ever eaten. Unfortunately, it is not a regular offering.

A few words of warning: This listing of my favorites completely omits all the excellent fast food Mexican spots (Taco Salsa, the Chile Pepper, Mr. G's, to name just a few of the very good ones), doesn't list several good places that I haven't been to often enough to recommend, and mentions El Zacatecano-a hole in the wall where grandma does the cooking, which I just discovered-only in passing.

If there is anyone else out here in Yuma who cares about food, please post because I would love to get somebody else's impressions. I will also try to post about the other food available here, but anyone visiting for a short time should stick to the Mexican food as it is the most distinctive food of the area.

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  1. Since I wrote the previous, I have become a regular at two additional Mexican restaurants: Las Cazuelas (see Yuma—Just passing through update) and El Zacatecano. El Zacatecano is very small with only six tables. The menu is also very limited, but all of the items on it are well prepared. Their red enchiladas and chili rellenos are great. The daily specials, usually caldos of some sort, are also very good. The caldo de res is crammed with veggies and the caldo de pollo has a perfect rojo colored broth and veggies and noodles. Both are excellent. In addition the homemade horchata and jamaica are the best in town. And the salsa here has both tang and bite—I think it’s the hottest in Yuma with more chilies than tomatoes, and it is what I usually buy for use at home. Interestingly, it is served with flour tortilla chips.

    Note that alcohol is not available at El Zarape, Las Cazuelas, and El Zacatecano.

    1. I can't let this go without a comment. Although some of your picks are dead on (El Zarape and Mi Rancho), your pick of Chretins is way off the mark. Next time you go in there, look around and see how many Latinos you DON'T see. Since Joe Chretin sold out to a gringo who may have kept the recipes and some of the staff, the place no longer has the quality it used to. The food is overcooked and bland and Chretin's is quickly becoming a poor imitation of Mexican Food. You are also forgetting Don Quixotes in the Foothills, one of the best values, with some of the best tasting food in town, and El Charro which has been around (though not in the same spot) almost as long as Chretin's and still owned by the same family.

      1. Heading to Yuma next week to visit friends. I need recs for must try eats, especially in the Foothill area and I need to buy a great b-day cake. Help, please!

        1. I don't know why this post is still available when several others more recent and more accurate don't turn up in a search here. In the 7 years since I posted this (under a previous handle), things have changed in Yuma. Unfortunately, I don't have time to discuss all these places, but here goes.

          Best Mexican restaurants:

          Los Manjares de Pepe (8th St)
          Mi Rancho (not as good, but bigger, better service, and cocktails)
          Tacos El Jarocho - tiny, hidden in back of strip mall on 4th Ave, but good.

          Best in Foothills - well that's tough. Foothills is not a good restaurant environment, but here goes:

          Taco truck on Fortuna. Not as good as trucks in city (for those see the taco truck crawl posting

          )Coyote (OK Mexican sometimes)
          Da Boyz - small pizza/Italian chain. OK
          I don't like Don Quijote (A Mexican restaurant named after a Spaniard?), but I guess it is OK if you don't eat the Mexican food which is some of the very worst in town.

          If you have other specific queries, please ask.


          2 Replies
          1. re: Ed Dibble

            Thanks for the reply. Two more questions: How about a great steakhouse for the b-day dinner and pls help me with finding a good bakery for the b-day cake.
            Thanks for the assist. Am looking forward to me time in the desert.

            1. re: swoman

              I'm not much of a cake person, but Goldsboro Bakery (Ave A in City and also on Fortuna in Foothills) has the best rep in town and does custom cakes as well.

              For steaks, there are some chains, but I would recommend an old Yuma institution, Jack and Rosie's, a steakhouse that dates back to the 1930s. It's very old-school, reminds me of places my parents went to in the 50s. Steaks come with cup of excellent split pea soup, iceburg lettuce salad, and twice baked potato, and they are served sizzling on one of those hot metal insert plates. Recently, a former busboy there has taken over operations, updated the menu and winelist, and seems to have improved service etc. They also make a good martini.


          2. THANK YOU. Will use both your rec's.