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A Yuma taco crawl (very, very, long.....)

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  • KirkK Nov 13, 2005 06:32 PM
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I recently had the pleasure of visiting Yuma and hooking up with Yuma resident e.d. Needless to say, I had a few wonderful eating experiences, which e.d. asked me to post, so here's a condensed version.

Earlier this year Ed and I were having one of our dinners and I broached the subject of a possible visit. At first Ed's response was, "huh"? But after pondering this for a while, Ed had come up with an idea. Ed has enjoyed some of Yuma's best Mexican Food at various Taco Stands and Trucks, and thought we should do a "Taco Truck Crawl". So a few weeks ago I drove to Yuma and arrived at about 1115, and Ed picked me up in the Best Western Motel parking lot at 1130, and we were off.

It seems that there is an abundance of Taco Trucks in an area down 8th street in Yuma. There are literally empty lots lined with trucks around the perimeter. Many of these "shops" don't open until after sunset. Not very many "Gringo's" here. Ed wanted to take me to a specific Truck. We drove down 8th avenue, which is being repaved. I thought the rough dirt road added a definite ambiance to the whole "event". The specialty at this truck is Caguamanta - Stingray Soup. Ed explained that dried salted Manta ray fillets are rinsed and re-hydrated I'd imagine much like bacalao, and cooked in a tomato based broth, with onions, celery, and other vegetables. The taste is somewhat briny and oceany; Ed describes it as a sting ray Manhattan Chowder. The stingray meat is slightly dense, not as tender at a fish fillet, but much more tender then the usual piece of rubbery clam that you'd get in a chowder. There is a nice bit of spice, and the cilantro and onions equate to a somewhat bracing flavor.

After the excellent Caguamanta, we did a U-turn on 8th street and drove back up the street until we turned into an a gravel lot at 3121 8th street, the sign tied to the fence said - Tio Juan Camarones/Shrimps, and the specialty here are "Cocteles". E.d. placed orders for seafood cocktails with "everything". The large goblet contained a wonderful seafood cocktail. If it's in the ocean, it was in this. Chock full of shrimp, squid, octopus, scallops, great tasting oysters, cucumbers, celery, onion, all in a refreshing clamato and tomato water broth. But the item that surpised me the most about the cocktail were the large slices of nice sweet fresh abalone in it! The broth was just mild enough to add a little taste to all of the seafood. This was fabulous!

Driving further up 8th Street we stopped at the El Toro Meat Market, where we tasted two of the Tacos Al Pastor, or "Shepard-style tacos". According to the story; Lebanese immigrants brought with them Middle-Eastern style of grilling meat, mostly lamb, on a vertical spit. This was adapted by Mexicans, who marinate pork, and also apply a dry rub, usually grilling the meat on a vertical spit, topped with a slices of pineapple. The final product is a slightly spicy, red meat. At this location, the meat is obviously grilled, and placed by the Young Lady on top of corn tortilla's. You grab your tacos and walk over to a metal "cooler" and add whatever "garnish" you want.The meat was nicely balanced, moist and tender. I was starting to understand the "other" part of eating a taco; that is the melding of textures, the soft and slightly chewy tortilla, the moist and tender meat, and the crunchy cabbage.

El Toro Meat Market
1007 W 8th St
Yuma, AZ 85364

The next stop was Yuma Market Coronado's on 24th street. What we got here were two Cabeza Tacos. Literally "head" tacos; traditionally made from the head of a cow, that is steamed overnight, then shredded and mixed with the beef drippings(broth).Ed told me that these are very popular in Sonora, and most versions in Yuma are made with Beef "cheek". The moist stewed meat was placed on corn tortillas, Ed placed some cabbage and salsa fresca on top. The moist meat made this a somewhat ponderous taco. Oh, how did it taste? If one could condense "beef" taste into one bite, this is what it should taste like! Totally awesome.Perfect textures, for perfect beef. I'm basically at a loss for words over this.

Yuma Market Coronado's
890 E 24th St
Yuma, AZ

After a short break to freshen up and check into my motel, e.d. returned and picked me up for "dinner". We drove back down 8th Street, bit further then we did earlier until we arrived at a small stand in what looked like a former garage, across a patch of maybe lettuce, or broccoli??? The name of the stand was El Nayarita, named after the coastal region of Nayarit. We got our ice chest out of the back of the car, and had a seat at one of the lawn furniture tables. So we popped a few cervezas and Ed ordered a dozen Empanadas. What arrived were what looked like deep fried folded tortillas. Though these were bright red in color. Ed theorizes that achiote, and perhaps some other seasonings were folded into the masa, before these were stuffed with shrimp and deep fried. Topped with some salsa verde and a squeeze of lime, these empanadas were delici-yoso! Crunchy, slightly spicy, with nice plump shrimp, this was simply amazing.The groups on the other tables were having Seafood "Cocteles" and wonderful looking Seafood Tostada's topped with a large amount of chopped octopus and shrimp.Ed and I split an order of fish, and an order of shrimp tacos.In each flour tortilla either a battered shrimp or battered fish filet was placed with some cabbage and salsa. A squirt of white sauce completed the taco. The tacos were good, though I must say that I've had tacos just as good in San Diego. The tacos were delivered to the table wrapped in foil, causing them to not be as crunchy as they could have been. Fairly soon the sun went down in the horizon, and in what seemed a heartbeat the coolers were empty and the kitchen had run out of empanadas.As we left the stand and drove up 8th Street I could see an ocean of headlights making their way down 8th Street. We passed what was an empty lot with a banner with "Corona" written on it during the afternoon, had suddenly been transformed into a "hotspot". I could hear the music blaring, blue and red disco lights spinning, strobe light blinking, and most of all, see the large Al Pastor turning on the vertical spit.

I turned to Ed and said "This is pretty neat!"

Ed turned to me and said "Damn, I forgot to order the whole fried fish!"

No one can tell me Yuma is a culinary wasteland.......

Link: http://mmm-yoso.typepad.com/mmmyoso/2...

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  1. That was fun to read! Thanks. (I wish I had an excuse to go to Yuma.)

    1 Reply
    1. re: Val Ann C

      Great read, thanks!

    2. Thanks for such a detailed report, I am heading for Yuma tomorrow and am looking forward to exploring 8th Street. Do you have any more suggestions? Such as funky coffee houses or anything else that I should not miss

      8 Replies
      1. re: LuisaN

        Since KirkK visited, a new excellent semi-permanent taco truck has opened on 8th Street - Juanita's. Good shrimp and fish tacos and good coceteles - my favorite being the campechana (combo) con todo, which includes good shrimp, octopus, scallops and fresh oysters. Also on 8th is my favorite full-service Mexican restaurant, Los Manjares de Pepes.

        Don't know of any local coffee houses that could be described as funky. I have written numerous posts over the years (as e.d., Phoo D, and now Ed Dibble) discussing dining out here in the desert although some are no longer relevant. For visitors, concentrating on the Mexican food is probably the best option as that's what Yuma has that is better than what you can find most other places.

        ed

        1. re: LuisaN

          I just posted an update to Kirk's original Yuma taco truck posts at his wonderful blog mmm-yoso!!!.

          Here is the link:

          http://www.chowhound.com/topics/410379

          ed

          1. re: LuisaN

            "Juanita's. Good shrimp and fish tacos and good coceteles - my favorite being the campechana (combo) con todo, which includes good shrimp, octopus, scallops and fresh oysters."

            Make that oyster. One. Small. Campechana con todo turned out to be a cold soup with a lot of some sort of chopped up sour fruit in a little paper cup accompanied by a few crackers. $11. Sorry, didn't like it at all.

            1. re: werewolf

              Wow - weird. I'm honestly puzzled. I've found the consistency there to be one of its strong points. I haven't had the campechana within the last month, but I've eaten it 4 or 5 times over the last year. I have no idea what you mean by "sour fruit." I've never seen a paper cup there. Para aqui it comes in a sundae glass, para llevar it is in styrofoam. Are you sure we're talking about the same place?

              ed

              1. re: Ed Dibble

                Are you sure we're talking about the same place?

                ________________________

                It was on 8th St., north side, said Juanita's on the sign and it was a kitchen-trailer in a little lot with picnic tables. You order at one window and pick it up at the other window. The little cup was white styrofoam, not paper. Same place?

                1. re: werewolf

                  Same place. Sorry you didn't enjoy. I can understand one oyster (though I have always gotten 2 or 3), and Mexican cocteles are like a cold soup - reminds me in a way of gazpacho - but no fruit in it, chopped onion and cukes for veggies. Normally the liquid is mildly flavored tomato water with maybe a bit of clamato. The only sour happens if one squeezes the lime juice into it. If you got it to go, perhaps they did put the lime juice in for you, but I can't recall them doing that for me.

                  I was wrong in my last post because I had forgotten that a discussion with Melanie Wong sent me to have the campechana at Juanita's near the end of July. I wrote then "I was impressed by the number of pieces (of canned abalone) in the $11 coctel - I'd guess around 20. Those, plus 3 fresh ostiones, 7 or 8 sizable fresh camarones, several impeccable bay scallops, and numerous pieces of pulpo. I felt like I got a pretty good deal." Considering that most restaurant dishes with that many shrimp alone are in the $10 range, I still think $11 is a fair price. Really don't know what happened to yours.

                  Anyway, I guess they had an off day and tastes do differ.

                  ed

              2. re: werewolf

                I've been meaning to respond one more time to this post and to apologize for doubting your story.

                Most of the time that I get campechana at Juanita's I eat it at one of the tables there. Two or three weeks ago, however, I decided to see what you had experienced, so I went there and ordered it to go, "con todo.” When I got home, I poured it into a bowl, and began eating.

                Initially, I was puzzled by the lack of limes as the dish had always had limes served with it when I had ordered it previously (before I had learned to use the phrase "con todo”). Then I tasted it and realized that when one orders it with everything to go, they squeeze lime juice directly into the cocktail for you. So, yes indeed, it was sour in flavor. Also, as you reported, there was only one small oyster in it. I suspect the single oyster is purely seasonal thing as there have always been two or three oysters in it every other time I've eaten it.

                Oddly enough, while they did add lime juice for me, they had not added any hot sauce, which seems peculiar, but I guess they assume that everyone adds lime juice but that salsa is personal preference. Go figure.

                Nonetheless, I still thought it was very good, and with 8 to 10 good size, perfectly cooked shrimp, one or two diced sea scallops (especially fresh and succulent), many chunks of tender octopus, and pieces of canned abalone, I thought it was a really good value.

                At the same time, I now understand your response. The Styrofoam cup looks small, and the tomato water was definitely soured by the generous squeezings of lime juice.

                ed

                1. re: Ed Dibble

                  Thanks for the update, Ed. I squeezed a few limes into my soup cup too, so maybe they had already put lime juice in it besides! I dunno, they gave me limes - or did I find them sitting on the counter? I forget.

                  I'm not big on Mexican food to begin with, more of an Asian food buff - but I like that little Mexican place way up north in Flagstaff where I just went a few times thanks to someone's recommendations here on Chowhound, and the next time I pass through Yuma I might try Los Manjeros de Papas restaurant farther west on 8th St.

            2. Just want to do an update on Yuma taco trucks.

              Deliciosos del Mar is gone. The city/county has more or less shut down that food court area because of water/power issues - or so I've heard.

              Juanita's, Tio Juan's, Mariscos Nayarita are all still going strong, but summer hours for the last two may be curtailed.

              Tortas Labelle makes decent (but not earth shattering) tortas.

              The best new find is on Ave B between 1st and 3rd St at David's Market. The meat choices there are outstanding. I wrote the place up at mmm-yoso!!!, Kirk's excellent blog:

              http://mmm-yoso.typepad.com/mmmyoso/2...

              Also of note is Tacos Durango on Fortuna in Foothills. Friends have been giving it high marks, but currently it is only open from 5 AM to Noon (and with 110 degrees predicted for tomorrow (in May!?!?)), there's a good reason for the early closing.

              ed