The morning after returning from California, I was back on the road to Tucson for 3 days on business. The trip down takes just a couple hours, and I arrived in the Old Pueblo just about lunchtime.
I got my first appointment out of the way, then headed over to El Charro Café, one of my favorite spots when in the Tucson area. http://www.elcharrocafe.com/
They actually have three locations there; I hit the North location at the corner of Oracle and Orange Grove.
They have the best Carne Seca, so I ordered the Carne Seca plate off of the lunch menu. With the Dos Equis Amber Tap staring me in the face as I sat at the bar, I decided that a cold one would be the right pairing with my meal. I also munched on the excellent chips and salsa while waiting for my meal.
The website describes the Carne Seca as follows:
We marinate lean Angus beef in fresh garlic, lime juice, and special seasonings. The beef is then sun dried at El Charro’s original El Presidio location. It is then delicately shredded and grilled with fresh green chile, tomato and onion.
Whatever those “special seasonings” are is what makes this an outstanding menu item. I filled up the delicious, warm corn tortillas served with the meal, squeezed a little lime juice on and just a bit of their great salsa…and had at it. MMMMMmmmmMMM! What a great way to start off my Tour de Tucson!
I took care of a bit more business that afternoon, then headed over to my hotel to get ready for a function and speaker, along with dinner over at the historical Arizona Inn. The speaker and information was very good, unfortunately the food was not. The serving was salad followed by Steak and mashed (smashed?) potatoes and asparagus, followed by desert (cheesecake) and coffee.
The salad was nothing special, and my steak was overcooked, others at the table had a very nice medium rare. Anyway, I ate only a couple bites and I was done.
After the function was over, I headed over to a microbrewery I knew of, called the Thunder Canyon Brewery, located on the north side of town outside of the Foothills Mall.
I ended up having an exceptional IPA and a forgettable Sausage and Mushroom Pizza. It probably would have been better had they left it in the oven bit longer, as the crust was pale and limp. I decided to cut my losses and head back to the hotel for a little shut-eye.
Tuesday morning I got up and headed out of my patio door for a nice morning walk around the Omni Resort grounds. I had a small lake right outside my room, which is part of the Tucson National Golf course. http://www.omnihotels.com/FindAHotel/TucsonNationalGolfResortAndSpa.aspx
Just down the road is Tohono Chul Park http://www.tohonochulpark.org/
an interesting mix of art, culture and nature. It is also listed by National Geographic Traveler as one of the top 22 Secret Gardens in the U.S. and Canada.
They advertise a Tea Room, and the breakfast menu looked pretty good, so I headed over for what I hoped would be a great experience.
The location is almost too perfect. Set against the Catalina Mountains and surrounded by the lush Sonoran Desert, this place is a hidden gem to be sure. The folks working that morning were friendly in a real sort of way, and seemed genuinely happy to have you as their guest.
I sat out on the back patio, which is adjacent to a “Hummingbird Garden”, which also attracted a large number of butterflies. Although everything sounded good on the menu, including the daily special (omelet with ham, asparagus and havarti cheese) I decided to keep with the Southwestern theme and order Huevos Rancheros - Two eggs (mine were over medium) on top of black beans and ranchero sauce, topped with cheddar and pepper jack cheeses and bacon; served with tortilla and seasonal fruit, in this case, fresh strawberries, blueberries and melon.
Once again an excellent meal. It was interesting that it was served with tortillas that were a bit crispy and cut in strips. It gave a nice crunch along with the bacon, and as an added bonus it came with a fresh flour tortilla on the side.
As I spent the rest of the morning running all over Tucson, I got to thinking about another one of my favorite spots, and one I have reported on before..Wags Family Restaurant. http://www.azstarnet.com/sn/ent_dining/121959.php
I haven’t had a Maid-Rite for quite some time, and Wag’s makes some of the best loose-meats sandwiches in the Southwest. The owner’s hail from Iowa and Indiana, and do a mean Breaded Pork Tenderloin Sandwich (Porky) and even meaner Rhubarb Pie.
I got the “Turbo” along with some very good noodle salad, and another favorite, chocolate Malt. Real Malts served here! What an awesome lunch it turned out to be.
After finishing up my work-related travels that afternoon, I headed towards my Mom’s house southeast of Tucson, stopping off in Benson for some train-spotting and a visit to the Candy Station to pick up a little homemade fudge.
A quick look around the quaint little town included this nice bit of local artwork. Commemorating the Butterfield Overland Stage with a major stop along its 2,800 mile route right here in Benson back in the late 1800’s.
A drive down to my Mom’s place takes you though lots of orchards, including Pistachio farms. It’s obviously Pistachio Season, with the trees heavy with these tasty nuts.
Eventually I arrived at Mom’s, everything nice and green from a month’s worth of Monsoon rains.
We made a little homemade pizza that night and had it with my Aunt and Uncle, who live just down the road.
The next morning I went out for a morning walk along the “road” between the two houses.
Along the way I ran across some beautiful flowers, and, while taking a picture of the blooms, I looked down and saw this little fella. He seemed to enjoy having his picture taken, and later Mom told me he comes across her property all the time, stopping to get a drink from the dog bowl on occasion.
Mom had just finished her latest quilt, a very impressive piece of work. Can’t talk her into giving it to me…..
We took a walk out to her garden to look at her flowers and tomatoes. She has an amazing green thumb, one I surely did not inherit. She has an apple tree and a pear tree as well, which do really well at this elevation (4000+)
We said our goodbyes and, heading out, I stopped back in Benson for a little breakfast, train spotting again along the way.
I normally stop at Reb’s Café for breakfast when I am in the Benson area, but I decided to try a place I’ve never been to before called the Apple Farm. Boy am I glad I stopped.
I ordered the Stuffed French Toast, which is sourdough bread stuffed with wild blueberries and apples in a cream cheese mix, with a dusting of powdered sugar. I added some bacon, slathered it in Butter and doused it in syrup……..boy that was good.
Back in Tucson, I got my morning business meetings out of the way, then started to work my way north. I had driven by Nico’s Taco Shop on several occasions, and since it was a little after lunchtime, I thought I’d give ‘em a try before getting back on the road to Phoenix.
Al Pastor was on the menu, just couldn’t pass that up, so I ordered three. This place must be doing OK, because the place was pretty busy, even after 1PM, and plenty of Spanish being spoken, behind the counter and at the tables.
The tacos were indeed very good! I got them with Guac and Pica de Gallo. I was really full after eating three of those guys, but I just couldn’t leave anything on the plate.
That finished up the eating portion of the trip, I headed back to Phoenix and finished the work day, and looked forward to sleeping in my own bed again.