Saguaros, Sonoran Surprises and other Desert Delights

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ann peeples
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Re:Saguaros, Sonoran Surprises and other Desert Delights 2012/05/10 15:46:35 (permalink)
Studied Teddy Roosevelt  all my life. Love the guy-especially in the west. Thanks foodbme for the update-but know his history.......
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wanderingjew
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Re:Saguaros, Sonoran Surprises and other Desert Delights 2012/05/10 16:54:29 (permalink)
Brad
 
Mine was just an old school cheese crisp served au natural however it went very well with the salsa that accomanied the chips
 
MH
 
Ok, I apologize, you set out before foodbme did 
#32
Sundancer7
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Re:Saguaros, Sonoran Surprises and other Desert Delights 2012/05/10 16:59:34 (permalink)
WJ:  I have spent many weeks in Tucson and Phoenix.  Some of the time we were racing with NHRA but the majority of the time it was business.
 
Regarding the cathedral, I did notice that the building was identical on both sides with the exception of one of the towers was not capped like the other one???
 
Your food choices were outstanding as usual and the pics were equal.  I do not know what Roadfood would do without you BB and TTM.  Several others have started contributing and they are doing a great job but they have a long way to catch up.  The Mayor use to do outstanding travelogues and still does wshen he travels but like me, we do not travel near as much as we use to. 
 
ROZ and I will be traveling to Charlotte next week to the NASCAR hall of fame and then on to Myrtle beach for some sun, seafood, BBQ and of course shopping for Dr. Roz.
 
Thanks again for your contributions. 
 
The tamales were the one thing that I really miss about the southwest.
 
Paul E. Smith
Knoxville, TN
#33
Michael Hoffman
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Re:Saguaros, Sonoran Surprises and other Desert Delights 2012/05/10 17:03:45 (permalink)
WJ: I'll have you know I was the scout for the first small group of wagons to open the trail.
#34
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Re:Saguaros, Sonoran Surprises and other Desert Delights 2012/05/10 17:45:18 (permalink)
Sundancer7 
The tamales were the one thing that I really miss about the southwest.
Paul E. Smith
Knoxville, TN

The Tucson Tamale Company will ship:
http://www.tucsontamalecompany.com/
You wouldn't recognize the NHRA Track Area. Firebird Raceway is still going strong along with a Boat Racing Course. The Rawhide Western Town Complex is there as well as The Wild Horse Indian Casino and The Bonderant Hi Performance Driving School.
http://www.firebirdraceway.com/
http://www.rawhide.com/home-index.html
http://www.wingilariver.com/wild-horse-pass
http://www.bondurant.com/home
 
 
#35
wanderingjew
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Re:Saguaros, Sonoran Surprises and other Desert Delights 2012/05/10 19:11:18 (permalink)
Paul
 
Thanks for your compliment, I just wish I could eat as much as Buffetbuster
then there would be more food and less "filler" in my reports.
 
BTW if you have a chance- when you're in Charlotte, check out
http://www.lawans.com/
 
for some great soul food- 
 
#36
wanderingjew
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Re:Saguaros, Sonoran Surprises and other Desert Delights 2012/05/10 20:13:01 (permalink)
Sunday April 22
 
Now into my third day, there's been know talk of Saguaros and Desert delights, well that's all going to change today.
 
Lots of nature stuff to do today.
 
Not without starting the day right at Theresa's Mosaic Cafe.
 
I didn't realize how close this place was to my hotel- just a mile and a half away. I could have walked, well with all the walking I'm going to do today, it's best that I save my feet for more scenic adventures.
 

 
Arriving shortly after  they opened it appears I was their first customer.
 
Buffetbuster told me that the huevos rancheros was some of the best he's had.
 

 
 
accompanied by their delicious salsa
 

I can't say if it's best huevos rancheros  I've had but its pretty high up there. 
 
I washed everything down with a refreshing  horchata
 

 
 
which was thankfully much less sweet than the one I had the evening before.
 
After breakfast, I headed across town to Crave Coffee Bar  for a couple of incredible cups of joe, probably the best of the trip.
 
On to my first adventure
 

 
 
A beautiful trail  with unbelievably scenic desert flora and fauna and of course those Saguaro Cacti
The trail is driven, however there are pull offs where you can walk/hike or whatever..
 
I spent the whole morning here.
 
 

 
 

 
 

 
 
 

 
 

 
 

 
 
 
 
 
 

 
 

 
 

 
I made sure I had at least a couple of large bottles of water with me.
 
All of this walking around the desert made me hungry and it was time for lunch.
 

 
and they had the welcome mat out for me
 
Taqueria Pico De Gallo
 


 
 
Each table has a squeeze bottle of their hot sauce
 
 

 
And had probably some of the best carne asada tacos I've ever had
 

 
 
although the tacos were truly a highlight of the trip, unfortunately there was also a slight disappointment. They were out of the  Coctel de elote (corn cocktail) which I was so looking forward to try. I asked if they would have it later in the day, unfortunately I was told they wouldn't have it until the next day. Unfortunately I would be heading back to Phoenix. The first real disappointment of the trip.
 
However I did finish my meal with their namesake.
 
 
 
 
a refreshing pico de gallo - loaded with fruit loaded with lemon juice and tantalizing spices.
 
After lunch, more nature was on the way.
 
This time  at
 

 
 
Sabino Canyon.
 
A beautiful canyon nestled in the mountains. A shuttle takes you on a 4 mile ride with 8 or 9 stops. You can  get off at each stop, walk, hike for as long as you like and then wait for the next shuttle. The guide warned us however to watch out for rattlesnakes and mountain lions. That didn't stop me from getting off and doing a little rock climbing.
 

 
 

 
 

 
 

 
 

 
 
 

 
 
 

 
 

 
 
Heading back to the visitors centers afterwards, there were a couple of cool short trails.
 

 
 
I opted to take one of the shorter ones
 

 
before leaving the shuttle bus, the guide pointed something out that was very unique about one of the Saguaros
and it's very very rare that something like this happens
 

 
can anyone tell me which Saguaro is unique, why it's unique and how did it happen?
 
After leaving Sabino Canyon, since the thermometer reached 100 degrees, I headed back to downtown Tucson for a refreshing brew at Barrio Brewing. 
 
I was looking forward to my dinner stop.
 

 
Mariscos Chihuahua
 
 
 
known for their Mexican Seafood dishes, I perused the menu on the internet prior to arriving but was torn as to what to order. My first gut decision was to order one of the fried fish dishes however the waitress recommended their shrimp dish and said their mild green sauce was very good.
 

 
 
I went with the waitress' recommendation and ordered the Shrimp Culichi. The creamy green sauce was good but probably a little to pedestrian. It came with fries which were forgettable as well as rice and salad (double starches!) 
I would return if I ever came back to Tucson but would probably go with one of their fish dishes and a more adventurous sauce.
 
After dinner, I was exhausted, it was back to the hotel for me for the evening..
 
Much more to come....
#37
JRPfeff
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Re:Saguaros, Sonoran Surprises and other Desert Delights 2012/05/10 21:50:13 (permalink)
ScreamingChicken

The cheese tostada from Mi Nidito looks fantastic!  I looked up the menu on its website and see that there are several versions...was yours the green chile one?  I think I see little pieces of something hiding under the cheese.

Brad,
 
We had the green chile version and that isn't it.  That version has several thin cuts of chile radiating like spokes from the center. Fabulous!
 
Jim
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Re:Saguaros, Sonoran Surprises and other Desert Delights 2012/05/11 03:15:50 (permalink)
WJ,
Your Desert Pictures Really captured the true essence of the Sonoran Desert and dispelled some myths. Yes, the desert has greenery and is not all brown. Yes, flowers do bloom in the desert and yes, the desert is hilly and rocky and not just flat.
Beautiful Job!
 
#39
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Re:Saguaros, Sonoran Surprises and other Desert Delights 2012/05/11 07:25:09 (permalink)
I hope you had a chance to visit the Tucson desert zoo which is highly rated and overlooks the lush Sonoran valley desert. The landscaping is all native as well as all the animals there.  Outstanding.
 
The saguaro as I recall usually has only a couple of arms.  I have no idea how that occurred unless somehow it was damaged and grew additional arms.  As i recall, the cactus takes many years to grow additional arms.  I have seen some of them that appeared to be 40 feet tall.
 
Sorta funny that Tucson which is hot but not as  hot as Phoenix and it is further south.  Maybe because of the elevation.
 
Paul E. Smith
Knoxville, TN
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buffetbuster
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Re:Saguaros, Sonoran Surprises and other Desert Delights 2012/05/11 07:53:17 (permalink)
Theresa's Mosaic Cafe, Pico de Gallo and Mariscos Chihuahua all in one day?  Now that is some great eating.  And I agree with Foodbme, those are beautiful shots from the desert.
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Re:Saguaros, Sonoran Surprises and other Desert Delights 2012/05/11 09:45:06 (permalink)
Foodbme
 I actually think the Arizona desert is prettier than New Mexico's which is mostly sagebrush and Yucca
 
Paul
I almost forgot to mention, you were correct about the mission's tower not being capped- believe it or not this was done for tax purposes - since it was deemed "an unfinished building"  there were no tax levies.
 
You are also correct about the Saguaro and it's "multi armed" status- apparently no one knows the exact cause- it could have been a virus, genetic or a lightening strike among other reasons.
 
Unfortunately Sunday would be my last day in Tucson so I didn't have time to make it to the zoo.
 
Buffetbuster
 
And I thought you'd be upset because I didn't have any pie or dessert.
 
 
#42
ann peeples
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Re:Saguaros, Sonoran Surprises and other Desert Delights 2012/05/11 10:13:42 (permalink)
As I have never been to a desert , much less Arizona, I am especially enjoying the scenery.And the food-it just seems to be getting better and better!
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Re:Saguaros, Sonoran Surprises and other Desert Delights 2012/05/11 15:41:21 (permalink)
For those who are interested in the Saguaro Cactus:
http://www.desertusa.com/july96/du_saguaro.html
They only grow in the Sonoran Desert of AZ and Northern Mexico.
#44
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Re:Saguaros, Sonoran Surprises and other Desert Delights 2012/05/12 16:12:34 (permalink)
On my last visit, I discovered (or realized) the saguaro cactus is a tree when seeing a a dead saguaro on the ground at the National park near Tucson. I loved the food in tucson and think a road food tour there and in Phoenix would be a great idea. Great report, WJ. Looking forward to more.
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Re:Saguaros, Sonoran Surprises and other Desert Delights 2012/05/12 18:23:43 (permalink)
WJ - This report got me into the Fry Bread House for the first time today.  I had the same taco that you had - fantastic.  Although the fry bread is so good I could go for a platter of plain fry bread.
 
I noticed several patrons ordering the cheese crisp at the Fry Bread House.  I don't know how it compares to this, but I will find out on my next visit.
 
 
jrp
post edited by JRPfeff - 2012/05/13 10:36:03
#46
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Re:Saguaros, Sonoran Surprises and other Desert Delights 2012/05/13 03:25:09 (permalink)
mr chips
On my last visit, I discovered (or realized) the saguaro cactus is a tree when seeing a a dead saguaro on the ground at the National park near Tucson. I loved the food in tucson and think a road food tour there and in Phoenix would be a great idea. Great report, WJ. Looking forward to more.

The ribs and spines of a dead Saguaro were used by the native tribes in many ways.
http://www.ehow.com/info_8317613_uses-saguaro-cactus-after-dies.html
#47
leethebard
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Re:Saguaros, Sonoran Surprises and other Desert Delights 2012/05/13 07:20:01 (permalink)
Super report...I had family who lived in Arizona for years...and this report brought back the wonders of the dessert...and food. Thanks!
#48
mr chips
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Re:Saguaros, Sonoran Surprises and other Desert Delights 2012/05/13 16:20:08 (permalink)
Foodbme

mr chips
On my last visit, I discovered (or realized) the saguaro cactus is a tree when seeing a a dead saguaro on the ground at the National park near Tucson. I loved the food in tucson and think a road food tour there and in Phoenix would be a great idea. Great report, WJ. Looking forward to more.

The ribs and spines of a dead Saguaro were used by the native tribes in many ways.
http://www.ehow.com/info_8317613_uses-saguaro-cactus-after-dies.html
Thanks for the link.

#49
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Re:Saguaros, Sonoran Surprises and other Desert Delights 2012/05/13 18:16:51 (permalink)
Ann
 
The desert is absolutely beautiful. There were ATV tours to see the desert at night unfortunately it was just a little out of my price range.
 
Mr Chips
 
Thanks, I wish I had more time to explore the desert but temps were averaging 15 + degrees above normal, something I wasn't anticipating prior to starting the trip.
 
JRPfeff
 
Glad you enjoyed The Fry Bread House as much as I did. Since it was my first stop on the trip, it truly was a symbolic welcome to the desert southwest.
 
Although the trip itself is not even half way over, I will conclude this trip report tomorrow evening. I'll begin a new trip report for the second half of the trip (different state) sometime in  the middle of the week.
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ChiTownDiner
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Re:Saguaros, Sonoran Surprises and other Desert Delights 2012/05/13 22:03:00 (permalink)
WJ - you covered a lot of ground in a short period of time...nice job! 
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Re:Saguaros, Sonoran Surprises and other Desert Delights 2012/05/13 22:24:47 (permalink)
Sundancer7
Sorta funny that Tucson which is hot but not as  hot as Phoenix and it is further south.  Maybe because of the elevation.
Paul E. Smith
Knoxville, TN

Tucson is about 2600 ft Elevation, Phoenix 1100 ft. It's usually a little cooler down there, but not much. Mt Lemmon, outside Tucson, goes up to 9150 ft and there's a Space Observatory and Ski Area up there along with panoramic views.
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Re:Saguaros, Sonoran Surprises and other Desert Delights 2012/05/14 13:14:01 (permalink)
ChiTownDiner

WJ - you covered a lot of ground in a short period of time...nice job! 


Thanks, I did but I also realize compared to your pace it all "finger food"  " />
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Re:Saguaros, Sonoran Surprises and other Desert Delights 2012/05/14 18:44:46 (permalink)
Monday April 23
 
Starting out the day at the Tucson location of the Phoenix mini- chain Cartel Coffee lab- made me realize something.
Coffee snobbery may exist.  Cartel Coffee is one of those new third wave coffee houses (aka pour over) that I wish would just "go away" Cartel coffee goes a step almost ridiculing you for putting any type of cream, milk of sweetener in their coffee.  Those of you (I'm assuming the majority of you) that are satisfied with their maxwell house and Mr. Coffee and don't get my going "ga ga"  for coffee houses (probably the same way I don't get your going "ga ga" over bacon) probably understand where I'm coming from . 

Anyway, enough ranting, yes the coffee was outstanding at at $3 per 16 oz cup and $3 for each refill it should be!
 
I made the 90 minute  jaunt back to Phoenix and actually had another decent cuppa coffee at Copper Star Coffee a few miles north of Downtown.
 
After taking care of some personal business it was time for lunch
 

 
 
Carolina's Mexican Kitchen
 
A cement square of a structure that has even less atmosphere inside than it does outside. But what it lacks in atmosphere it makes up for in what it delivers.
 
Carolina's Mexican Kitchen  means alot to me from a Roadfood perspective . Some of you may remember that when I first started taking digital photos on my trip reports, 6 years ago, Carolina's was the first place I started doing so.
 
And like 6 years ago, I ordered the same thing.
 

 
 
Their fantastic loaded Chimichanga. For those who don't know, the Chimichanga was invented in Arizona, actually it was invented in Tucson at El Charro back in the 1920's. Well, I couldn't tell you about the one one there, but the Chimichanga at Carolina's offered a hot crunchy exterior and a very flavorful and not overly spicy interior. 

It went well with a respectable horchata (free refills too)
 
 
 
 
After lunch, I had another stop to make. My plans  were to hit the Tamale Store out on Cave Creek Road in Phoenix and compare their green corn tamales  to the ones I enjoyed in Tucson. I made a call in advance when I first arrived on Friday and the lady I spoke to assured me they would have some green corn tamales when I visited on Monday afternoon. Well when I got their, they were closed, no explanation.   I called and the recording confirmed their hours.  What a bummer- Travelin Manned- for the first and last time on this trip.
 
 
The rest of the day was wide open, my initial plans were to do some more outdoor sightseeing but with temps expected to soar past 100 degrees I had enough of the desert heat  Before starting this trip, I had no idea  the temps 
courtesy of good ol' global warming were going to  average 15-20 degrees above average.
 
I opted instead to head to Old Town Tempe first. Home to ASU, Old Town Tempe caters to college students
 
In fact 
 

 
I stopped here at Sparky's Old Town Creamery where they were passing out samples.
 
I went for something very unique- The Raspberry Dark Chocolate Habanero - a free topping was included- I added peanuts to this interesting combination, they warned me this would be spicy, and although the ice cream itself did not wow me-  yes, it definitely had a kick- enough to make my eyes water- unfortunately I forgot to get a photo.
 
I continued on people watching and noticed these interesting signs right next door to eachother
 
 
Thinking like a student, I figured I would begin here.
 

 
 
And immediately afterwards go here,  right next door 
 

 
 
Makes sense?
 
Afterwards I drove to one of my favorite brew pubs- Four Peaks in Tempe- and ordered the best beer on the trip, the Kilt Lifter- a refreshing Scottish Ale- one of my favorite beers in the country.
 
After enjoying my beer, I continued on to Old Town Scottsdale where I was greeted by this cowboy
 

 
 
 
Old town had some pretty cool shops-
 

 
 
 

 
 

 
 

 
and some great scenery as well.
 

 
 

 
 
I tried to ask these folks for help in finding a good western wear shop but they weren't much help- all they did was just sit there.
 

 

 
 

 
 
After checking into The Scottsdale Cottonwood Resorts (a steal for $50 on priceline) I was ready to head back to the Barrio in inner city Phoenix for some more eats.
 
Since I was green corn tamale deprived from earlier in the afternoon, I decided to head to the place where I would have had breakfast (if I decided to)  two days earlier prior to heading to Tucson.
 

 
La Tolteca
 
A bakery, market and restaurant all rolled up into one- Receiving accolades on both Yelp and Urbanspoon, when, I walked in I could see why.
 

 
 

 
I approached the counter, checking their website before arriving, they had exactly what I was looking for. 
I gave my order, and when it arrived I sat down in the dining room
 
I ordered two Green Corn Tamales (I had to save room for dinner which was immediately afterwards)
 
 
 
If I knew how big they were going to be, I would have ordered one- they were hum-on-gous and incredibly good.
I'm not sure if they were better that that at the Tucson Tamale Company but they were at least just as good. If I have the opportunity to ever return to Phoenix again, I would certainly return and try their other items as well. Truly a fantastic find.
 
Immediately after my snack, I made my final stop for the evening.
 

 
 
 
Rosita's Place
 
Like La Tolteca, there were nothing but glowing reviews on yelp and urbanspoon. So I was set on Rosita's.
Once again, I had the opportunity to share a meal with foodbme who was there when I arrived.
Fresh and hot chips arrived at the table- and when I mean hot and fresh- I don't think they could have been any fresher- I declare the chips at Rosita's  Place the best of the trip.
 
And the red and green couldn't have been any better- in fact the red really had  kick to it.
 

 
I ordered the Machaca plate
 

 
I never had Machaca before. It was tender and juicy and served with flour tortillas on the side.
 
I heard great things about Rosita's horchata on the web.
 

 
Not only was it the largest glass of Horchata on the trip, I also declare it the best- not too sweet but packed with "cinnamony" flavor.
 
Rosita's place was another great find, and I would certainly return again.
 
It was a pleasure dining with foodbme once again. He is a great ambassador to his adopted city.
 
Afterwards I headed back to my hotel in Scottsdale as I had an early day to look forward to.
 
Tuesday April 24
 
Flying out of Phoenix this morning, I really wanted to head back to Copper Star for coffee but decided to get coffee in Scottsdale since I didn't know what traffic would be like heading back to the Airport. I unknowingly ended up at another "pour over" coffee house  called Echo- voted best in Scottsdale for obvious reasons- good, yes, expensive yes. I asked  the barista why pourover coffee was so popular in Arizona, she didn't know, she assumed it was popular everywhere.  Well as it turns out there was very little traffic heading back to the Airport. 
 
I arrived and departed Phoenix for new adventures.
 
This is the end of this trip report, however the trip continues with a new trip report beginning sometime in the middle of the week.
 
 
post edited by wanderingjew - 2012/05/14 19:42:51
#54
tcrouzer
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Re:Saguaros, Sonoran Surprises and other Desert Delights 2012/05/14 20:32:11 (permalink)
Great food, fabulous photos! I'd go your route just to see all those wonderful statues and the beautiful desert. But I'd have to stop for tamales! Fantastic trip report, WJ......as usual.
#55
billyboy
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Re:Saguaros, Sonoran Surprises and other Desert Delights 2012/05/14 20:49:17 (permalink)
WJ, terrific report, good sir.  I spent some time in AZ years ago and I crave that food!  Tamales, machaca, huevos rancheros, etc...  Thanks for those incredible views.
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ScreamingChicken
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Re:Saguaros, Sonoran Surprises and other Desert Delights 2012/05/15 09:17:02 (permalink)
Wow...this could've been an even greater report if WJ had done a better job of focusing on regionally appropriate food.  That plate of machaca and beans looks mighty tasty!
 
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Re:Saguaros, Sonoran Surprises and other Desert Delights 2012/05/15 17:50:59 (permalink)
ScreamingChicken
Wow...this could've been an even greater report if WJ had done a better job of focusing on regionally appropriate food.  That plate of machaca and beans looks mighty tasty!

The problem is that there aren't very many Mexican Restaurants in Phoenix & Tucson!!!!
In Phoenix:
Urbanspoon says there are only 924 of them!
www.azcentral.com only lists 677 of them but they exclude chains like Taco Bell and Del Taco.
In Tucson:
Urbanspoon says there's only 296 of them! Probably doesn't include the street carts.
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wanderingjew
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Re:Saguaros, Sonoran Surprises and other Desert Delights 2012/05/15 18:21:31 (permalink)
tcrouzer
 
thanks - I forgot how beautiful the desert can be
 
Billyboy
 
I bet if you search- you can find a place in NYC that serves a fine Machaca, you'll just have to pretend the pavement is desert and the skyscrapers are Saguaros.
 
Brad
 
I know, I should have concentrated more on Brats and Cheesecurds considering I didn't get enough of it in Wisconsin last June ! 
#59
pnwchef
Double Chili Cheeseburger
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Re:Saguaros, Sonoran Surprises and other Desert Delights 2012/05/20 13:31:44 (permalink)
WJ, Great report, thanks for all the great food and scenic pictures. Question on  the The Green corn Tamale ???????/ is that a Green Chili layered in the tamale........I'll be in Phoenix/Scottsdale this coming winter, thanks for all the great tips.............pnwc
#60
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