I’m sitting in the rental car, door propped open for a little ventilation in the sizzling parking lot. It’s our first full day in Tucson, AZ, but it’s also the first day of 2014, and everything is closed. My recommendations list, complete with tips from locals, suggested dishes, and customized driving directions is not loading properly on my allegedly “smart” phone, and besides, nobody lists holiday hours online.
So I grab a Tucson tourist magazine and start dialing numbers from the feature dining story. The phones ring and ring, one critically-acclaimed eatery after another. Finally, someone picks up at El Minuto Cafe. Are they open today? Why, yes, they are. That’s enough for me.
The Tucson magazine included just half a sentence regarding El Minuto Cafe, and it lauded their cheese crisps. I did not know what a cheese crisp was, but it sounded pretty good. Guessing that it would be appetizer-ish, my companion and I ordered a cheese crisp with chorizo ($11), plus a carne asada burro ($10) and a bowl of menudo ($3.95) to try and make a well-rounded meal.
Well, that cheese crisp was way more than we bargained for. It’s a pizza-sized flour tortilla, deep fried and layered thick with oozing cheese and chorizo crumbles. Kind of like nachos, but with an even larger proportion of grease. We needed four more people to stand a chance of eating it all.
As for the menudo, or beef tripe soup: Apparently, Tucsonans omit the red pepper to yield a white menudo, though the other core ingredients of beef tripe, hominy, onions, cilantro, and citrus remain the same as in red menudo. The broth was delicious, fresh and bright with plenty of green onions and lemon juice, but I found the tripe a little chewy-slimy for my taste. Though I’m not very experienced with tripe, I believe that it gets slightly less slimy with longer cooking. Accompanied by a customary split, warm bolillo (bread roll) this was good, but not that exciting.
Similarly, the carne asada burrito was solid, but otherwise unremarkable.
Overall lessons from today’s eating:
- The best laid plans…
- Cheese crisps are terrifying
- If a place is willing to cook for you on New Year’s Day, be grateful and enjoy it! El Minuto serves up wholly decent, comfortable Mexican food at a reasonable price.
El Minuto Cafe
354 S Main Ave, Tucson, AZ 85701
One year ago today: Night Fishing at Honaunau (live haiku)