Cal finally dragged me to Mariscos Chihuahua. I’ve been putting my foot down about the place for a few months now and I’m not sure why. Perhaps it was the constant construction taking place at the 22nd street location which is closest to my house. I just felt that was a bad omen of some sort. But there must be other reasons I was reluctant to go. I’ve never heard anyone in the seven years that I’ve lived here mention it even in passing so that might be it as well.
The Elbow Room August 13, 2008
I vaguely remember reading a review for the Elbow Room a couple of years ago in the weekly and being interested but not intrigued. The other day at work Bruce mentioned the Elbow Room in the context of a conversation during which we were discussing the merits of eating far too much. He told me they had a Friday night fish fry that costs a mere 4.95 and while not necessarily music to my ears it was, at the very least, rhythmic tapping.
The tapping grew louder and louder and soon reached a crescendo and Sean, Cal, Bill and I showed up, after a few mix ups and turn arounds, around six on a Friday. The dilapidated awning and out of place time and temp display were promising but I was not prepared for the full un-ironic glory of the Elbow Room’s interior. There is a medium sized bar area populated with locals and a smaller dining area were we sat on both trips. We noted two different types of wood paneling as well as faux brick paneling to go with the odd Romanesque ceiling tiles. There were well placed televisions in the corners of both rooms, unfortunately Bill “broke” the one we were watching by randomly touching it with his hand, this after a patron at the next table told our waitress to be sure not to change the station since “the Steelers are on.”
The fish didn’t take long to arrive after we ordered and was served by a waitress with the equal parts feisty and spunky. I suppose brash might be an even better term. She dropped us each a basket full of fried fish, fries and coleslaw and didn’t return except to curse out whomever left the previous diner’s debris at the end of the table. I have to admit to not having incredibly high hopes for the quality of the fish, it’s only 4.95 and it’s an all you can eat at a bar, but I was largely mistaken. The fish was lightly breaded, a probable mix of flour and black pepper, and expertly fried. This sounds easy but if you think back on all the crappy fried food we’ve all ingested over the years it really isn’t. The fries were easy to miss, and ignore as we filled up on second helpings. The coleslaw was actually fresh and enticing. I can easily see things getting out of hand at one of the Friday fish fries in any number of ways, just among the people that I was eating with so I can’t imagine would could happen if all the variables sitting over at the bar got involved in something.
We went back on Tuesday for the all you can eat spaghetti, which is only 3.95. On the first plate you get a couple of meat balls and subsequently it’s just meat sauce. My spaghetti was a little rubbery but still edible. I’m positive it wasn’t 3.95 worth of spaghetti and sauce but I guess I’m paying not to make it myself, right? I can’t recommend the spaghetti nearly as highly as the fish but it was satisfactory. Our waitress wasn’t nearly entertaining as the first one but she was a hell of a lot nicer. The crowd was much thinner on spaghetti night but Cal did hear someone remark that they’d been there since 1:00.
I should also mention that on Wednesdays they have roast pork loin with mashed potatoes and gravy , on Thursdays they have chicken fried steak with the aforementioned mashed taters and on every night but Tuesdays and Fridays they have porterhouses and filet mignons for 8.50. All of them all you can eat. They don’t have to many beers on tap, we went with Coors Light both nights, but who needs ’em at the Elbow Room? I give the Elbow Room a solid 8.5 sweetly breaded and fried fish baskets.
El Mezon Del Cobre July 3, 2008
El Mezon Del Cobre is one of the most overlooked Mexican restaurants in Tucson. It’s obscure location, 2960 N. 1st Ave has kept it one of our cities best kept secrets. El Mezon specializes in seafood which is ballsy here in the desert but not unheard of. Cal and I checked in for dinner on a Wednesday and found the place mostly empty. I have to admit to actually being enthused about the decor. Stately tile and hardwood finishing throughout made it feel homey and comfortable. On the outside, El Mezon kind of looks like a dump but they make up for it with interior moxie.
There were only a few tables full when we got there and it eventually thinned out. I’m not sure why, the wait staff and the food were phenomenal. Fernando set us up with a seat and told us a couple of things about his home in Aztlan, such as how little the girls wear on the beach, how many beaches are there and so on and so forth until I thought we might be asked to buy a timeshare. He was really funny though and also the owner’s father. I’d go back if the food were crappy just to talk to Fernando. Luckily the food is far from fecal.
We started with camarones toritos which were shrimp stuffed guero chilies wrapped in bacon. I seriously considering stuffing one down my pants, they were that good. They came with a light, salty sauce not unlike the sauce you get with wontons or postickers at Chinese restaurants. The bacon was crisped to the right degree and the shrimp inside the chilies was well cooked, though not seasoned. I’m not sure they needed anything, maybe a light dust of chili powder, maybe. It was also happy hour so our Negro Modelo’s were only two bucks a pop. They were served in short, chilled glasses with lime wedges. I usually just drink it straight out of the bottle like a hobo but those glasses were novel so I went with them.
For his main course, Cal ordered the tampequena which is thinly sliced flank steak topped with grilled onions. It’s a popular dish that often comes out overdone and sloppy. This one was a nicely cooked, medium. The cheese enchilada that accompanied it was standard but in a rich flavorful red chile enchilada sauce. It also came with a side of guacamole which was fresh and creamy, a perfect complement to the grilled steak and onions. The only slight minus were the beans which were fare at best.
I ordered the shrimp tacos hoping to find a new entry into my Tucson taco hunt. I didn’t but still enjoyed them a great deal. The shrimp was tossed with some mild peppers and a light chili sauce. They were not overcooked like the filling in so many shrimp tacos. They were topped with shredded lettuce which added little more than roughage. The only misstep were the tortillas. They were over sized corn tortillas that lost their structural integrity about half way through. Still the quality and preparation of the shrimp was enough to compensate for the flimsy tortilla delivery system.
El Mezon Del Cobre may not be the best Mexican restaurant in Tucson but it just might be the best seafood joint based solely on those shrimp. I’m eagerly awaiting my next trip. I give El Mezon Del Cobre 8.5 of the sexiest peppers ever wrapped up in bacon. Incidentally, if all you Cal fans want to get a little slice of Cal’s childhood, check out his mom’s review of El Mezon Del Cobre here: http://www.tucsonweekly.com/tw/07-30-98/chow.htm
What the Hell Are You Eating in L.A. Part 3 June 6, 2008
Our third day in Los Angeles began with a tantalizing breakfast at a Bob’s Big Boy. Bob’s Big Boy is kind of a mythical restaurant to me. I’ve always heard of it yet never really knew what it was exactly. It’s Denny’s. I had what I’d eat at Denny’s or, what I ate at Denny’s the next morning. Eggs, bacon, hashbrowns and biscuit, all of it sucked.
I think we might have skipped lunch that day since we went to the museum and were all fairly traumatized by the Big Boy. Dinner, however was at our hotel at a restaurant called Thousand Cranes. I don’t think it has anything to do with Yasunari Kawabata. The only real similarity was that he killed himself and after drinking that much saki, I really wanted to.
I suppose this is the most expensive restaurant I’ve ever eaten at. Katie, Heather and I split the Kobe beef Sukiyaki style which, judging by how it was prepared, means left in an electric skillet unattended. Still it was the best piece of meat I’ve ever tasted. I’m not sure how many different vegetables it was tossed with. At one point I held up a piece of weirdness to our waitress and I think she said, “bamboo shoot,” but she really could have said anything because I was on my fourth pomegranate julip. I’m really not sure what anyone else ordered, except I know Katy got a bunch of wicked shashimi that included a shrimp head from which she was forced to suck his brains or whatever shrimps have up there.
The whole meal was pretty extravagant and it was made doubly so since we were sequestered in our own room. Which in retrospect was probably a good idea with things happening like Katie leaning over to tell me that she was quote, “so fucking wasted.” It was that kind of night. Since it was a Japanese restaurant we were all sitting on the ground with no shoes on, this made getting up to go the bathroom a huge ordeal. We all had to share one pair of slippers. I also complicated everything be repeatedly exiting through the kitchen entrance. What the hell did I care I was fucked on Kobe beef.
I give Thousand Cranes nine little bowls of saki.
We also ate at a pizza place that was pretty good but I’m tired of writing about L.A. I’m going to get back to Tucson.
What the Hell Are You Eating in L.A. Part 2 June 4, 2008
After a fairly ridiculous evening, I got up early and headed to the hotel’s breakfast buffet. I’m a big fan of buffets, probably the fat midwesterner in me. This one left more than a little to be desired especially since it was twenty fucking dollars. There was an omelet station that offered cheese, ham, peppers, or mushrooms. No spinach? What the hell, I don’t know about you guys, but spinach is an omelet staple for me. They also had the usual terrible hash browns (they never hold up, you have to go home fries on a buffet) sausage, bacon, biscuits, plus fruit and cottage cheese. I ordered up an omelet with peppers, grabbed a couple of biscuits and some bacon and went back to my table. When I returned to pick up my omelet I also grabbed a bowl of cottage cheese to which I added a couple of what I thought were peaches. After trying the peaches, I realized they were maybe pears. I wasn’t sure, they didn’t quite taste like either. After putting away a thirty dollar breakfast that I could have easily put together for five dollars on my own in a better fashion everyone else showed up and wanted to eat breakfast. I ate some granola with bananas since I was still hungry and I didn’t know when we were going to eat lunch.
For lunch we ended up at the Liberty Grill near the convention center. I don’t think we could have had a more nondescript lunch in all of Los Angeles. The only thing that made me wonder about anything was how the Mexican staff felt about working under such pro American decor. I had the mahi mahi sandwich. Actually, later, it had me.
We went to the Palm for dinner. The Palm is a famous restaurant in New York that franchised out across the country. “We’re a steak and seafood place,” our waiter Pauley said. I trusted him because he was fat and ordered a steak. It was pretty good, though I still feel like my brother grills a better steak than most yahoos in steak houses. We had clams for an appetizer, both casino and oreganta (or some other bullshit name). Heather claimed all the ones she tried were gritty. I didn’t know what she was talking about until I sucked one of those little bad boys out of their shell and got a mouth full of sand. Isn’t that the only thing you really have to do with clams, make sure they don’t have any grit? I had a clam chowder as well, it was 92 percent grit free and had tons of clams. Heather and Katy both got the sea bass and both were sorely disappointed, half of Heather’s was fat and made her really sick. Aaron had some kind of huge crab that required a bib which he wore and was a real good sport about. We also shared a twenty dollar piece of cake and a couple of creme brulees that we seriously devoured. I should also mention that the woman who sat us and took our drink orders had the name “Suebiscuit” embroidered on her jacket.
I’d give the whole day of eating a six, with the steak being the high point and the peach/pear debacle the low point.
Here are some random quotes about relevant topics from the internet:
“My sister ordered the veal and it was delish!” – Christann R.
“Everything would’ve been great, except that our waiter turned out to be the biggest wanker of all time.” – hp
“hey george, send me that picture of us w/ frank mcCourt…” – George L.
“This place confuses me” – Erica R.
“Snorefest.” – Ethan M.
Kingfisher May 11, 2008
I figured out a valuable lesson. Should a hunger arise that will only be satiated by a decent piece of fish, get in your car and drive to god damn San Diego. Cal and I met this hunger head on at Kingfisher last Friday night. Kingfisher is another Tucson restaurant that thinks it’s more important than it really is. The decor is decidedly mid 90’s upscale which translates to late 2000’s ugly. Decor aside the wait staff was quite pleasant. Cal and I agreed that our waitress, Christine, was the best this blog has ever seen. She had memorized all of the specials and told them to us really fast like she was giving a school presentation but she still knew what she was talking about. We decided to go appetizer since neither of us had eaten. I went clam chowder and call went littleneck clams.
Cal’s clams (that’s right ladies) were tasty if a bit on the chewy side. My clam chowder had the consistency of a Manhattan but was unfortunately billed as a New England. It had decent flavor but the watered down
texture was a real minus. While working through our appetizers, I spied over Cal’s shoulder, two men exchanging a high five as their ribs were served to them. Some of you may be already aware of my stance on high fives. I’m anti-. They really should be reserved for special occasions, just like I love you’s or kidney punches. Definitely not something to share with your wife’s best friend’s husband over a plate of mediocre ribs at an overpriced seafood restaurant.
High fives lead to dead animals.
I ordered the halibut only to realize it came pine planked. What is with cooking stuff on a pine plank? You can’t tell me it tastes any different though I’m pretty sure it’s the reason that piece of fish cost me 27 dollars. It came served with some butternut squash that was pureed into a baby food like substance, I’d most accurately dub “garf.” My quinoa was toasted and would have been the best thing on my plate if it hadn’t been chock full of raw carrots. Cal had the soft shell crab which he’d been jonesing for since a marathon session of Deadliest Catch. He was pretty disappointed, especially with the whole wheat pasta, which never does seem to come out right. He had a hard time getting the meat out of the crabs as well.
Cal’s meal was redeemed by the cheesecake he ordered for dessert. It was light and creamy and was topped with a rich blueberry compote. It was one of the better bites of cheesecake I’ve ever had. But hey, too little too late for me, man.
I give Kingfisher six dumbass pine planks to stick their fish on. There is really no reason for any vegetarian/vegan, or anyone else I know, should go here.
Here’s what the nerds on the net think:
“just a couple croutons and almost no cheese or dressing.” – Michael F.
“The servers are so much more relaxed after 10pm” – Amanda B.
“Worst dinner of my life.” – Baby Seaweed U.