Wednesday, March 02, 2016

A Little Thing With A Long History

It's been ages since I've been to Cafe Poca Cosa.  The waiter said the restaurant has been in this location for over 10 years. It's probably been more years than that since I've eaten there.  And "there" really isn't "there" anymore because this is a new location.

The first time I went to Cafe Poca Cosa it was a downtown hole in the wall, six tables in the place at most, and horchata as their most popular beverage.  Then they opened a second restaurant nearby, which I'd been to maybe a handful of times, always at the urging of a friend because I hated going downtown. The parking has always been (and still is) a nightmare.

Now, Cafe Poca Cosa looks like something you'd find in LA or Chicago.  Sleek and modern, staff dressed in black, owner dressed in skinny leather pants and a flowing white artist's smock accented with statement jewelry.

Suzana Davila, the owner of Cafe Poca Cosa, is a bit of a star in Tucson.  And has been for years. Even Gourmet magazine noticed her.

The thing I always remembered about the restaurant is that you'd go in, sit down, and they'd bring a chalkboard to your table with the menu on it.  It was whatever she created for the day. She was famous for her mole.

That chalkboard menu is still part of the routine. And it changes twice daily.


This was the menu board on the day we went. I can't even remember exactly what each dish is, but as you can see, there are three chicken dishes, three beef, a salmon dish, two styles of pastel de elote (corn cake), and the Plata Poca Cosa which gets you a selection three of what's on the board - chef's choice, no substitutions or deletions.

I wasn't sure I wanted to do that because although I like everything on the board, I didn't want fish, but when the server told me we wouldn't get fish, I was in.  Ed ordered the same thing, so we'd be getting six completely different items, all at the choosing of the chef.

The place wasn't busy when we arrived but it filled up fast.  And people were mostly dressed up, in the middle of the day, for lunch.  There were a few casually dressed as if they just stepped in off the street, but the majority dressed as if Cafe Poca Cosa were a destination.
I don't remember what we ordered, but we were happy with it.  We each got a chicken, a beef, and a corn cake - I think mine was the zanahoria India (Indian carrot, which was like an Indian curry flavored carrot puree) - which is the yellowish lump on the plate.

Everything was delicious.  The meat was tender, the chicken was flavorful, and you can't go wrong with a corn cake.  The salad in the middle was artistic, served with a tall glass carafe of vinaigrette.

Look at the beautiful bunch of grapes and the tips of the dipped leaves.
The meal was very good, but I'm not sure I'd go back.  There are tons of Mexican restaurants in town, many I prefer, and the hassle of finding parking downtown is just too much for me to bear.  Granted, there's a parking garage now right on the same block as the restaurant, but it's still not worth driving around the block more than once trying to find the entrance. 
It is an institution of sorts.  Ask any local and they'll likely mention its name.  When I was a concierge at the Westin La Paloma, this place was always included on the list of must-eat Mexican restaurants.

It's probably worth a visit if you've never been there, and it definitely isn't the typical cheese-and-enchilada-sauce-covered-cuisine many restaurants in this area serve, but don't get hung up on the fancy decor and see-and-be-seen vibe it generates.  There are tons of fantastic places for Mexican food in this town.  And although we had a great meal, I don't think this is the one I'd start with.



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2015: 
It Was A Kona Kind Of Day
2014: Award-Winning Plan
2013: Watch Closely Now
2012: Mission Of The Sacred Heart
2011: Vintage Photo And Clothing
2010: Just How I Like It…Cold And Colder
2009: Snagged
2008: The Writing Is On The Wall
2007: Eddie Waits For A Ride
2006: Truckers And Travelers Know Good Food
2005: Sorry, no post on this day. The blog didn’t start until May 2005!