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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Thrifty Foodie visits Poco & Mom’s Restaurant

    Ask a dozen random people in Tucson what New Mexican food is and where to find some, and they will do one of the following:

    A) Stare blankly.

    B) Ask where the “”new”” Mexican place is.

    C) Tell you to check out “”Little”” Café Poca Cosa.

    D) If you’re very lucky, they’ll direct you to Poco & Mom’s Restaurant.

    While C is a good choice, the best choice would be D. Located at the northwest corner of 21st Street and Kolb Road, Poco & Mom’s is a charming, cozy place that has been offering great, authentic New Mexican fare to Tucson for the past 10 years.

    But wait, what is New Mexican food, anyway? Based on interviews with Susie McClendon, assistant manager at the Santa Fe School of Cooking, and Carol Wight, CEO of the New Mexico Restaurant Association, one primary feature of New Mexican food is the chile.

    This isn’t the spicy, stewed meat made with – or without – beans, however. (That would be chili.) No, chile refers to the chile pepper used to create a sauce or stew. There are two types of chile, green and red, and they can be made from different heirloom varieties. Green chile comes from the younger chile pepper whereas the red pepper comes from a pepper that has matured and dried on the vine.

    The information from McClendon and Wight was helpful, but it’s nothing compared to actually tasting the food – that’s where Poco & Mom’s comes in.

    The restaurant reflects the easygoing nature and warmth of the mother and daughter team, Lori and Kimberly Sisemore. Hand painted ristras, chains of drying chile peppers, line the interior walls of a place that’s no bigger than a 1-bedroom house.

    As you order, the fast and friendly servers will ask New Mexico’s famous state question, “”Red or green?”” For first-timers or those who can’t decide, there’s “”Christmas,”” which is a mix of red and green chiles.

    It’s difficult to go wrong with any of the chile choices. The green chiles at Poco & Mom’s have more heat to it than the red, but not so much that it overwhelms the taste buds. Because it has less heat, the red chiles reveal greater depth of flavor, akin to a fine, aged wine.

    Once that choice has been decided, it’s time to choose an entrée. Among the menu highlights are the chile rellenos with green chiles, Mom’s Enchiladas, and the Santa Fe.

    For lunch, the chile rellenos with green chile sauce were spicy without numbing the tongue, and tasty enough to make carnivores forget that it’s primarily a vegetarian dish.

    Mom’s Enchiladas were great. They came as flat layers of three corn tortillas, cheese and onions, all of which is then coated with the vinegary red chile sauce. Two eggs topped this brick red mound.

    With breakfast, the Santa Fe represented the city well. A blue corn tortilla is covered in red or green chile sauce and two eggs cooked to order – over easy is recommended – are placed on top. The hash browns were crisp on the exterior and edges, and didn’t have a mushy middle.

    Based on how the food was made, it was easy for the dish to become an indistinct pile of food, especially in the presence of the chile sauce. However, all of the flavors and textures came through distinctly and had a clean aftertaste.

    If there’s room in the dining budget for a beverage, then go for the horchata. It struck the right balance of sweetness and cinnamon to cool down a diner’s tongue when the heat becomes too much.

    All of the plates had a lot of food, more than enough to feed two diners or one really hungry person. The closest comparison would be to imagine an oval plate the size of a closed laptop.

    Each entrée came with homemade refried beans and rice. (Hash browns replaced the rice for breakfast.) The beans were comforting, and were smoother and tastier than expected. Poco & Mom’s rice wins on flavor – and thankfully didn’t have tomatoes in it – but there were times when it was undercooked.

    Native New Mexicans may take umbrage of the spelling of chile as “”chili”” at Poco & Mom’s Restaurant. But their uproar is likely to fade once they take their first bite.

    Meal Highlights

    Chile Rellenos (lunch) – $7.95

    The Santa Fe – $6.59

    Mom’s Enchiladas – $6.95

    Horchata – $2.09

    Poco & Mom’s Restaurant

    1060 S. Kolb Rd.

    (520) 325-7044

    Hours:

    Tuesday – Friday, 6 a.m. – 10 p.m.

    Saturday, 7 a.m. – 10 a.m.

    Sunday, 7 a.m. – 2 p.m.

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