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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    Award-winning Rosa’s just plain plain

    Lisa Beth Earle/ Arizona Daily Wildcat

Rositas Special at Rosas Mexican Food Restaurant on the SW corner of Campbell Ave. and Ft. Lowell Rd.
    Lisa Beth Earle
    Lisa Beth Earle/ Arizona Daily Wildcat Rosita’s Special at Rosa’s Mexican Food Restaurant on the SW corner of Campbell Ave. and Ft. Lowell Rd.

    As soon as my mom flew in from Chicago, rented a white Chevy Malibu and met me at her sketchy South Tucson hotel, she immediately requested Mexican food. Thinking that Nico’s Taco Shop was the place to take her — but that we’d wait on the super nachos — I got us to the closest Yelp-verified location: East Fort Lowell Road and North Campbell Avenue. Nico’s, we discovered later, had moved down the block, but before us lay Rosa’s Mexican Food, the legendary epitome of Mexican food, nestled between Blockbuster and parking spaces of the strip mall. Hungry and curious, we entered.

    Apparently, everyone else did the same just minutes before; it was packed, complete with a table of 15 or so travelers. But the crowd made us hopeful, and the number of options on the menu had us reading for a solid 10 minutes. Upon ordering chicken quesadillas and Rosita’s specialty, we settled in and observed the scene.

    The place was plain. Our plastic-topped table was clean but wet and, except for the painted metal roses welded to the seatbacks, the décor was minimal. Beside our table was an Arizona softball poster and several Rosa’s calendars — sold by the month — with a painfully old-school portrait of, presumably, Rosa, surrounded by ads and bordered on the bottom by “”Feliz Navidad/Prospero Año”” in script. The pamphlet version of the menu touted the restaurant’s founding in 1970 and its 1999, 2000 and 2005 Best of Tucson awards since then. It looked like the reason for the nominations might have been based on how little the place had changed with the times.

    The chips and salsa arrived immediately, followed by a saucer of guacamole — which cost an unnecessary $3.50 and tasted just like the packet-plus-one-avocado kind — and perfect-strength iced tea.

    Our food came within 15 minutes, looking plain as the place. The chicken quesadilla ($9) was crispy, its meat the texture of pulled pork, but the sour cream had to be ordered on the side ($1.75) and arrived looking squeezed through a tube like frozen yogurt. Images of Taco Bell whirred through my head. Rosita’s specialty ($10.75) included a tamale, an enchilada and a taco. The taco was unspectacular and the tamale and enchilada were plain but hot and fresh. The sampling, however, would have been better without the “”plate”” designation, which drowned the items in a soupy mess of cheesy beans.

    Adding $1.75 for each iced tea, we spent just more than $30, before the tip; too much for lunch and what my mom continuously called “”standard fare.”” You have to wonder about a place which has guacamole that tastes whipped and sour cream that bears telltale signs of emerging from a spigot. Especially when the lunch bill is $15 apiece.

    All told, Rosa’s has its moments.

    But we should’ve looked harder for Nico’s.

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