Originally published February 27, 2017 – Tucson, Arizona, is one of my favorite cities. Tucson has a bit of everything: a historic Old Town, a thriving university (Go ‘cats!), and an outstanding culinary scene.
On that last point, you don’t have to just take my word for it. The United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) has designated Tucson a World City of Gastronomy, the only U.S. city to receive this designation.
And my favorite Tucson restaurant is Poco & Mom’s.
Located on the corner of South Kolb Road and 22nd Street, Poco & Mom’s is a small, unassuming restaurant serving exceptional Southwestern food. It’s been open since 1999, and I discovered it during my first trip to Tucson, back in 2010 or so. And every time I’m back in town, breakfast at P&M’s is a priority.
And before every meal at Poco & Mom’s, I bow my head and pray. I pray that a certain spiky-haired spray-tanned Food Network “star” never discovers this place. Who needs the crowds?
There are three excellent reasons to eat at Poco & Mom’s. First, the menu states everything is made with love. I’d agree – the food is cooked with love and pride. It’s not rushed, it’s plated neatly, and served by staff that are proud of their restaurant.
The other two reasons are the Hatch Green Chile sauce, and the Red Chile Pork. These sauces adorn several of the dishes, and really are the key to their cuisine.
The Hatch Green Chile sauce is made with green New Mexico Chile Peppers grown in the Hatch Valley in, well, New Mexico. These heirloom peppers are 5 – 6″ long, and spicy. The chiles measure 2,500 on the Scoville scale, about the same as a jalapeno. They are fire roasted, peeled, and made into a delicious sauce that tastes great on everything. I mean, you could pour this on a dish of rusty nails and it would taste great (note – do not eat a plate of rusty nails–or if you do, don’t sue me).
The Red Chile Pork is more complex. Made with dried red New Mexico Chile Peppers, pork shoulder, and garlic, the resulting sauce features fork-tender cubes of pork, in a rich red curry-like sauce. There’s heat, but more so, tons of flavor.
These two sauces reach their apex of utility when combined in the Silver City Breakfast, the best dish on the menu. Crispy hash browns are cooked with onion, then topped with Hatch Green Chile sauce, cheddar and jack cheese, and two over easy eggs. The Red Chile Pork is then ladled over the top.
The resulting plate is finished with refried beans, and a warm homemade tortilla on the side. I keep the beans pristine, but I slice open the eggs to let the yolk cascade over the plate, and mix up the resulting mess, mopping up with torn slices of tortilla.
It’s heavenly – the crispy hash browns, the rich egg yolk and melted cheese, the succulent bits of lean pork, and the spice of the two sauces. The heat is a bit sneaky, it doesn’t hit you at first, but it is cumulative. By the end of the meal, you know you’ve eaten some hot food.
Well, that’s a lie.
It’s not the end of the meal. Because Poco & Mom’s also makes homemade sopapillas.
Dessert after a rich, flavorful, satisfying, and filling breakfast?
So two discs of fried dough are delivered to my table, along with plastic cups of honey and powdered sugar. If you use just the powdered sugar, you’ll have a flavor reminiscent of the beignets at Cafe du Monde in New Orleans.
To me, the better choice is tearing open the sopapilla, and pouring the honey inside. It’s neater, your hands don’t get as sticky, and you don’t look like an extra from Scarface.
In addition to cooling the heat from the peppers, the honey-drenched sopapillas serve also serve as a doughy digestif. Somehow, after eating them, and drinking the strong black coffee you ordered with them, you’re less full than before dessert.
And you’re ready for the 10-mile hike you’ll need to work it off.
So if you happen to be in Tucson, stop in at Poco & Mom’s for breakfast or lunch (there’s also a new cantina location serving dinner). And if you have the urge to email that certain Camaro-drivin’ celebrity to sing the praises of this simple diner, please sit down until it goes away.
We need to keep this one our secret.