I recently had the pleasure of visiting Yuma and hooking up with Yuma resident e.d. Needless to say, I had a few wonderful eating experiences, which e.d. asked me to post, so here's a condensed version.
Earlier this year Ed and I were having one of our dinners and I broached the subject of a possible visit. At first Ed's response was, "huh"? But after pondering this for a while, Ed had come up with an idea. Ed has enjoyed some of Yuma's best Mexican Food at various Taco Stands and Trucks, and thought we should do a "Taco Truck Crawl". So a few weeks ago I drove to Yuma and arrived at about 1115, and Ed picked me up in the Best Western Motel parking lot at 1130, and we were off.
It seems that there is an abundance of Taco Trucks in an area down 8th street in Yuma. There are literally empty lots lined with trucks around the perimeter. Many of these "shops" don't open until after sunset. Not very many "Gringo's" here. Ed wanted to take me to a specific Truck. We drove down 8th avenue, which is being repaved. I thought the rough dirt road added a definite ambiance to the whole "event". The specialty at this truck is Caguamanta - Stingray Soup. Ed explained that dried salted Manta ray fillets are rinsed and re-hydrated I'd imagine much like bacalao, and cooked in a tomato based broth, with onions, celery, and other vegetables. The taste is somewhat briny and oceany; Ed describes it as a sting ray Manhattan Chowder. The stingray meat is slightly dense, not as tender at a fish fillet, but much more tender then the usual piece of rubbery clam that you'd get in a chowder. There is a nice bit of spice, and the cilantro and onions equate to a somewhat bracing flavor.
After the excellent Caguamanta, we did a U-turn on 8th street and drove back up the street until we turned into an a gravel lot at 3121 8th street, the sign tied to the fence said - Tio Juan Camarones/Shrimps, and the specialty here are "Cocteles". E.d. placed orders for seafood cocktails with "everything". The large goblet contained a wonderful seafood cocktail. If it's in the ocean, it was in this. Chock full of shrimp, squid, octopus, scallops, great tasting oysters, cucumbers, celery, onion, all in a refreshing clamato and tomato water broth. But the item that surpised me the most about the cocktail were the large slices of nice sweet fresh abalone in it! The broth was just mild enough to add a little taste to all of the seafood. This was fabulous!
Driving further up 8th Street we stopped at the El Toro Meat Market, where we tasted two of the Tacos Al Pastor, or "Shepard-style tacos". According to the story; Lebanese immigrants brought with them Middle-Eastern style of grilling meat, mostly lamb, on a vertical spit. This was adapted by Mexicans, who marinate pork, and also apply a dry rub, usually grilling the meat on a vertical spit, topped with a slices of pineapple. The final product is a slightly spicy, red meat. At this location, the meat is obviously grilled, and placed by the Young Lady on top of corn tortilla's. You grab your tacos and walk over to a metal "cooler" and add whatever "garnish" you want.The meat was nicely balanced, moist and tender. I was starting to understand the "other" part of eating a taco; that is the melding of textures, the soft and slightly chewy tortilla, the moist and tender meat, and the crunchy cabbage.
El Toro Meat Market
1007 W 8th St
Yuma, AZ 85364
The next stop was Yuma Market Coronado's on 24th street. What we got here were two Cabeza Tacos. Literally "head" tacos; traditionally made from the head of a cow, that is steamed overnight, then shredded and mixed with the beef drippings(broth).Ed told me that these are very popular in Sonora, and most versions in Yuma are made with Beef "cheek". The moist stewed meat was placed on corn tortillas, Ed placed some cabbage and salsa fresca on top. The moist meat made this a somewhat ponderous taco. Oh, how did it taste? If one could condense "beef" taste into one bite, this is what it should taste like! Totally awesome.Perfect textures, for perfect beef. I'm basically at a loss for words over this.
Yuma Market Coronado's
890 E 24th St
After a short break to freshen up and check into my motel, e.d. returned and picked me up for "dinner". We drove back down 8th Street, bit further then we did earlier until we arrived at a small stand in what looked like a former garage, across a patch of maybe lettuce, or broccoli??? The name of the stand was El Nayarita, named after the coastal region of Nayarit. We got our ice chest out of the back of the car, and had a seat at one of the lawn furniture tables. So we popped a few cervezas and Ed ordered a dozen Empanadas. What arrived were what looked like deep fried folded tortillas. Though these were bright red in color. Ed theorizes that achiote, and perhaps some other seasonings were folded into the masa, before these were stuffed with shrimp and deep fried. Topped with some salsa verde and a squeeze of lime, these empanadas were delici-yoso! Crunchy, slightly spicy, with nice plump shrimp, this was simply amazing.The groups on the other tables were having Seafood "Cocteles" and wonderful looking Seafood Tostada's topped with a large amount of chopped octopus and shrimp.Ed and I split an order of fish, and an order of shrimp tacos.In each flour tortilla either a battered shrimp or battered fish filet was placed with some cabbage and salsa. A squirt of white sauce completed the taco. The tacos were good, though I must say that I've had tacos just as good in San Diego. The tacos were delivered to the table wrapped in foil, causing them to not be as crunchy as they could have been. Fairly soon the sun went down in the horizon, and in what seemed a heartbeat the coolers were empty and the kitchen had run out of empanadas.As we left the stand and drove up 8th Street I could see an ocean of headlights making their way down 8th Street. We passed what was an empty lot with a banner with "Corona" written on it during the afternoon, had suddenly been transformed into a "hotspot". I could hear the music blaring, blue and red disco lights spinning, strobe light blinking, and most of all, see the large Al Pastor turning on the vertical spit.
I turned to Ed and said "This is pretty neat!"
Ed turned to me and said "Damn, I forgot to order the whole fried fish!"
No one can tell me Yuma is a culinary wasteland.......
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