I am interrupting our fall special to talk about a new restaurant in Tucson that I have recently tried because it is amazingly good and the prices are super reasonable – something that is always a plus!
The establishment in question is called Baja Cafe. This little diner style place is tucked away inside of the Broadway Shopping Center, behind the Gaslight Theater. It occupies the space that used to be The Hummingbird Cafe, but this is not a remodel and a name change, the owners are entirely different, and the menu as well.
I found this place through my mom. Sometimes on Sundays we like to get together and grab breakfast or, if I’m being especially lazy that Sunday, lunch. Because after raising me all those years she still manages to enjoy my company she usually picks me up and we decide in the car on where we will be heading. Last week she asked me if I remembered ‘The Hummingbird’. I told her I did and I would be up for going there if she wanted. “Well,” she said, “there is a new restaurant there, actually, called ‘Baja Cafe’. I tried it once already and really liked it, so I want to take you.” I told her that sounded good and we headed over.
It sounded good, it tasted even better!
When we walked in there was a decent sized crowd and the place is a bit on the smaller side, but it was not overcrowded and it was only about two to three minutes before we were seated. The main dining area is directly ahead of the entrance and houses about eight booths and there is an additional dinning area to the right where you can find chair seating. One thing I noticed when we settled into our booth in the main area was the additional, shaded, patio seating in a rear courtyard. I am looking forward to sitting out there the next time I go, as the weather is absolutely perfect for outdoor dining right now!
As I looked around I really appreciated the decor. As I mentioned the place is a little smaller and the owners had made the right choice by keeping the walls a soft but cheerful hue of yellow that opened the place up and brightened it without making it too loud and overbearing. They had also chosen to keep the wall hangings to a minimum, with some tasteful photographs and a couple of kitschy and colorful signs that fit the Baja theme.
(Wall Art at Baja Cafe)
I had not been too lazy this particular Sunday and we were here for breakfast. The cafe has a very ample breakfast menu that is served all day.
The usual fair is there with offerings of eggs, bacon, sausage, etc. And you can also grab pancakes or french toast. They have a great selection of dishes that are all under $5.00 and they also have a specialties menu where you will find the Baja spin on your meal. Dishes like ‘Chilaquiles’ (Chil-a-key-as) and the ‘Baja Croissant’, which both feature distinctly southwestern flavors such as jalapenos, queso fresco, and green chilies.
I decided to have something off the under $5.00 menu because it sounded tasty and like it would be the perfect amount of food. I ordered the ‘Dust devil Scrambler’ which is a special in the sense that the veggies used are fresh and they change everyday. What it basically consists of is an egg scramble with the fresh veggies and meat and a side of hash browns and your choice of toast or an english muffin.
My mom and I visited while we waited for our food and our conversation blended in with the pleasant hum of our fellow Tucsonans having their own Sunday outing.
When the food arrived I was pretty surprised by the generous portions, I did not expect to get a huge breakfast for less than $5.00, but I did.
The plate was covered with an ample amount for sure!
The mix of the day for the ‘Dust devil’ included onions, bell peppers, diced ham, and sausage. The eggs were firm, yet fluffy and the veggies were sauteed perfectly, crispy, and not overcooked. The hash browns also had a nice golden crisp to them without being undercooked or too burnt.
Now, I happen to love green hot sauce on my hash browns, but I only saw red with the condiments on the table. When I asked the waitress about green hot sauce she let me know she would go check.
When she came back she apologized that they did not have any, but had brought me a side dish of a fresh made green hatch chili sauce that was a specialty of the chefs, who thought I may like this as well.
I did! This green chili sauce was amazing! You could tell it was definitely fresh and it had just the right amount of heat to it without being overly spicy.
I really appreciated the kitchen taking time to provide an alternative to my request rather than simply saying ‘we don’t have any’.
By the time I finished the meal I was certainly full and satisfied.
“So, what did you think?” my mom asked as we headed out.
I told her I really liked it a lot and she said that it was pretty much the only place she came for breakfast anymore. She also mentioned that she had tried it for lunch a few times and it had also been pretty good. At the time Baja Cafe was open daily from 6:00am to 2:00pm for breakfast and lunch and were just thinking about opening for dinner on the weekends. So, once they actually did open for dinner from 4:00pm to 8:30pm on Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays it wasn’t long before my mom called to see if my husband and I wanted to join her for dinner there.
When we got there it was not crowded at all. The Baja Cafe had only been open for dinner for a couple of weekends, so I believe most folks did not realize it had extended it’s hours yet, because if they had, it would surely have been busy, judging by the second round of deliciousness I experienced on this visit.
We started out with an appetizer. The name of which escapes me, unfortunately, but it was basically a savory mix of chicken and vegetables inside of a light puff pastry and smothered in a spicy, mole type, red sauce. It was fantastic! It was also ample. It could have been ordered as an entree, and there was more than enough to share between the three of us.
For our entrees I ordered the Baja Burger, my husband, who is a vegetarian, orders the black bean burger, and my mom ordered enchiladas – Baja style. While we ate our appetizer and waited for these items to be served the chef and one of the owners (Gerard) came to say hello and ask if everything was tasting good. he was very warm and friendly and my husband did have a question about one of the menu items he had sen that included fried leeks. He was curious about them and how they were prepared. Gerard answered his question and even brought a small side dish of friend leeks for him to try. I really appreciate this kind of service and care when I am dining out. It was obvious by speaking with Gerard that he loves to cook and has a lot of passion for what he is doing.
When the entrees came I was again surprised by the large amount of food. My Baja burger was gigantic and packed with spicy goodness.
It is a crushed and seared beef patty that is cooked in adobo sauce and topped with jalapeno bacon, a green hatch chili, chipotle mayo and pepper jack cheese! Oh. my. goodness. It was again, just the right amount of heat, and very, very, southwestern in flavor.
My husband, who is notorious for being a very, shall we say, discerning diner, thought his black bean veggie burger was equally amazing, and even commented that it was probably the best veggie patty he had eaten at a restaurant, it was easy to see and taste that it had been made fresh and was not simply a cooked up frozen patty.
My mom’s enchiladas were drenched in a white cream sauce that was also spot on in its heat and spicy flavor.
Since we had already enjoyed the appetizer we all ended up taking a box home so we could enjoy the baja experience later.
We were glad we had skipped on desert, this time, but next time I will have to leave room because the kitchen makes all the deserts fresh and your server will inquire with you about it halfway through your meal because they need a little extra time to get everything in the oven for you…that’s right, whatever cookie, pie, or cake you may have a chance of trying it will be brought to you straight from the oven!!
The dinner menu was a little pricier than the breakfast menu, but not much, especially for the size of the meal, and the flavor, and the quality, and the service!
Baja Cafe is doing everything right! I hope Tucson welcomes them.
The owners have actually been in Tucson for a very long time and have done a lot of work with our community and community organizations. The Baja Cafe is a life-long dream of theirs and they seem to be doing well. They also share their success back with Tucson by continuing to support local artists, animal rescues, and family charities that are local with their business.
I know I will be going back regularly and I encourage you to give this great new restaurant a try as well, whether you have lived in Tucson for a while or if you are simply visiting, the Baja Cafe is an establishment that is really showcasing why Tucson is such a great place to be!
For more information about where to stay during your visit and the Baja Cafe click on the links below.