Road Trip: El Paso, New Mexico and a Lunch Stop in Tuscon, AZ
It‘s a long haul between San Antonio and El Paso on the western edge of Texas, and I’m staying on the western edge of El Paso. After the 8 1/2 to 9 hour drive, all I want is a quick bite and a comfortable bed in a cool hotel room. As I’m staying on the western edge of the city – and because I’ve picked a spot right off the Interstate – my dining options are limited. There’s a Chickafil (can’t do that) across the street in one direction, and a Chili’s in the other. I opt for the Chili’s – a bonus? I had a gift card for there that had been sitting in my wallet for a few years.
When my waitress comes to the table, I ask “ What’s good? I’ve never been to a Chili’s before”.
“Really?” she responds incredulously.
When I ask her what wines they serve by the glass, she says “I don’t know. No one ever orders wine here.” El Paso…
There’s a Walmart across the street, and I consider dropping in there to buy a bottle of wine to take back to the hotel room. I thought I might ask her if she knew whether Walmart sold wine, but I don’t want to shock the poor girl too much by letting her know I’ve never shopped at Walmart either. Dinner is sufficient, but it’s not the sort of place I’ll be frequenting.
The next day’s drive takes me through southern New Mexico, where I stop in a little town called Deming for gas. An attendant comes running out, “I’ll fill it up for you, Ma’am. Same price.”
I can’t even remember the last time that’s happened to me. And he cleans the windshield, too. Small town, America… one of the things about getting out on the road is seeing how much the culture differs from the big cities, in both positive and negative ways.
I had planned ahead to stop for lunch in Tucson – did some research, and selected Pasco Kitchen and Lounge. Besides having a great looking menu and good reviews, it’s easily accessed off the I-10. The 3 to 4 mile drive from the highway exit to where I was to turn on to University Boulevard was fairly nondescript, commercial and industrial looking. This is a funky part of town, I thought. It begins to change a bit as I approach, but once I reach my turning destination, I’ve entered a whole other world. The area looks like a charming little village, and yep, it’s right near a university – and Pasco’s menu reflects that.
It’s a small place. The patio, which looks out on a little circular courtyard with a fountain in the center, probably has more tables than the inside section.
When I ask my waitress what’s good, her quick response was the Super Quinoa Bowl – with tofu, organic veggies and your choice of meat protein. Not my thing, really. There’s also the Big Boy Burger (with grass-fed beef), Braised Pork Loin and a Fried Egg (a big boy, indeed), and a Mac and Cheese special with Braised Pork Belly. Gotta fill up those growing young student bodies.
I opt for the Nachos with Braised Beef. My waitress seems concerned that I get my veggies in today- “you can get it half protein and half veggies,” she lets me know.
The organic veggies topping the nachos include kale, carrots, summer squash, broccoli and red pepper strips. The whole pile of goodies sits on a pool of Oaxaca and Asadero cheese sauce – a good, satisfying lunch.
A note about the service – since I had the pooch with me, I had to sit on the patio, but to be seated I had to talk with the hostess inside. I stuck my head in the door and waited about five minutes before I caught someone’s attention. Three parties exited through the door before the hostess finally came to seat me. My waitress did show up with a bowl of water for the pooch right away, though, and answered all my menu questions very patiently. She didn’t ask if I wanted a drink, though, and again, it was a long time before I saw her again, leading me to conclude that the service, although very friendly, was a bit inattentive. When she came by to say your nachos should be coming out soon (hmmmm- the kitchen’s a little slow, too, I thought), I was able to give her my drink order – a Hibiscus High, a concoction with tequila, lime, pomegranate and grapefruit juices. She had the drink in her hand a few minutes later when she appeared with the nachos.
As I was finishing up, she came by to offer dessert on the house, “since you waited so long for your nachos,” she said. While I declined dessert, I truly did appreciate the acknowledgement and the offer – a very hospitable act. Then I looked at the check. They had taken $3.50 off my $20 check. Small town America – that’s pretty good in my book.