Friday, April 29, 2016

Indian Fry Bread Tacos That Just Might Save Your Soul

Oh man. Where do I start?

Okay, so...if you've been reading my stuff lately it seems that I have been discoursing a bit (alright, kind of a lot) about my transition from California guy to Tucson dude. Especially with food.


The difference being that back in California I was a thick but lithe 170+ pounds where as since moving to the Old Pueblo I have reached the 200 and then some chunk style. Yes, the Sonoran hot dogs. Yes, the Mexican food. Yes, the sandwiches from my favorite delis. Yes...YES!

 Anyway, to add to the ever growing list of why my belly is shaped like a halved beach ball, is the subject at hand here:

The Indian fry bread taco.

This lil' shed was sent from above

Indian fry bread is pretty simple. Its basically leavened bread made with milk, water, salt, flour and baking powder then deep fried. The first time I had it was at the 4th Avenue street fair like the second or third year since moving here. It was good. You know, just another version of a tortilla or naan. But I didn't really pay close attention to the fry bread until I had it in taco form.

Now imagine this: Your usual taco fillings sitting on top or jammed into of a fluffy flattened near donut pastry. Sounds amazing right? Well that's because it is! So when we got word that a little place out in the Barrio Hollywood nook was serving up some of the best Indian tacos in town, we had to see for ourselves if it lived up to the hype.

So simple, so amazing

Sitting right on the corner of St. Mary's and Grande Ave. is a fairly inconspicuous and diminutive food stand calling themselves Manna From Heaven. Having been open for a little more than a year, they have already gathered quite the following for their fry bread tacos, quickly became the darling of a local weekly periodical because of them and their average online ratings are easily in the 5 star range. Impressive.

So on a beautiful April afternoon, the Tucson Homeskillet crew made our way over there and here is what went down...

Lovely blooms on the back patio area

For real, Manna From Heaven is right in the thick of it. Traffic, bustle and the normal goings on in that neck of the 'hood surround the boutique-sized grub hut. The interior is pretty stripped down and, shall we say, cozy, with a few tables and chairs scattered about. A hand-written dry erase board menu rests behind the register and under a flat screen TV, which on this day it was beaming presidential hopeful Ted Cruz and him doing some kind of rally speech or...whatever. A lady in a bright red t-shirt welcomed us and asked what we wanted.

Pretty much one of each, is what we said.

Luckily this was on a Wednesday so they had a fry bread taco lunch special going on. We got the green chili, red chili and regular taco (which is seasoned ground beef) plus three sodas and the whole thing came to less than $20. She also assured us that the tacos were pretty big and hoped that we brought our appetite.

Oh. Oh...we did.

Since the inside space was fairly cramped for the three of us, along with that Ted Cruz dude screaming about...who knows, we opted for the patio which turns out to be everyone else's go to option as far as the internets were concerned.

Like we said, you are on the corner of a busy intersection

The patio was small but really nice. Springtime flowers and cacti popping with color were blithely shooting out of brightly colored planters all over and the few tables out there were comfy and shaded. There is one peculiar matter of dining on their patio I should mention though:

It's pretty noisy.

You have to remember, Manna From Heaven is in the thick of the barrio, so buses stop right there, beeping and blast hissing as they lower themselves to let handicapped riders off. Cars zoom by, most with booming bass lines vibrating the foundation. Or the occasional squabble between two star crossed lovers pushing jam packed shopping carts fill the otherwise tranquil air.

The best part was this one guy who was sitting near the patio area, talking to himself and listening to Metallica's "Ride The Lightning" on a broke down transistor radio. As we sipped our sodas and waited for the food to arrive, the opening strains of 'Fade To Black' flitted along with the other forms of cacophony of the area.

To be quite honest with you, it was all so very perfect.

Old school speed metal, a bag of creff and a thermos full of hooch...don't get no better than that

But then soon enough the tacos arrived and the world grew a little less frantic.

In fact, I think we heard angels sing.

Heavenly, yet sinful

The lady at the register wasn't kidding when she asked if we brought our appetites. These Indian fry bread tacos were big. Like medium pizza size big. Each one was loaded with meat, beans, cheese, lettuce and tomatoes. They looked incredible and smelled fantastic.

So without wasting anymore time, we started cutting up bits of the tacos to survey the flavors of each one.

Gaze into the maw of the Tacopacalypse 

Yep, you heard right: You pretty much need a knife and fork to take one of these suckers down. Picking one up is like trying to wrestle a small puffy meat filled bear to your face. Plus it was all about sharing so we divvied up the goodness and went for it.

First off, the fry bread is dead on. Light and airy but with a good heft; flavorful, not too greasy or chewy. So we knew we were in good hands just from the strata. The beans were hearty and creamy with a good bite and lots of flavor.

The green chili chicken was amazing. Lots of spice and really good texture. Red chili did not disappoint either. Rich and tasty with a distinct kick. The 'taco meat' option was also on point. The lettuce was crispy and fresh, the tomatoes as well. You put all of these components together and what you have is a weighty delectable treat that is easily split between friends.

Manna From Heaven? I couldn't say it better myself.

Tres Amigos

"We get here everyday at 8 am to start prepping," said Rebecca, our server and the nice lady at the register, "so by 11 when we open everything is ready to go.

"Everything here is home made and served fresh. We make the beans everyday, cook and marinate the meat fresh everyday. The fry bread is home made too and because we have only one pan to fry them in sometimes it might take a while to get your taco if we're busy.

"We're really glad people seem to like our food because we love making it and making people happy."

Halfway through, starting to hit the wall

Here's the thing: we all showed up hungry and we are all big eaters. I'd say about halfway through our fry bread taco extravaganza, we began to show signs of wearing down.

These tacos are for real. For the $7 or so you shell out for one, you basically can feed two people. But we didn't want it to end!

The more we ate the more the elements melded together and just became a monumental flourish of bean/meat/cheese/veggie ratio. The fry bread began to soak up the seeping grandeur from the meat and beans, the cheese and veggies began to harmonize with one another, the spices fused and just became one unit of awesome all the while that dude with the crappy radio kept listening to 1980's era Metallica.

"A creeping deeeeeeeeath!"


Nope. Cashing out. Sorry. 

Unreal. Actually very real, but so good.

See, if you keep what you do to a pinpoint simplicity, what you are then offering the world is a well honed and composed product that nobody else can contend with. The good folks at Manna From Heaven, that's what they have going on. Stripped down yet each item is made with so much care and attention. This mini mart corner shop of fry bread magnificence deserves your attention and above all your insatiable hunger.

Because believe the three of us that tried to take down the triple taco trial of terrific taste, we basically met our match but were oh too happy to be pinned by the abundant stature of each one.

That's when Rebecca brought out a dessert fry bread.

Huh boy

Even as packed in that we were, of course we had to eat some of the goods here. Hot, thick and drizzled with local honey and sweet powdered sugar, this final piece of the flavor puzzle just threw us over the edge. It was nap time. Or at least time for a digestive whiskey or something. In fact, it was time for both.

To sum up, Manna From Heaven is divine. In such a small space they are able to create some of the best Indian fry bread taco creations I have ever had the privilege to eat. If you're in the Barrio Hollywood area, you need to get in there like today. If you're not even close to that section of need to plan a day trip and make a time of it. The food, the patio, the service, experience of it all, it'll be worth the long bus ride to get there.

And the bus stops right in front of Manna From Heaven! Just be sure to bring your portable hand radio and some old school Metal because that was what made the eating excursion that much more, uh, 'entertaining' for us that day.

God speed.

Now go forth and get yon fry bread tacos courtesy of Manna From Heaven.


Now you know, now you gotta go

Camera, Typing and Eating
"Metal" Mark Whittaker
Almost May, 2016

Metal Influence:

Friday, April 22, 2016

All Hail the Omar!

When I first moved to Tucson over ten years ago I weighed about 170-ish. Sure I had my signature belly, but it was not as, shall we say, "engaging" as it is today. The rolling hills of San Francisco, walking and skating them on a regular basis, kept me in fairly good shape. Now I pretty much drive everywhere and because of the amazing food here in the Old Pueblo along with the lack of exercise due to a full time job, not really being into the whole gym thing plus curating this blog, I'm easily up to 200 + change.

Thanks Tucson.

The gut has gotten a bit more, shall we say, "prominent"?

After I had my fill of Sonoran hot dogs, chimichangas and hangover food courtesy of Lucky Wishbone, I was ready for my next exclusive Tucson gastro-introduction. This came quite easy for my wife who simply said:

"Well you have to get an Omar from the Sausage Deli."

I wasn't too sure if she meant a person or a type of sausage or...what. It didn't matter. I was hungry and very prepared to get into another local favorite destination for eating awesomeness.

Behold: The Omar!

When I had my first Omar sandwich it was from the Sausage Deli's original location in the much smaller hut closer to 1st Avenue just off Grant. Now they have expanded into a bigger residence, just a few feet away from the old Sausage Deli, but this time closer to Grant Street with an expanded parking area and menu as well. They now have a beer bar! And french fries! Yeah, they got themselves a fryolator. And...

Wait, we're getting off the topic here. Sorry.

Anyway, we ordered two Omar subs, to go, found a nice shady spot in a park and then went for it.

All I have to say is: I was immediately in sandwich rapture.

It was glorious. Delicious. It had that perfect balance of savory, sweet, chewy and crunch. Equipped with salami, turkey and Swiss cheese, it's also packed with onions, bell peppers, pepperoncinis and a good dose of yellow mustard and house Italian dressing. Best thing is that the Omar is served hot so all of the items neatly jammed into a fluffy sub roll meld together in a harmonious landscape of flavors and textures. The Omar, at its core, is a very simple sandwich and that right there is what makes it so definitively marvelous.

I sometimes have dreams about the Omar. The sandwich is that tasty that it haunts my subconscious.

So let this blog post serve as an inspiration to you all: The Omar is amazing and you need to get one right now!

Trust me. It's like the best sandwich...ever.

Hands down.

So simple yet so perfect

"When I purchased the Sausage Deli back in 2003," says owner Chris Fanelli, "the rumor about the Omar was that it was created by an old employee that worked with the original owner a long, long time ago. I would say close to 1978 when the Omar was created by, yes, an employee named Omar!

"The Omar is our number two seller, just barely behind the Italian Grinder. We sell about fifty to a hundred Omar subs a day, which outsells the sandwich version to about 3-1.

"The Omar has a nickname too: 'The Breathtaking'! Appropriate right? There are a lot of old school U of A alumni that order it in a special way: they substitute the turkey for smoked turkey and replace the yellow mustard with champagne mustard, maybe that's how it was served years ago, not too sure. I have had many, many regular customers come in wanting to try something else. They usually just stand there, stare at the menu, then of course break down and eventually say, "Yeah, I just can't do it. I'll have an Omar please."

And if you have had an Omar, you know what Chris is talking about.

If you haven't had an Omar yet, then...well, you'll know what Chris is talking about when you do.

Nay a more magnificent sandwich has bestowed our fair little desert hamlet

So without further adieu, The Tucson Homeskillet now presents to you an ode to one of our favorite sandwiches in Tucson or anywhere really:

The Omar!

So glorious!

I love the Omar so much I took it out for some beers.

I had to cut the Omar off after was getting a bit tipsy

Then we played a few rounds of Big Buck Hunter. Oh that Omar...he's a dead eye!

The Omar even got high score. Way to go lunchtime food item!

Afterwards we went to the fair where we rode the Tilt-A-Whirl till we got sick. Wheee!!!

"Can we go again?" asked the meat and cheese stuffed sub sandwich

I betcha didn't know that the Omar is a big Iron Maiden fan. Like...real big.

Run to the Sausage Deli! Run for the Omar!

After a fun day, it was time to relax on the veranda and soak up some lovely springtime rays.

Just chillin' with my homie...a sandwich.

Even our cat, Lil Poundcake, showed her admiration for the Omar, only having this to say:

"Sure, it's not tuna fish but, man, that is one tasty sandwich."

Thanks Lil Poundcake! We always knew you had good taste.

Can cats eat sub sandwiches? Well, we shall soon see...

Oh, the Omar, is there anything you can't do?

We love you the Omar sub! And thank you Sausage Deli for making it everyday (except Sunday)! You rule!


The Tucson Homeskillet

Can we shut up about the sandwich already? It's time to eat!

The Sausage Deli is located at:
745 E. Grant St., at 1st, midtown Tucson 

Eating, Typing & Camera
"Metal" Mark Whittaker
4/20, 2016

Metal Influence:

Friday, April 15, 2016

Spring Is In The Air...And So Are The Sounds Of Sneezing!

Well kids, it is that time of the year again: Springtime. Where the weather is beautiful, the flowers and vegetables are growing and blooming, occasional rains help keep things cool and hydrated, picnics are to be had, folks are out hiking the hills, easy gusts keep kites in the air while at the same time everyone is also just slightly miserable.

Why you may ask?

Because of allergies.

Pollen levels are really high during this section of the calendar, for obvious reasons, and those that are susceptible to its effects suffer like no other during the post winter/pre-summer months. Ragweed is a big cause of the wheezing and sneezing here in Tucson, along with olive trees dropping their little yellow balls of spite or the Palo Verde trees spreading the love in the temperate afternoon breezes. Just out for a lazy lunch on a patio recently, we were in the middle of a nose blow fest, watching people plop eye drops in instead of enjoying their food; trying to ease the effects of the high levels of dander while their calamari appetizer goes cold and soggy.

Since moving from California ten years ago I have been quite fortunate to find that my allergies have almost subsided. Turns out I was really allergic to the pine tree pollen that blew out of their spores in late winter back in the Central and Northern territory of the golden state. Not a lot of pine trees here in Tucson. So as my friends and co-workers hack and drip in the Spring, I only seem to have a itchy "red eye day" here and there or I might sneeze when I'm sweeping up the patio of all the mesquite tree debris.

So why am I not as unfortunate as those who seem to fall under the grim spell of the hay fever attack this time of year?

Turns out, it happens to be the majority of what I eat on a regular basis.

As the teeming and itchy masses grab the Flonase and Claratin, my intake of yogurt, berries and almonds has been beneficial to my success of avoiding most of the cruel consequences that this time of year bestows upon most. Now, I'm not bragging or trying to sound like I'm above taking allergy medicine or anything like that, but after doing some research on what types of foods can actually inhibit or at least slowly build up a tolerance to the harsh reality of seasonal allergies, I found that my diet is pretty rich with the top rectifiers of springtime afflictions.

Now I didn't include honey in this list of foods that help prevent allergies. Honey is a popular home remedy based on the idea of something called immunotherapy and the notion that if you ingest pollen the allergic reaction to it will subside. Kind of like in "The Princess Bride" where Wesley/ Dread Pirate Roberts develops an immunity to iocane powder by slowly ingesting it over the years and bests the Sicilian in a battle of wits. But honey doesn't work. Sorry. Different kind of pollen all together.

But here are the top 6 foods which I found that will, or at least hopefully should, benefit you when it feels as if Mother Nature just blew sneezing powder up your nose and stinging pepper flakes in your eyes.

Note: None of the foods listed here should be considered cures. No, eating apples everyday will not cure you of your allergies. But it will help.

Check it out...

Fatty Fish

Now I don't eat or cook a lot of salmon...but I do eat a lot of sushi. 

Good fatty fish rich with Omega-3 acids can reduce inflammation that comes with hay fever. Studies over in Japan, a country that consumes a lot of fish, found that people that ate two or more servings of fish a week had a far lower chance of succumbing to seasonal allergies. So don't be afraid to pile on the tuna and mackerel when you feel like grilling or going out to eat because it may just help you with the spring fever blues. 

Trout is really packed with the good fatty acids, so we suggest heading over to Robert's Restaurant for their grilled trout plate. 

And for all your fresh fish needs, we have always loved the care and selection at Rincon Market

But keep your preparation simple because you want all of the properties from the fish to help with your allergy inflammation. Soaking a good piece of Bluefin Tuna in soy sauce and oil kind of defeats the point. 

Onions and Garlic

Say it with me: Quercetin.

"Hey! What did you just call me?"

No. That's the main property in onions and garlic that help stabilize the amount of cells reacting to the allergen. Basically these standard (or at least they should be) pantry staples act as an antihistamine. When you cut open that onion and start leaking from the eyes, it's that character that is doing the most good. It can increase the health of your lungs which fall under attack in a a severe allergy onslaught. 

And garlic of course is just the cure-all. In fact, garlic was used to ward off the plague in the 1300s, so if it's good enough to stop limbs from falling off, it should be okay to help with the sniffles when spring dust wafts through the air. Both garlic and onions increase the immune system and in times of congestion crisis you're going to need that. And broccoli. Broccoli has all kinds of quercetin happening so include more of this awesome member of the brassica family too in your diet.

Now say this with me: Bioflavinoids.

"Like the movie with Jaden Smith?" That's just another name for foods rich in quercetin. Other helpers in this group include apples, green tea and red wine. So eat up and drink up and help boost your allergy resistance. 

For onions and garlic we abide by the awesome folks over at Sleeping Frog Farms. They can be found in farmer's markets, most notably at Rillito Park and St. Phillips Plaza on Sundays. 

Just remember, the stronger the smell from the onion or garlic, the better. Now get crying and get better!

Magnesium Rich Foods

Ah there nothing they can't do?

We're not talking about curly fries at the drive thru. Heavy seasoning and deep frying just takes out all of the good stuff those starchy buddies provide. Thing is, potatoes are just the starting point to get you eating foods packed with magnesium. Magnesium is a bronchodilator, essentially another form of natural antihistamine, so all of the foods pictured above (and a whole lot more) can help. It also acts as a muscle relaxer which can calm the nasal tubes and whole body as well. 

Basically (and I love saying this) just eat a lot of nuts!

Go nuts on nuts such as almonds, cashews, pumpkin seeds, flaxseed and pecans. Don't forget dark leafy greens, kale, wheat bran and kelp too. Yes, kelp. You're going to thank me later when your nose is all plugged up and your throat feels like you just swallowed sawdust. 

For all of your magnesium loaded foods, you need to head over to the Food Conspiracy Co-Op and stock up before the aches and pains of a crappy allergy attack set in.

You're welcome.

Fruits Heavy in Vitamin-C

Good thing spring brings a crop of all the super stuff you need to eat to fight off the microscopic baddies that infest your face. Unfortunately a lot of the foods you need to eat actually provide their own pollen so eating something that is also making you feel like garbage is sort of an act of revenge. Don't you think?

I mean, you should be eating fruits brimming with vitamin C anyway. If you're not, you may be more apt to give into the evil impulses of microbe jerks that wanna ruin your perfectly beautiful springtime afternoon. When you're packing for that picnic, be sure to toss in a good grip of kiwi fruit, some fresh grapefruit, natural lemonade, strawberries and, of course, more apples. The polyphenols in these foods can suppress the symptoms of allergic rhinitis. 

Meaning: You won't be all blecchy. 

If you happen to be in mid-town Tucson, stop by Aqua Vita Natural Foods and get your vitamin C seriously on. And if you don't suffer from hay fever or seasonal allergies and just have a grip of fruit, we suggest infusing that mess in some clear alcohol and have a fresh fruit gettin' you all drunk 'n stuff kind of party. Yee haw!

But fruit responsibly.  

Yogurt & Kafir

Here is where bugs can help you out.

Seriously. The cultures in good yogurt and kafir have something in them called Lactobacillus Casei, which are an essential part in the fermentation process. You need these bugs. Oh yes. These bugs will help get the, uh...bugs out of your system. Beneficial bacteria assists in the swiping away of those sniffles, runny noses and sneezing that seem to be the mainstay of a good allergy attack. 

Yogurt and kafir are also really good for your digestive system which in turn makes your immune system that much more effective. So slap some fresh yogurt on your cereal or granola, dip the fruits we were just talking about in a bowl of the stuff and be sure to slurp down a good kafir yogurt probiotic smoothie when you get the chance. The stuff is crazy delicious and will only benefit you in the long run. 

Honestly you can get good yogurt and kafir almost anywhere, but we're not here to promote the big boys, so we suggest checking out any of the New Life Health Centers and starting eating and drinking those sinus infections away. 

 Bug off allergies!


Now we're talking.

One reason I don't really suffer from allergies is because I eat a lot of spicy foods. We are talking sinus clearing dishes embellished with heat and flavor that seem to stave off the crapiness that gets in your nose and throat this time of year. Think Indian, Thai, Korean and, duh, Mexican.

Turmeric. The stuff that gives curry its bright yellow color is another paladin in the fight against inflammation. It's not only savory and enticing but it also breaks up congestion. And did I mention it allows the blood and oxygen to flow more effectively through the body? Now I did. 

You need this essential spice to help your allergies. Make sure to also throw in some mustard seeds, anise, fennel, ginger, cinnamon and cayenne. Honestly, any spice that tickles and burns your nose a bit will be beneficial with your wheezing and sneezing. 

Basically, you need to smoke out the pollen. 

Next to Aqua Vita, you can pick up some essential spices at Caravan Market, or get some good spicy food and bulk spice at Jasmine and for all of your Indian spice needs, check out India Dukaan then head across the street to India Oven for a big plate of curry spice goodness. 

Feel the burn gentle reader, not the flerm.

We really hope this helps because it sure has been helpful for us. Like we said, these are just supplements that can ease the swell and odium of the springtime allergy haze. If you have serious symptoms then it's time to take the real medicine and just enjoy the flavors of all the stuff we have listed above. But really, these foods really do the job. 

For the most part. Just eat 'em and see for yourself. 

 Here's to being sneeze free!

Good luck and enjoy the amazing weather by getting out there...

Research, Uploads and Typing
"Metal" Mark Whittaker
Springtime 2016

Metal Influence:

Friday, April 8, 2016

Blake's Lotaburger Comes To Town And...Sure.

I've seen this place. No really. Road travelling through New Mexico there were a bunch of Blake's Lotaburger  on the side of the highway but we never stopped to try out the food. For some reason we just kept on going and when we finally were out of the "land of enchantment" we kinda forgot all about that Lotaburger stand and continued on with our lives, free to pursue other burger spots and a career of religious fulfillment.

Then a few months ago it was announced that a Lotaburger was coming to Tucson. Oh. Okay. Cool. I guess.

And that's when locals began losing their frikkin minds!

Here it is...and...okay

As a California native, we just took having In-N-Out Burgers every five miles or so apart for granted. They were and are, and will be, always there. It was just road food for me. When driving for a while and you need a fairly expedient, satisfying and reasonable grub stop, the go to was In-N-Out.

But do you remember when one opened up here in Tucson a few years ago? Dude, it was like the second coming of the Meat Messiah. The lines coiled around blocks to get a sample of the West Coast style fries and burgs. It wasn't as if they were giving away free food or that the In-N-Out was suddenly the only place to get a quicky lunch here in's just a burger, man!

I mean, it is a tasty burger...but still.

So when folks started flipping about this Lotaburger joint, of course we had to get a sample and see what all the hype was about.

Packed parking lot and crazy long drive thru lines

Started back in the 50's by a guy named Blake Chanslor, Lotaburger quickly became a staple in the Albuquerque fast food quadrant, eventually expanding to other New Mexico cities to reign supreme in fry grease and cheese. Famous for featuring fresh roasted green chiles on their burgers, the chain soon became a local favorite earning the title of 'Best Green Chile Burger in the World' by National Geographic and now, ladies and gentlereaders...Tucson has one.

Friends who needed a Lotaburger fix asap braved the early soft opening chaos only to report that it took almost an hour at times to get their food. For a burger. When I asked if it was worth the hour wait, the response was a resounding:


Patrons lining up to start waiting to wait

Just "eh" for a burger you waited for up to an hour to eat? Oh man. But then others chimed in claiming that it beats In-N-Out by tenfold in flavors and concept. Heck, Lotaburger even serves up breakfast burritos (take that Taco Bell!) so now it was like 50/50 as far as what I was to expect from this place.

The dust had (sorta) settled from its big grand opening and I got there fairly early, like 10:30 am, on a Wednesday. I got parking right next to the front door so I had thought I lucked out. If you can get rockstar parking at a popular joint, bets are that it's not as hoppin' as it usually is or could be, so I opened the door and stepped inside.

There was a decent amount of people in there and a fair bustle of activity, just not the turmoil I had come to expect. I suppose at such a non-lunch/too late for breakfast time frame this light smattering of burger hungry patrons was to kind of be expected.

Here's the thing: This Lotaburger is pretty small and is set up quite oddly. When you first walk in you immediately are set to queue for your order. The main dining area is off to your left and there are a few tables within butt height and distance to the right. There was one employee on the register who had a few folks asking questions and placing orders with her under a fairly paired down and basic menu which stretched out above them all. The kitchen behind her was a squall of food hustle though. People were running around putting items in bags, manning the grills, taking orders from the drive thru window, slapping meat on buns and then running out to the floor and yelling out numbers.

"Number 283!?", announced a team member in a white shirt which was immediately followed by a dude raising his hand, claiming that he was number 283 and then was handed a sack full of steamy beef promise. Wow, at 10:30 am they were already up to almost 300 orders.


Here it is: the Lotaburger with green chiles

I was standing behind a guy whom I thought was in line, but when the line in front of him began to surge forward the dude didn't move. So I asked him if he was in line. He then turned around and stated that he had already ordered and was just waiting. Huh. So I moved up past him and prepared to order.

Looking around I noticed lots of folks just standing there, holding tickets, staring at the general register/kitchen area hoping their order pops up next. In fact, there were more people waiting for their food in the designated order line than there were actual people gearing up to order food. So people would come in, see some person standing in the queue area, queue behind that person and just stand there like idiots thinking they were in the line, when in fact the real line was a few heads down a notch, being blocked by folks who were just hanging out and waiting for their order to arrive. There is no wait station or area to hang out in as you anticipate someone calling out your ticket number. Kind of a bad move on the Lotaburger design team if you ask me. People just milling about the dining space clutching ticket orders while other people nibble on drippy sandwiches just looked uncomfortable for all parties involved.

So I placed my order, three burgers with green chiles, to go, grabbed my ticket and tried to find a spot where I wouldn't be confused with someone in line or bothering some sap who's just trying to enjoy their burger without some dork standing there going "Hey, maybe my order will come up next...what'dya think?"

It took about 15-20 minutes to get my sack full of burgs and by that time the line to order at the register was out the door. The 11 am, early lunch crowd was beginning to pack it, so I grabbed my goodies and mushed my way through the horde and ran to the car.

But when I got to the car I was blocked in by the teeming mass of drive thru patrons. Again, not the best in design. Luckily a good soul saw my predicament, backed up as much as he could, curbing out a bit onto Speedway, which allowed me to wiggle the rig just enough to make it safely to the street.

Thank you kind person. You know who you are.

Metal Mark in Lotaburger judge mode

My first stop was to drop one off to my lady, She-Ra, to snack on while she was at work.

"You didn't get fries?", she asked.

"No," I replied. "I just wanted to get out of there."

She would later reply via text: 'Well that was a spicy pile of garbage'

Let's play a game: Try to find the green chile topping

Next was to visit our good friend Chili, who co-owns our favorite bar Danny's Baboquivari. You might know Chili from our strip club excursion where we got free burgers and got the go-ahead to take photos of said free burgers in an environment that isn't so spiffy on things like that. Chili is always up for a Homeskillet food challenge and this one was a breeze compared to others we have endured in the past.

We both took a seat on the outside patio, unwrapped the provisions and assessed the damage.

"Good meat to bun ratio," quipped Chili. "But pretty skimpy on the green chiles."

The burgers looked like...burgers. Nothing amazing, nothing groundbreaking. Burgers. Amidst the usual lettuce, pickle, onion fare, the meat was topped with a scant amount of roasted green chile plop. Now, we had heard that Lotaburger was famous for their green chiles and you'd think that they would embellish the Tucson eaters with just a bit more sweet heat than what we were witnessing here.

Whatever. It was time to eat.

Chili is a man of action

Was this burger worth the 20 minute wait? Not really. Does it live up to the hype? I don't think so. Is it the best green chile burger in the world? Umm...not in Tucson, no.

The burger was...fine. It's at that grade of an In-N-Out but not on that level if you know what I mean. Maybe some chains in New Mexico hook it up like no other but for this burger enthusiast, it tasted like a slightly higher class of fast food burger.

Half way through our burgers though, we began to realize why they use so little green chile: The heat and spice is a slow yet palpable burn. If they had slathered more of the green mush relish on the meat we would have been in some trouble. Not crazy napalm scorch but it did have a bite.

And believe me, we can take the heat.

"You know what," Chili said (by the way, yes, we found it funny that our good friend Chili was sampling green chile burgers...we got it, thank you) as he finished his burger and wiped his mouth, "I ate it but I don't think I need to again. Maybe in a year or so when the crowds die down...maybe. But for now, all I can say is: I just ate a burger with some green chiles on it. And, I can move on with my life."

No truer words were said on that fine sunny Wednesday afternoon.

Some folks have waited for up to an hour for this thing...really?

To be fair we did not try the breakfast burritos, we did not sample the fries and we only ate their basic burger with green chiles, so there really wasn't a well rounded account for all that Lotaburger can offer up. But if a place is boasting the "best green chile burger in the world", you better believe I am eating that burger. It's sort of like how I judge diners: if they screw up a simple club sandwich I wont go back. Or if a Japanese restaurant has crappy chicken teriyaki. If you can't get the basics down how is the rest of the menu going to fare?

Listen, there are so many burger options in this town and Lotaburger just seems like the new kid at school that at first appears all fun and shiny but then when you get to the heart of things they are proud of their Nickleback ticket collection and thought that the last Fantastic Four movie was "Oh my god, so good!"

Only to repeat myself: It was a burger. It had green chiles on it. We ate it. And then we moved on.

So to sum up our Lotaburger experience, just let this photo of me tell you what we all thought:

Camera, Typing and Eating
"Metal" Mark Whittaker
First Wednesday in April, 2016

Metal Influence:

Monday, April 4, 2016

The 2016 4th Avenue Street Fair: A Food Photo Retrospective!

Yes kids, it was that time again: The pre-summer 4th Avenue Street Fair, that three day stretch of food, art, food, weird household bits you never thought you needed, food, beer, food, more beer, bad tattoos, more food, heat stoke, some guy that only paints pictures of sad clowns, excessive amounts of food and beer and, of course, fun for the kids!

It's sort of a right of passage for us Tucsonans to attend/deal with the fair, mainly because it can be totally fun while at the same time be a complete pain in the butt.

You know what I mean right?

Sure there's lots of food to be eaten and gifts to be purchased, but there is the usual insane amount of people, most of whom walk exceedingly slow, and "art" that looks more like the kind of glop you'd see in some defunct buffet trough shanty that serves up drippy ham dejection to those in overalls and elastic waisted jeans.

But let's not focus on the poopy things about the fair, shall we? No!

We at the Tucson Homeskillet had a great time eating our way through the crowds and smoke and here is just a sampling of what we got into.

Check it out...

It can't be called a "fair" if they don't serve funnel cakes...right?

Just add water! 

These lil guys were actually very tasty

Just a fraction of the salsa booths that lined 4th Avenue

Smoked bacon candy? You had me at "It'll give you night terrors!"

Meaty treats that are neat to consume

Piles and piles of deep fried...everything

Steamed noodles and veggies was actually a nice break from the meat heavy fare

Beefy dudes beefin' it up

Unicorn droppings...on a stick

This guy's cobbler was solid

And my Patronus is a sack of pork cracklins

Sooooo much kettle corn, like soooo much

Deeeez spiced nuts?


Not food but tasty indeed, our good friend Monica who owns the Rustic Candle Company enjoying the smell of smoking pork

Work those them!

Too much going on in just one picture

Dry rubbed and slow cooked, this stuff was awesome


And...more meat!

A well needed video game respite courtesy of Generation Cool was enjoyed after the grilled carnage we were enduring 

And then...more meat!

Honestly, La Indita served up some of the best food that day, a welcome break from fried bits and weighty smoked flesh

And, of course, you always have to get your cup of free water, courtesy of the 4th Avenue Church to wash it all down

Thanks 4th Avenue Street fair....see you next time!

Eating, Typing and Camera
"Metal" Mark Whittaker
First Few Days in April, 2016

Metal Influence: