Thursday, April 22, 2010

In Which We Dine Extravagantly Well in Yuma

I am gobsmacked by the food in Yuma. Who would have suspected such incredibly delicious food in this sleepy town, already shutting down for the very long, hot summer to come? Yuma is not a big city; in fact, half its population is composed of snowbirds who've already left town to return to colder northern climes that are just starting to warm up. It's known to the rest of Arizona as the border town with California, the last stop in AZ on the way to San Diego. Quiet, dull, nondescript. That's what I expected. Boy, was I wrong when it came to dining in Yuma.

The first night we walked seven blocks from the hotel to Casa Gutierrez for delicious Mexican food. My favorite type of food, I had huevos rancheros (my barometer for comparison amongst Mexican restaurants). My only complaint--the salsa was very thin, but it wasn't too hot and that's such a minor complaint I almost hate to mention it. Casa Gutierrez is housed in a small, converted house a couple of blocks from the library, and is delightfully decorated. Best part--I'd spotted it while driving back from the market and the other two field scientists loved it, too.

The second night we went to Juileanna's Patio Cafe, which The Botanist picked online (he'd never eaten there despite his many work trips based in Yuma). I had Salmon Julieanna's, and it was delicious. Light, perfectly cooked, and accompanied by tropical iced tea and tres leches cake for dessert. This was voted one of the 25 best restaurants in Arizona by the magazine Arizona Highways in 2009. The strolling peacock and macaw could have put it over the edge, but it didn't. Julieanna's walks the line of being very good without falling over into pretentious. The waitress was attentive, the manager unobtrusively spotted by The Botanist making sure everything flowed smoothly, and the decor a little funky and eclectic new Mexican/American. All three Scientists agreed it was delicious.

Then we went to the River City Grill tonight and were astonished. It was absolutely fantastic! I cannot rave enough about this restaurant. I had the brie stuffed chicken with mushroom ravioli, The Botantist had the pistachio-crusted salmon, and The Team Leader had the vegetable curry. The curry was served in an open coconut. I tried a bite of the salmon and it was incredibly delicous. My chicken was just lovely. I was the only one gluttonous enough to order dessert, but with entrees like these, how could I resist a dessert that promised to be equally special? The chocolate bread pudding was out of this world. If you got to Yuma, or drive through Yuma, you have to stop and eat here. It is comparable to four star restaurants in San Francisco and Seattle according to my dinnermates.

The River City Grill is also housed in a converted building, probably a home, but it's been opened up inside to one large room, with a mural on one wall, mirrors on the other, and the metal fish you see on their webpage featured prominently over the small bar. What look like fish murals on the upper right of their webpage are really three stained glass windows on the front wall of the building. A friendly waitress and Pacific Northwest beers made the experience truly delightful.

The Botanist lamented not having his camera to take a photo, but Yours Truly had hers, so photos of these stupendous meals are coming. Sadly, since they were served on white plates, mine is washed out, but I'll post it anyway.

Oh, and a super honorable mention to Garcia's in Blythe, California, where we had lunch today. A favorite of The Botanist's, it was another tiny Mexican restaurant with incredibly delicious food. Outstanding refried beans, chicken enchiladas with succulent, moist chicken, and I, who usually avoid the Spanish rice, ate every single rice morsel. A standout.

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