Lunchtime can be a great time for some tasty eats around Tucson – or a hurried grab at Cheetos from the cafeteria vending machine.
One reader sent in a host of great ideas for the new site, one of which was a feature on lunch spots in different areas around town.
The newsroom is stuck on South Park Avenue and Irvington Road, a seemingly 200 miles from anything edible.
Unless you really dig vending machine Cheetos.
One South Side restaurat was reviewed by Tom Stauffer, former Citizen staffer and awesome food writer.
But he said Hacienda del Mar lacks a major commodity: taste.
(Read review below).
Anyone know of any tasty lunch spots on the South Side?
Hacienda del Mar suffers severe flavor shortage
I had a pleasant introduction to this South Side restaurant in August about a month after the owners took over the estatelike building, the former home of Parrilla del Rey.
It’s downright palatial, with impressive rock work, hardwood floors, rough-hewn beams and roomy, nicely done dining areas.
I ordered the Camarones con Crema Chipotle ($10.95) and was impressed. The large shrimp were cooked to a tender texture, the cream sauce was rich and savory, and the plate was generously accompanied by rice, steak fries, a small salad and fresh tortillas.
Since that time, the kitchen at Hacienda del Mar has apparently been outfitted with a new piece of equipment – a flavor extractor.
They had it set on high on a recent visit.
My companion and I started with the Tostada Ceviche ($2.99) and the Botana Marinera ($12.95). As with everything else we ordered, the large tostada came with a large helping of ceviche, which was primarily composed of shrimp. Seeing as how ceviche is, by definition, cold-cooked in lime juice, we were somewhat perplexed by the addition of what was either mayo or some type of liquid dairy product. The resulting marriage was odd, to say the least. It came off as an accident, as if someone carrying an overly bland bowl of ceviche collided with someone carrying an overly bland bowl of cole slaw.
The botana appetizer was an even bigger disappointment. The large plate was laid out with a good 15 or so cold, tailless shrimp and 30 or 40 nickel-sized wafers of sliced octopus. My companion and I were nothing less than astonished by the complete lack of flavor in the seafood. It was like eating rubberized air.
We didn’t fare much better with the entrees.
The Tampiquena ($10.95) was a thin slab of rather tough steak. It not only lacked the traditional topping of sautéed onions and bell peppers, but also the chile seasoning that’s normally imbued in the steak. It came with a large order of refried beans and rice, both of which were similarly lacking in soul.
My companion’s Enchiladas Suiza ($9.95) was composed of two large enchiladas stuffed with chicken. The enchiladas were topped with melted cheddar and a greenish cream sauce. They looked nice, but were as flavor-challenged as the rest of the meal.
The desserts were not half bad. The flan ($2.75) was respectable, a version that blended both variants, the cakey and the custardlike. The cheesecake ($2.75), while not overly notable, had a pleasant tang and subtle sweetness.
On my first visit, the server informed me that the people who own Hacienda del Mar also own La Fresita and The Taco Shop Co., fast-Mexican joints in town. I’ve eaten at both, and found them to be of decent quality.
If they served food even remotely as lively and fresh-tasting at their estate on South Nogales Highway, the uncommonly beautiful Hacienda could become a signature destination. The service is professional and prompt, the menu has something for everybody, the portions are huge and the prices are reasonable.
They just need to do something about that giant sucking sound in the kitchen.
AT A GLANCE
What: Hacienda del Mar
Phone and address: 807-5600, 5358 S. Old Nogales Highway
Specialty: Michoacan-style Mexican
Price: Appetizers from $2.99 to $10.95; soups $6.95 to $10.95; burritos $3.95 to $6.49; entrees $8.25 to $10.95.
Vegetarian options: All soups, salads and entrees can be prepared without meat.
Desserts: Tres Leches Cake, Flan, Chocolate/Chocolate Cake, Cheesecake, (all $2.95) and Ice Cream ($1.95)
Currency: Cash and credit
Latest health inspection: Passed its opening inspection Oct. 4. Has yet to undergo its first unannounced inspection.