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Little Café Poca treat a new old treat

Kevin B. Klaus / Arizona Daily Wildcat
Adviser to students in the entrepreneurship program at the Eller College of Business and UA alumnus Theo Kipnis eats lunch at Little Poca Cosa on North Stone Avenue yesterday.
By Elizabeth Thompson
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Thursday, November 18, 2004
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Things were looking a bit bleak on Stone Avenue between Congress and Franklin streets until recently. If the only time you venture past Ninth Street is to pay parking tickets or get totally wasted for less than $10, maybe you're not sure what downtown Stone Avenue even looks like. There's the library, some bank and a Walgreens that shut down. But the avenue's drab exterior may get a boost with the latest addition of Little Café Poca Cosa, which has swooped in like a tiny superhero to regenerate a bit of flavor back into the area.

Formerly located on 20 S. Scott Ave., next to Congress' Indian Village Trading Post, the 17-year-old establishment was informed last December that the building would be demolished when plans to house the U.S. Bankruptcy Court right next door made the café's close proximity to the court a threat to homeland security. Seriously.

After outraged patrons banded together and raised hell, Little Café Poca was able to relocate to the corner of Stone Avenue and Alameda Street, formerly Mykonos Greek Restaurant.

Café Poca Cosa, the larger, sister restaurant at 88 E. Broadway Blvd., offers fresh, inventive Mexican food that's the pride and joy of most Tucsonan food snobs. The chalkboard menu spotlights both vegetarian and beef or chicken based entrees topped with sauces you didn't think were possible to create, like their lush mole sauces made with chocolate, almonds and chilies. But since Café Poca Cosa is only open for lunch and dinner, Little Café Poca Cosa takes on the mighty task of serving up breakfast and lunch to downtown business-types who don't have a lot of time to spare.

If you go...

Little Café Poca Cosa
151 N. Stone Ave.
7:30 a.m. - 2:30 p.m.

Upon entering this family owned and operated café, we were immediately shown to a table, and our chirpy waitress, also an owner, called us "sweet peas." We couldn't help but feeling like we were at our grandma's house. Not that it smelled faintly of moth balls or featured lots of decorative needlepoint pillows, but rather, everyone seemed really happy we were there and like they couldn't wait to feed us.

We were sad we had narrowly missed breakfast, which the café serves from 7:30 a.m. until 11 a.m., because the huevos Mexicano, two scrambled eggs with tomatoes, green chilis and onion sounded delicious. And at $6.50, the beans, rice, fresh fruit and tortillas that came with it sounded satisfyingly affordable as well.

The disappointment of missing breakfast was soon forgotten upon surveying the lunch menu. We decided on the pollo ranchero ($7.50), shredded chicken with sautéed onions, green chilies, tomatoes and cilantro, and the combination plate ($8.50), which came with chile relleno, tamal de elote (Corn Tamale) and your choice of chicken, beef or veggie taco.

Our food came in an extraordinarily quick five minutes, along with a side of beans and a stack of warm, fresh corn tortillas. The chicken in the Pollo Ranchero was cooked to perfection and perfectly tender and juicy. The Chili Relleno was also great, and the subtle zing of the chili clicked superbly with the melted Monterey Jack cheese. The tamale didn't have that overly starchy, flavorless taste that tamales made with cornmeal can have. This tamale tasted like it had been made with actual fresh corn. The chicken taco was also delicious, although I was surprised to see it as covered in a mole sauce that the plate's description on the menu did not mention. Though I have always shied away from mole sauce, as I used to feel passionately that desert ingredients should never interact with spices, I was glad I had been pushed into my first sampling of its deliciousness. For those of you who are still aren't sold on the idea of mole, take note of this when ordering the tacos.

Although the food and service were both great, those looking to have a long, leisurely lunch should be warned. If you have a class that starts later in the day, you should eat breakfast there or, if you're going for lunch, make sure you're in the door by 11 a.m. or after 1:30 p.m. Otherwise, you'll have to wait for a table. They aren't trying to be cute by calling it the "Little" Café Poca Cosa. It's teeny.

But, if you don't mind the rushed atmosphere of a downtown eatery at lunchtime, the Little Café Poca Cosa is the perfect place to eat cheap, delicious Mexican food while reminding yourself to never acquiesce to the fashion atrocity that is office attire.

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