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rconnelly

Vanished Restaurants in the Southwest

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The Big A and The Mexico Inn were two regular spots for me here in Tucson. But that was a long time ago.

I wrote a short piece for the "Tucson Weekly" awhile back called "Gone but Not Forgotten". It featured five popular spots that had closed their doors.

I received really great feedback and actually got to meet the owners of one of the restaurants - The Iron Mask. Rita and Doug Marvin had us over for lunch and wonderful conversation! It was great fun and I learned alot.

A real kick happened just this week. I was finishing up a review on a steak/Mexican joint in town and when I went to do follow up, I discovered the place had changed names, menus etc!!!!! In a week's time mind you!

Worked it all out somehow. The owners are the same, they just flet they needed to bring in more people during the day so they expanded their taquieria from the Southside of town to midtown.

Ah, the perils of running a restuarant.....

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There was a Tucson seafood restaurant back in the 1970's called the Nantucket Lobster Trap which I really liked. I don't know what happened to it, but it was quite popular in its heyday. They flew in the seafood and there was a board in the foyer showing the arrival times at the Tucson airport of the various offerings. It was located on the south side of Tanque Verde near the intersection with Grant. There was another restaurant west of there called The Solareum which had a nice look and feel although the food was not spectacular. Do you know if it still exists? I really loved Tucson in those days.

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anybody remember a short-lived restaurant in santa fe called cafe escalera? amazing. david tanis was the chef, went on to be chef at chez panisse; deb madison was the pastry chef.

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There was a Tucson seafood restaurant back in the 1970's called the Nantucket Lobster Trap which I really liked.  I don't know what happened to it, but it was quite popular in its heyday.  They flew in the seafood and there was a board in the foyer showing the arrival times at the Tucson airport of the various offerings.  It was located on the south side of Tanque Verde near the intersection with Grant.  There was another restaurant  west of there called The Solareum which had a nice look and feel although the food was not spectacular.  Do you know if it still exists?  I really loved Tucson in those days.

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There was a Tucson seafood restaurant back in the 1970's called the Nantucket Lobster Trap which I really liked.  I don't know what happened to it, but it was quite popular in its heyday.  They flew in the seafood and there was a board in the foyer showing the arrival times at the Tucson airport of the various offerings.  It was located on the south side of Tanque Verde near the intersection with Grant.  There was another restaurant  west of there called The Solareum which had a nice look and feel although the food was not spectacular.  Do you know if it still exists?  I really loved Tucson in those days.

Nantucket was always one of my faves too. It closed ages ago. But the building is now the hoome of Fuego! whose chef and owner Alan Zeman has been well-loved chef around here for years. One of the chefs at Nantucket - Chef Galo - now has his own place up the road called Galo's. It is fabulous!

Sadly, the Solarium burned to the ground about seven years ago, arson I believe. They caught the guy, thank goodness! We used to love that place as well.

Check out my article in the Weekly's archives. The Solarium was one of the places I mentioned. www.Tucsonweekly.com

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rconnelly, thanks for the follow-up. I'm so sorry to hear of the Solareum's demise, but if we get back to the Old Pueblo this spring, I will definitely check out Galo's.

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anybody remember a short-lived restaurant in santa fe called cafe escalera? amazing. david tanis was the chef, went on to be chef at chez panisse; deb madison was the pastry chef.

Russ,

Indeed many of us here in Santa Fe remember Cafe Escalera.

Owner Brian Knox went on to open The Standard Market in the Guadalupe district with generous backing from, among others, Gene Hackman. His takeout food at Standard was really good. His right hand was a tall woman by the name of Kim who was also at Cafe Escalera. She wholesales excellent cheeses to restaurants in town and is somewhere in the kitchen hierarchy at The Compound now.

Stadard Market ultimately failed being unable to compete with the behemoth that is Whole Foods.

Brian Knox now owns and cooks at a wonderful, intimate place called Aqua Santa across the street (Alameda) from the Santa Fe "river". The spot was for years a tiny lunch-only place called The Noon Whistle.

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Another one bites the dust: Chef Alan Zeman has closed Fuego. The building will soon be home to an English Pub type restaurant. Too bad! Fuego was a long-time Tucson fave.

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A recent (the last few years) disappearance which I'm mourning is Presidio in Tucson. I'd only been twice, and the industrial ambiance wasn't my favorite, but I thought the food was very good for a 'dress up & splurge' place (I went with friends for a birthday and a bead show business celebration). Anyone know if the chef landed elsewhere?

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I am reminded of the long gone Della's Spanish Dining Room in my hometown of Farmington, New Mexico. Farmington boomed, due to natural gas drilling, in the 1950s. The 1950 census was about 3,500 and by 1960 it had reached 22,000. Della and her husband originally operated a grocery store from a room at the front of their home. She began serving meals and quickly needed to expand into the family's living room. Eventually, the dining room was added to the restaurant portion and the grocery closed to provide more dining space. Eventually, Della moved from the house and converted the entire establishment to restaurant space.

Della's Spanish Dining Room was so named because Della, and many others in northern New Mexico, was descended from the Spanish explorers who came to the area long before Mexico was established. Della provided all the warm sopaipillas and honey the customer wanted. The food was all seasoned with green chiles. She used no red sauce.

Has fifty years tempered my memory? I still view her sopaipillas as the best I have ever had. The two restaurants in Old Town Albuquerque were good, but not as good as Della's. Last month, I had sopaipillas at Chef Bernie's in Farmington which were very good - but my memory still has Della's in the top spot.

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There was a great Italian restaurant in Tucson - O Sole Mio. Started in a small strip mall, but was so popular that they built a nice big restaurant. I absolutely loved their cream of spinach soup, and I've tried to replicate it without success.

Also the old Tack Room, which I understand is no longer there.

And down in Nogales, La Cava.

The best.

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