Red or Green?
Like Mamá Used to Make
Ramona's Café — Lordsburg's quiet Mexican food treasure.
by Peggy Platonos
A friend pointed the way to Ramona's Café in Lordsburg, and provided an enthusiastic shove in that direction with the words: "It has the best Mexican food anywhere around here!"
So I went to check it out, and took along a different friend — one whose habitual reaction to restaurant food of any kind is a lukewarm: "It's okay."
She ordered Chicken Tacos, and picked at the chicken filling. "Have you ever seen chicken filling like this? I'm used to chunks of chicken in tacos."
I loaded onto her plate bite-size samples of all the goodies in the Combo Plate #2 that I had ordered: a chile relleno, tamale, enchilada with green chile sauce. I gave her one of the two beef tacos that came with the combo plate, and she gave me one of her three chicken tacos. I had ordered a side Chimichanga with a green chile and meat filling, so I passed a chunk of that on to my friend, over her objections.
"This beef taco has a beef patty in it instead of chopped up hamburger," she announced, as she pulled the thin patty out of the taco I had given her and inspected it.
"Mmmm," I answered noncommittally around a mouthful of food. We ate for awhile in silence. I checked her progress out of the corner of my eye. She was examining each mouthful before eating it, but it was all disappearing from her plate.
Finally, she spoke, wagging one of the tacos in my direction. "This is how I like my tacos — crispy. Really crispy. Not soft and limp."
"Mmmm," I answered again.
Her plate was nearly cleared when she looked at me with wide eyes and murmured in amazement, "This is really good! All of it is really good."
No argument from me. And the green chile sauce over the enchilada… well, I sure would like to know how that was achieved.
Alas, I am doomed to keep on wondering. The recipe for that sauce is a family secret, I was told later by café owner Marie Garcia, as is the recipe for the green-colored and (by my northeastern standards) very zesty salsa that is served with light and crispy tortilla chips.
The café is named for Marie's mother, Ramona, who Marie says was a "wonderful" cook. "She was the mother of 13, and was always in the kitchen. She would feed anybody. One of my brothers would bring the football team home, and she would feed them. I'd bring friends. Somehow my mother always had food for whoever showed up — any time. My older brothers would arrive home from the Navy at 10 or 11 o'clock at night, and she would make tacos for them."
Those tacos were made the same way Marie makes the beef tacos in the café — with a thin patty of meat. "I think she did it that way because it was easier. She was making so many tacos even when she was feeding just our own family."
Food in the family home provided a focal point of social unity. "Growing up, that's what I remember — sitting around the table, talking and laughing," Marie says. "And I think that's why I enjoy having the restaurant. The customers are like family. I enjoy cooking for them and seeing that they like the food and watching them talk and laugh over their meal."
Her mother is definitely there in spirit, and Marie keeps a photo of her posted over the kitchen door, where she can oversee the whole operation.
Ramona's Cafe, appropriately, is something of a family business, with one of Marie's sisters doing all the prep work for the Mexican dishes on the menu, and a second sister taking over grill responsibility from Marie at 3 in the afternoon on Tuesdays through Fridays, the days when the restaurant is open until 8 p.m.
The café is closed on Mondays and Saturdays, and opens at 8 a.m. on the remaining days of the week. On Sundays — the one day of the week when Menudo is served — the restaurant closes at 2 p.m.
Every day, the full menu is available at all hours. If you want breakfast at 7 o'clock at night, you can have it. And you can have a Mexican Hamburger Steak topped with Chile con Queso or a Turkey Avocado Croissant sandwich at 8 in the morning, if that strikes your fancy.
In addition to a full range of Mexican dishes, the menu includes such American favorites as Club House, Grilled Cheese and BLT sandwiches, a Chef Salad, and breakfast selections that include biscuits and gravy (with or without sausage), pancakes, French toast (made with plump Texas toast-style bread) and a variety of omelets. Chicken Fried Steak appears on the menu as a full dinner meal (with salad, grilled bread and a choice of potatoes) and as two distinct breakfast options: with eggs (plus hash browns and toast) and in the Chicken Fried Steak Skillet, where the cooked steak is cut up and mixed in with hash brown potatoes and onion, then topped with two eggs and cream gravy and served with toast.
Prices are reasonable, with the cost of most meals falling between $6.50 and $8.50. A Shrimp Platter dinner costs $9.99, and the most expensive item on the menu is a T-Bone Steak dinner at $13.25.
For more information about Ramona's Café, call (575) 542-3030. The café is located at 904 E. Motel Drive in Lordsburg. Keep driving until you're sure you've missed it. You'll see it on the right-hand side of the road.
Send Mimbres freelance writer Peggy Platonos tips for restaurant reviews
at firstname.lastname@example.org or call (575) 536-2997.