Sunday, March 1, 2009

"Ah, Yes, I Remember It Well"

So we are headed down Interstate 17 from Flagstaff to Phoenix, and I look out the window to the right. Suddenly I exclaim: “Chuck, there’s the restaurant where we had breakfast five years ago on our way from Scottsdale to the Grand Canyon.” Chuck had no recollection. To refresh his memory, I Googled Rock Springs Café and asked if now he remembered. He still had no recollection. So, to jog his memory, we scheduled a visit to Rock Springs Café a few days after arriving in the Phoenix area.

We pulled into the large parking lot shortly after noon and found a parking spot near the farmers market booths, jewelry stands, and souvenir shops. There was an amazing number of cars for a restaurant that is about twenty miles north of the city limits.

The café has two good-sized dining rooms and the front room was about 75% full and the back almost empty. Where were all the people who came in these cars? The answer comes later.

After we were seated, I again asked Chuck if he remembered. He still didn’t, so I pointed out the booth we sat in on our previous visit and reminded him that he had ordered the biscuits and sausage gravy. He still didn’t remember, so I directed my attention to that day’s meal.

Rock Springs’ menu runs the full gamut. They serve salads, soups, chili, steaks, Mexican food, burgers, specialty sandwiches, ribs, shredded beef or pork barbecue, and what is described as “simple country cooking.” From the latter category, I was tempted by the fried chicken as Chuck was by the chicken fried steak. Each came with soup or salad, choice of potato, cole slaw, and Texas toast. But we both agreed that we really weren’t hungry enough for a full meal.

But I had noticed something on the appetizer list that intrigued me – the “Cheese Crisp–-the Works.” And, since we hadn’t had Buffalo-style chicken wings since we were in Tennessee, we decided to order wings, the Cheese Crisp, and an order of fries.

The wings were good though not great. They certainly were hot – as in spicy – enough, but the hot sauce had too strong a vinegar flavor. The fries were hand-cut but suffered from “limp fries syndrome.”

The star of the lunch was the cheese crisp. This proved to be a medium pizza-sized and very thin flour tortilla. It was baked, topped with a layer of cheese, and after being removed from the oven, topped again with chopped onion, tomato, and green chili. This was delicious. I particularly liked the contrast between the hot tortilla and cheese and the cold onion, tomato, and green chili. Now, I have some dinner plate-sized flour tortillas from Garcia’s Kitchen in Albuquerque in my freezer and plan to try this at home.

So why were there so many cars in the parking lot? The answer is pie. Rock Springs is known for its pies. In fact, there is a large refrigerated case just filled with whole pies. Fruit pies (apple, peach, blueberry, rhubarb, cherry, bourbon apple, blackberry or Tennessee lemon) with either a pastry or crumb top crust; cream pies (lemon, banana cream, coconut, chocolate, peanut butter) topped with meringue or whipped cream); pecan pie, and the Black Forest chocolate cherry pie. Rock Springs has pies. They even have a “pie club.” You buy ten pies and get the eleventh free. This is a pie lover’s dream.

So having eaten a light lunch, we felt we were entitled to a calorie splurge. I ordered the Tennessee Lemon (a southern-style chess pie) and Chuck the blueberry crumb. The lemon was good but surprisingly sweet for a lemon pie. Chuck’s on the other hand was outrageously wonderful. The blueberries were small (the size of capers), the filling had a minimum of sugar, and much to my delight, they didn’t thicken the juice with an overabundance of corn starch. This pie was so good that we had no choice but to buy a whole pie to take home.

The last two pieces will be eaten tonight after a meal of homemade potato salad, homemade three bean salad, and a ham steak from the Pork Shop that we have on the grill. (It’s really tough living on the road.)

I can’t really rate Rock Springs Café. Our lunch choices really didn’t test the kitchen. However, the blueberry crumb pie does rate 5.0 Addies--and perhaps a drive back just for pie.

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