Wednesday, January 16, 2013

The Name is Rather Deceiving

We wanted breakfast. Do we go to the Number One rated breakfast restaurant in Tucson, even though it is part of an Arizona-based chain? Or do we go to Number Two, a locally-owned place loved by locals of a certain age?

Number Two it was—Blue Willow Restaurant and Gift Shop.
I don’t know about you, but the words gift shop and blue willow conjure a certain mental impression of fussy lace curtains and a profusion of the blue willow pottery that probably graced many of our grandmothers’ and mothers’ dining room china cabinets.

“Blue Willow pottery was born in the late 1700s by a gentleman named Thomas Turner. First manufactured at Caughley Pottery Works in England, Blue Willow pieces quickly grew to become popular dishes for use in the home” ( “There is a beautiful legend behind that pattern: Blue Willow is a story of two faithful lovers and the pattern has been loved for over two centuries for that story, for the color, for the beauty of the design, and for the quality of the china” (

But, with the exception of three small pieces of blue willow pottery sitting on a fireplace mantle, the namesake pottery was not to be found. (We tried to get a photograph of the mantle but the table right under it was constantly full.) Instead, the restaurant sits in a Southwest adobe building and the walls were hung with artwork depicting saguaro cacti.

“’Comfort food in a comfortable setting’ sums up this casual Midtown American in an old adobe home, a longtime favorite for breakfast and other healthy hippie fare with lots of vegan options that’s easy on the wallet; it boasts a ‘quirky’ setup with a lovely central patio that’s often jam-packed, but you can while away the wait in the delightful gift shop on-site stocked with greeting cards and trinkets” (

Keeping with the Southwest theme, many of the breakfast selections were inspired by Mexican food. You could order Lerua's Green Corn Tamales, the Breakfast Burrito, Huevos Rancheros, and omelettes with combinations of green chiles, avocados, and sour cream.

We both stayed with the Southwest theme when placing our orders. For Chuck it was the Blue Willow Special—scrambled eggs with chicken, green chiles, tomatoes, chopped corn tortillas, cheddar, salsa, and sour cream. This dish was similar to what is referred to on some menus as migas.

“In Tex-Mex cuisine, migas are a traditional breakfast dish consisting of scrambled eggs mixed with strips of corn tortilla; the meatless version includes diced onions, sliced chile peppers, diced fresh tomatoes, and cheese, plus various spices and condiments (e.g., salsa or pico de gallo). Migas are typically served with refried beans, and corn or flour tortillas are used to enfold all of the ingredients into tacos. In some areas, it may have been traditionally eaten during Lent. The meat version adds a spicy chorizo to the standard ingredients. The tortilla strips can also be deep-fried until crunchy...” (

I ordered the Chorizo Scramble made with all beef chorizo that was scrambled with eggs and topped with salsa and cheddar cheese.
Malcolm Bedell at writes: “Unlike the Spanish style of chorizo, which is cured and sliced like a traditional sausage, Mexican chorizo is a raw ground pork sausage, often uncased, that must be cooked before you eat it. Bright red, fatty, spiked with vinegar and hot chile peppers, and intensely flavorful, I’ve come to think of it as Mexican bacon. It improves almost everything it touches, providing a greasy, spicy, porky hit to almost anything you can think of.

Both of our egg dishes disappointed to a degree. Chuck’s was bland from the substitution of chicken for pork chorizo and was made with “uncrunchy” tortilla pieces. The texture from deep frying would have made a pleasant contrast with the soft eggs and chicken.

Mine had plenty of flavor, but, and this is not a common complaint, there was almost too much meat for the amount of egg. And the use of leaner beef chorizio instead of pork left the dish very dry.

On the up side, the potatoes were quite good. They were fried to a nice crispness and the addition of chopped scallion added great flavor.

I had expected more from the second best breakfast in Tucson. Maybe we both ordered the wrong items, but I don’t think so. Whatever, Blue Willow only earns a 3.0 Addie rating.

To review the role of Adler, Kitty Humbug, and the Addie rating system, read the November 14, 2011 blog.

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