** THIS RESTAURANT IS PERMANENTLY CLOSED **
Originally opened in 1973, Mother Hubbard’s Café became known to Tucsonians as a hash house with an extraordinarily cheap breakfast special of eggs, hash browns, and toast — for all of 79 cents in the beginning. By the turn of the millennium, the price of the meal was up to $2; and today, it will cost you over $5. But almost nobody comes to Mother Hubbard’s any more for eggs, potatoes, and toast. They come for Contemporary Native American Comfort Food.
When Kelzi Bartholomaei bought the place in 2010, her plan was to offer dishes that combined indigenous southwest ingredients – chile in particular – with native foodways (very little wheat is used) to create breakfasts and lunches that are unavailable anywhere else: blue corn and pine nut waffles, for example; chorizo sausage that is hot but also sweet; corned beef with a twist of Thai pickling spices. Ham is smoked on premises, sliced thin, soft as velvet. The Hollandaise on top of eggs Benedict is the consistency of light cream, pure and buttery. The English muffin underneath is made from a spectacularly sour sourdough that the menu advises is 75 years old.
I love the Pueblo green corn waffle, which is dotted with sweet corn kernels. When I waver on the choice of red or green chili to adorn it, waitress Faith asks, “You like spicy? You want green chile.” Yes, indeed, the chili is radiant, adding welcome zip to waffle and eggs. The coffee served alongside is blah, but orange juice is squeezed to order.
Mother Hubbard’s sausage repertoire is grand. In addition to the crumbly chorizo, there are turkey-sage, apple-onion, Italian, Cajun, and country. Beyond blue or green corn, available waffles (all gluten-free) are cornbread, buckwheat, coconut buckwheat, potato (with or without bacon), and lemon poppy seed.
For all its culinary aspiration, Mother Hubbard’s remains an inexpensive, humble café, a simple, rectangular storefront in a tumbledown shopping mall. Décor is whimsical Day of the Dead skeleton art and tables are covered with flower-pattern oilcloth.