Teresa’s was recommended to us by friends Jacque and Janice, who explained that if limited to one meal at the Mosaic Cafe, the choice should be breakfast. Fans of Mexican desayuno, we eagerly took this suggestion and made the early morning trek to west Tucson. When you walk into Teresa’s Mosaic Cafe, you may not necessarily get a “Roadfood vibe.” The dining area is immaculately festive, the large picture windows provide a perfect view of the Catalina Mountains, and the tables (adorned with ceramic mosaics) appear to have been borrowed from a local art gallery. Have faith. We promise that this is a place where the attractive décor does not dare substitute for the culinary delights you are eager to be served.
Everyone has a “test meal”—that one particular dish by which to compare one type of restaurant to all of its competitors. Often the test food is something simple—a menu cornerstone such as a grilled cheese or hamburger. The point is to judge how well one particular restaurant is able to cook up a classic dish. When it comes to Mexican food, huevos rancheros is a good choice. Two simple eggs covered in a salsa-like sauce and served with warm tortillas, it is hard to go wrong; but Teresa’s version takes the top prize. We cannot pinpoint exactly why, but it has something to do with the crunch of the crispy tortilla slyly peeking out from under the eggs, the intense flavor of the chunky red sauce, and the basket of just-made tortillas provided alongside.
We also decided to order one of the breakfast combination plates. On this particular dish, eggs are accompanied by a cheese enchilada and green corn tamale. The cheese enchilada is stuffed with very mild Mexican cheese, which serves to complement the thick, semi-spicy red sauce that covers half of the plate (the other half being taken up by creamy refried beans). Although we have sampled many-a-tamale in our travels, we had never tried one of the green corn variety, and were surprised to find how different it tasted. As we later found out, green corn tamales are made with fresh corn instead of dried, thereby explaining their more organic flavor.
There are so many things that make Teresa’s the ideal stop for a Mexican meal that it is hard to choose. For instance, the large glass barrels of homemade horchata and lemonade are not to be missed. However, if there was to be a central selling point for Teresa’s Mosaic Cafe, it would have to be the handmade tortillas. You may have seen women making tortillas in restaurant storefront windows before, but such a stage show cannot compare to the experience of watching tortillas being made at the back of Teresa’s dining room. From the time that we sat down ‘til the time that we left, we watched as hundreds of tortillas were hand-flattened from small balls of dough, thrown on the griddle until perfectly browned, and casually tossed into a growing pile to be plucked and placed into serving baskets by members of the waitstaff.