Mary’s Cafe

Restaurant Reviews By:    Cavewoman

Restaurant:  Mary’s Cafe

Location:  Flagstaff, AZ, (roadside)

Day & time visited: Saturday Morning, 9am

Reservations:  No such thing!

 

We were heading up to Lee’s Ferry for a weekend filled with Rainbow Trout and Cooking with Caveman when we reached the halfway point and decided to stop for breakfast.  Now, anyone that knows anything about my caveman knows that if a breakfast place does not serve chicken fried steak….well, we have no business stopping in!

So using our smart phone devices (yeah…I know what you’re thinking, but it is 2012 and we have good jobs that provide this wonderful technology) we quickly looked up breakfast places in Flagstaff.  We got hits like Denny’s, Cracker Barrel, and McDonalds…  Really?

So, we started reading the reviews of “local joints” when we saw the words “hole in the wall.”  We tend to like those words, because we – like most people – know that those places sometimes have the best food.  And boy – were we right!

We took the gamble with local hole in the wall, Mary’s Café and lucky for us – it was right off the side of the road that we were traveling on!  And side of the road it was!  The curbside appearance was less than flattering and words that come to my head are “old, deserted…empty.”  However, when we went inside, it was quite the opposite.

Bustling with bikers, locals and the smell of coffee, Caveman and I quickly found a booth in the front of the restaurant. There were only about 10 tables or so in the front area, but the restaurant had an “L” shape and around that corner, there seemed to be many more people. The inside was decorated in a western style with spurs on the wood walls and old pictures with lots of timeworn décor.

And then we saw our waitress.  Unfortunately, she was EVERY table’s waitress and she was working her butt off!  She greeted us with a friendly tone, and told us to have a seat, as she wiped sweat off her head and hurried to get steaming hot food to all her tables.  There’s always the one table in the restaurant filled with difficult people who keep asking for crazy requests and force the waitress to go back and forth, and back and forth, to the kitchen.  Which happened to delay our service even longer.  We probably waited a good ten minutes before we were even asked if we’d like coffee or water.  But it wasn’t like she was just standing around, she was busy as heck people!!!

This “waiting period” gave us plenty of time to look at the menu.  It took Caveman exactly 1.2 seconds to know what he wanted: The chicken fried steak & eggs.  As for me, I was not sure.  I went back and forth with “do I try to be healthy or do I just eat?” A normal internal conflict for this cavewoman…. When I saw a popular menu item named the “country ben,” which read as layers of several different breakfast items like biscuits, gravy, and sausage, so I went for it. I mean, why argue with a local favorite??  “just eat!” my internal self was saying…so I didn’t argue!

Our waitress came back by and at this time, we went ahead and ordered our drinks and food at the same time.  Caveman got iced tea and the chicken fried steak & eggs.  Almost immediately – our waitress looked him square in the eye and said this is going to take a little while to cook which would probably delay our meals.  Caveman asked “does that mean it’s homemade???” She simply smiled and said “yes.”

****I have to note how refreshing and exciting it is that this chicken fried steak is made from scratch.  We go to breakfast quite frequently and more often than not – they take a frozen patty and throw it in a fryer, and here’s a newsflash- we can tell!!!!  It reflects in the taste. So being told we have to wait for the real thing…makes us pumped!!  We cannot wait for the chicken fried steak to come to the table. Make us wait forever – it will be worth it.

As for me – I ordered the coffee, the Country Ben, and water.  She told me “good choice” when I ordered the ben and then threw me off completely when she asked if I wanted my water wet.  She did something to me that does not happen very often; she made me speechless for half a minute!  After a full 30 seconds, and seeing her sly smile…I realized she was kidding and had made a joke.  So I replied that the water better be wet water or else we have problems.   It was then that we settled into Mary’s café and started to feel like locals.

Our waitress brought out the iced tea and coffee and conveniently forgot my water!??? You believe that??? Kind of funny since we had a joke about it earlier…but clearly – our server had every table in the restaurant and probably a slew of other things to remember.  I was content with my coffee, and caveman’s iced tea when I needed it.  The coffee was nothing special, but it was hot and early, and worked for me after having driven 2 hours from Phoenix.

We did wait a while for our food – but I’ll tell you now – it was WORTH THE WAIT!!!

Our food was finally delivered and the portions were very generous!!! Caveman’s chicken fried steak covered the entire plate, leaving him wide-eyed like a little kid in a candy store.  It also came served with fried eggs and country potatoes, all covered in white sausage gravy. The chicken fried steak was shallow fried, meaning they put a little oil in a skillet and cooked one side thoroughly, before flipping it over and cooking the other side; as opposed to deep fried, when you just drop the steak in a fryer.

It had a good exterior crust and the steak was perfectly seasoned.  The flavor of the chicken fried steak was really good!!! As for the sausage gravy – it had the right consistency.  It consumed the right amount of sausage and it was seasoned flawlessly leaving the taste on point! It was the best chicken fried steak we’ve ordered in a restaurant in years.  And the portion was right up a caveman’s alley!  ** meaning VERY LARGE!!!!

The potatoes in the dish were not frozen, but instead freshly sliced into cubes and cooked country style, packing a great flavor.  ***Finding non frozen breakfast potatoes are also a rarity these days, so thank you Mary’s Café.

As for the Country Ben (my meal) – it was delicious!  A layer of homemade biscuits, open-faced and topped with a sausage patty.  Top that with a layer of scrambled eggs, and top it all with homemade white sausage gravy – and you have The Country Ben.  The biscuits were tasty and super fluffy while the sausage gravy was absolutely superb.  The meat and eggs in between were purely compliment this layer of breakfast innovation!  I would say I stopped eating once I got full but given the great taste and local flair of the Country Ben; it made it hard to stop!!!

We filled our bellies and our meals were delicious. We were so impressed by Mary’s Café, we just had to write about it.

We hope that anybody that’s in Flagstaff who enjoys a scrumptious breakfast, that really likes chicken fried steak or a local layering dish – this is your SPOT!!!!!  You must visit Mary’s Café and sink right into a piece of lip-smacking history.

On a scale of 1-10, 1 being poor, 5 being mediocre, and 10 being the best experience I can describe, here is how I rate the following for Mary’s Cafe:

 

Atmosphere – 5     Service -4     Appetizers- n/a     Food-7    Drinks -5

Lemon Pepper Pork Chop

I love Pork Chops and one of my all-time favorite seasonings on a perfectly grilled chop would be just a classic lemon pepper seasoning. Lemon pepper is typically sold in the stores but can be made just as easily and most likely cheaper. Take a look below and you be the judge.

What you will need for lemon pepper seasoning:Lemon Pepper Pork Chop[

  • 2 Lemon
  • 3 tbsp. fresh cracked pepper
  • 1 tsp. salt

Preheat oven to the lowest temperature it will go (170⁰F).  On a baking sheet, grate the lemon peel using a cheese grater.  We only want the peel, no white of the lemon.  Cook in oven for 1 hour.

Once the lemon peel is dry, combine it with salt and pepper in a grinder until consistent.  Congratulations!  You just made your own seasoning!

***Caveman Tip: I like to make this with double the ingredients and then store it in Tupperware for use on other dishes. I bought a coffee grinder and use it as a spice grinder. For about ten dollars it’s definitely worth the money. You can buy peppercorns and grind them into fresh cracked pepper, store it in Tupperware, it’s the cheaper, tastier way to go.

What you will need (this makes enough for 2 pork chops):

  • 2 Thick Cut Bone in Pork ChopsSeasoned Lemon Pepper POrk Chop
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • Salt
  • Lemon pepper blend (from above)
  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil (EVOO)
  • 1 tbsp. marjoram
  • Fresh Parsley (optional to top)

Combine all the above ingredients (except the parsley) and generously season the chops. 

Grill: 

Heat the grill to High Heat.  While the grill is getting hot pull the chops from the fridge and allow them to start to come up to room temp. When the grill is ready, sear the chops on both sides to give them that great texture. Next, you will want to turn the grill down or pull the pork off to the side of the heat. I like to use just two of the burners on the grill that way after I sear the meat I can move it to the other side of the grill to continue to cooGrilled Lemon Pepper Pork Chopk without being under direct heat, basically like finishing them in an oven.

Now on to the most important part of cooking pork… when is it safe to eat? Most people are so afraid that if the pork is under cooked they will get sick. This is true but you don’t need to turn it into pork jerky. The USDA has now agreed with what most chefs have been saying for years, the safe temp for pork is 145 degrees. So folks, I can’t preach this enough, use an instant read thermometer and pull whatever meat you are cooking at the correct cook temperature. Let it rest for about 5 minutes to continue cooking and allow the juices to redistribute throughout the meat.

Pair with your favorite side, I just so happened to make “Cavemom’s Cheesy Potato Pie” with this dish.

Top with parsley and enjoy!

Football Sunday Asada Tacos

 

Asada Tacos are one of my favorite things to cook for 2 reasons.  I get to use the grill and they are a quick and easy ‘Football Sunday’ finger food. Most of this dish can be prepped the day before or morning of gameday and then all you have to do is light up the grill and you’re ready to eat in about 15 minutes. Another benefit about this dish is using fresh Pico De Gallo or Guacamole, which not only goes great with the tacos but you can use for a dip while watching your favorite team win.

What you will need for beef marinade:

  • 1 -2 lbs.  Flank or Skirt Steak
  • 1 tbsp. celery salt
  • 1 tbsp. dried oregano
  • 1 tbsp. dried parsley
  • 1 tbsp. dried cilantro
  • 1 tbsp. pepper
  • 1 tbsp. salt
  • 1 tbsp. red pepper flakes
  • 5 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 2 tbsp. soy sauce
  • ½ white onion, rough chopped (doesn’t have to be pretty)
  • 2 oranges, halved and squeezed
  • 3 limes, halved
  • ½ cup extra virgin olive oil (EVOO)
  • ¼ cup beer (whatever you’re drinking right now)

Other Ingredients for Asada Tacos

  • Corn or Flour Tortillas
  • Pico De Gallo (check out Caveman’s Pico recipe)
  • Cheese ( I prefer to go authentic with Queso Fresco but you can use a Monterey Jack I that’s what you have)
  • Limes (as needed)

Combine all ingredients in a bowl or a zip lock bag. Squeeze the juice from the orange and limes into the mixture.  Give it a good stir, then cover and store in fridge for up to 8 hours.

***Caveman Tip: I like to do this first thing in the morning and then by 1 or 2 between football games, its ready to go.  The longer the better but don’t go over 8 hours as the acid will break down the meat too much.

Time to Grill!

Now to get that grill good and hot, I crank up the heat!

While the grill is getting hot pull your steak out of the marinade and pat it dry with paper towels. Let it sit and come up to room temp while you wait.

Once the grill is as hot as it can be, place the steaks on the grill. You may get some flare ups but don’t worry about that unless it gets excessive, you want that charred exterior. It will only take a minute or two per side.

***Caveman Tip: This cut of steak is really thin so it will only take a minute or two per side depending on the heat. You still want that pink middle and not steak jerky. Plus it will continue to cook while it rests before you slice.

After you get a good sear, pull the steaks and let them rest on a cutting board for about 5 minutes. While it’s resting, throw a few corn tortillas on the grill to heat them up and pull out the Pico, Guac, or any other topping you have.

Thinly slice the steak into ¼” strips and then cut in half or whatever size steak strips you prefer. Place the steak in the grilled corn tortilla and then top with you favorite topping, like Caveman’s Pico de Gallo.

Enjoy!!! I know I did while I watched the Chargers win their second game of the season.

Cast Iron Cleaning

Seasoning

Traditional cast-iron skillets don’t emerge from the box with a nonstick surface. That comes with seasoning, or coating the skillet with cooking oil and baking it in a 350° F oven for an hour. It won’t take on that shiny black patina just yet, but once you dry it with paper towels, it will be ready to use. You’ll reinforce the nonstick coating every time you heat oil in the skillet, and you can hasten the process by seasoning as often as you like. Or you can forget seasoning and go with Lodge Logic (available at hardware and cookware stores), a line of preseasoned skillets from Lodge Manufacturing, the oldest U.S. maker of cast-iron cookware.

Cleaning

A cast-iron skillet isn’t ideal for a set-aside-to-soak sort of person. For best results, rinse the pan with hot water immediately after cooking. If you need to remove burned-on food, scrub with a mild abrasive, like coarse salt, and a nonmetal brush to  preserve the nonstick surface; you can also use a few drops of a mild dishwashing soap every once in a while. If the pan gets a sticky coating or develops rust over time, scrub it with steel wool and reseason it. To prevent rust, dry the skillet thoroughly and lightly coat the cooking surface with cooking oil. Cover with a paper towel to protect it from dust.

Tips

  • Although everything from Dutch ovens to cactus-shaped cornbread pans comes in cast iron, nothing is more versatile than a basic skillet. Either a 10- or 12-inch will do.
  • There’s only one thing you shouldn’t attempt in cast-iron cookware: boiling water, which will cause the pan to rust.
  • Cast iron takes longer to warm than other surfaces but retains heat remarkably well and diffuses it evenly.
  • Cast iron remains hot long after you remove it from the stove. As a reminder to be careful, drape a thick towel or a mitt over the handle.
  • To avoid getting smudges on all your kitchen towels, designate one to use exclusively for drying your cast-iron skillet.
  • Cooking in cast iron increases the iron content in food. The longer the food is in contact with the skillet, the more it absorbs.

Coutesy of realsimple.com

Buffalo Chicken Pizza

What you will need:

  • ¾ Cup Butter
  • 2 Cup Franks Red Hot Sauce
  • 1 tsp. cornstarch
  • ¼ cup water
  • 1 Cup Ranch Dressing (Or Blue Cheese)
  • 1 grilled boneless chicken breast cut into 1/4” cubes
  • 4 Green Onions Chopped
  • 1 jalapeno, chopped
  • 2 tbsp. Feta cheese
  • 4 -8 oz. Monterey Jack Cheese (depends on how cheesy you like it)
  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil (EVOO)
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • Pizza dough (Fresh & Easy and Trader Joe’s has great pizza dough you can purchase) or check out Caveman’s recipe for pizza dough

Prepare the buffalo chicken goodness:

In a liquid measuring cup, combine your cornstarch and water together until it makes a slurry.  Set aside.

Over medium heat, melt together ½ cup butter and 2 cups Frank’s Red Hot Sauce.   Add your chicken to the sauce and bring it to a gentle boil. Let it simmer for about ten minutes so the chicken to start absorbing the flavor. Add your cornstarch mixture to the sauce so it will thicken and continue to simmer under low heat until you are ready to put it on the pizza.

Prepare your toppings:

Sauté the Jalepeno’s in EVOO until it’s soft and then set them aside

Using your other ¼ cup of butter, sauté garlic under low heat for about 15 minutes, this makes a garlic butter sauce for the dough.

Assemble:

**Caveman Tip: Get yourself a nice ceramic pizza stone; they last forever and work perfect in the over or on the grill. Since I got mine we probably make pizza twice a month and the great thing about pizza is the options are limitless so experiment and have fun with it.

**Caveman Must: Pull the dough out of the fridge and let it rest at least 30 minutes before you start working it. You need to make sure that dough is at room temperature.

Using your counter, spread out some flour this is so the dough doesn’t stick to the counter as you are rolling it. You will probably need to sprinkle a little on the rolling pin as well.

Lightly dust the pizza stone with corn meal

Gently roll out the dough and the place it on the pizza stone.

**Caveman Tip: For crispy dough preheat the stone in the oven at 450⁰F this really helps. If you do that you are going to need a second pizza stone or one of those really large spatulas. It can also be tricky transferring the pizza to the stone. If you decide not to preheat the stone it will turn out just fine as well. I like to cook the pizza on the grill this allows the stone to heat up a lot quicker being so close to the flame. Just be careful not to get it to hot and burn the bottom of the pizza. You may have to slide the stone over to indirect heat after a few minutes to let it finish cooking.

Now that you have the dough rolled out, coat the dough with a thin layer of your garlic butter sauce, followed by a thin layer or your ranch dressing. Add a generous amount of your buffalo chicken mixture.  Top with jalapenos, Feta, Montery Jack Cheese and then sprinke top with green onions.

Bake in oven or grill at 450⁰F for 10-15 minutes or until the dough is golden brown and the cheese is lightly brown and melted.

Pull it from the oven or grill and let it rest for a few minutes, then slice and serve.

Sorry about the half pictures but being the caveman I am I needed the other side to be a meat supreme!