Wiser About Wisdom’s
We now know what all the regulars are wise to about dinner at Wisdom’s in Tumacacori, Arizona. The doors open at 5pm. On a March Tuesday night there will be a full house by 5:05. They haven’t even had time to remove the “Closed” sign.
The day before, on our way to Santa Cruz Chili & Spice Company we noted the number of cars at an adobe roadside restaurant. The sign above the door read, “Wisdom’s.” That’s all it took for me to be intrigued, I did a bit of Internet searching and decided we couldn’t leave the area without partaking of a little Wisdom’s for ourselves.
In search of birds at Madera Canyon we made lunch a Drumstick ice cream. We were saving ourselves for an early dinner at Wisdom’s and ordering dessert – the fruit burrito they’re credited with “inventing”. We literally pull into the parking lot at 5pm – WWV time according to Bob’s watch. By the time we make it to the front door every table is taken – inside and out.
We’re lucky to grab a couple of seats at the bar where owner/family patriarch, Herb, sets up a steady stream of drinks. I start on a margarita served in a pint glass fruit jar. Before long I’m in conversation with two ladies from Green Valley (20+ miles north), they’re absolutely rapturous discussing Wisdom’s menu. They tell me Tuesdays are 2-for-1 margarita night and you need to get in line 20-30 minutes before opening.
While I’m getting the low down on what to order one of Herb’s sons comes over and asks if we’re willing to share a table. A couple at a four-top feel guilty since so many are waiting and they have two empty chairs. We join a charming retired couple from East Lansing, Michigan who winter in Arizona. They too are Wisdom’s regulars and highly recommend the tortilla soup. It looks delicious – I so badly want to put my spoon in their bowl and try a taste, but I resist. We’re also told to order the dessert fruit burrito as we order the meal and mini-margaritas are available.
We decide on one cherry burrito – split in half with a scoop of ice cream for each of us. Bob selects the bacon wrapped shrimp served with salsa, guacamole, sour cream, tortillas, rice and beans. I want to try a half-dozen items but settle on a chile relleno, turkey enchilada, rice and beans. Food arrives hot, tempting and oh so good. No wonder people drive for miles to eat at Wisdom’s. Our dinner partners introduce us to Herb’s granddaughter, Sasha. I’m guessing she’s about 10 years old and already a charmer.
Not that we’re at all hungry for dessert but we both dive into the cherry burrito – yummy! Local legend has it that one afternoon a tortilla spread with jam fell into some hot cooking oil. Quite by accident the fruit burrito had its start to becoming famous. Apple, peach, cherry and blueberry always appear on the menu plus a daily special – banana cream the night we were there. I was curious but stayed with the cherry choice. The hot, crisp fruit-filled burrito is rolled in cinnamon sugar and served with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.
Wisdom’s has been owned and operated by the same family since 1944. It ’s the kind of place that feels like everyone is a regular yet you’re not out of place as an outsider. Before the Green Valley ladies left they came to our table to see what we ordered and how we liked it. The food is worth waiting for and the margaritas strong – there’s no way I could have two and not peacefully fall sleep for the night.
When we’re anywhere in the Tubac area we’ll become regulars and now we know – get there early!
When You Go: Wisdom’s Cafe is located at 1931 E. Frontage Road (off I-19), Tumacacori, Arizona – 4.5 miles south of Tubac, 15 miles north of Nogalas, AZ. It is a short distance north of Tumacacori National Historical Park. Open year-round, Monday – Saturday lunch is served 11am-3pm, dinner 5-8pm, closed Sundays, daily specials, excellent childrens menu.