ARTAttack – Three spicy women – Three spicy menus
I love food from south of the border and am thankful we have three distinct, wonderful places to eat, which all happen to be run by three distinct, wonderful women.
At least once a month we have to make the trek to Berryville and at least once a month we, my partner Billy and I get to eat at La Luna for lunch. La Luna is the traditional Guatemalan restaurant directly across the street from the bank on the Berryville Square.
Although they have a small dining area, we always sit at the counter where we watch owner Lilian Ramirez run her tight ship. There is no mistaking that this is her kitchen. We are the “weird guys,” (hombres loco) who come in and order the same thing every time. Two vegetarian Pupusas each sided with pinto beans and spicy salad.
Pupusas are sort of like the tamale without the husk – a blend of corn masa, cheese, spices, hot peppers and a choice of meat if desired, slammed on the griddle. Divine.
We rarely drink soft drinks but can’t resist the tall 16.4 ounce ice-cold bottle of Joya, the Fresca-ish grapefruit soda imported from Mexico and made with real sugar.
As for the pintos, we kind of had a “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy. We don’t ask if there is meat in the beans – you don’t tell. This week we finally asked and the news is good for vegetarians.
KJ Zumwalt had me with her Jalapeno Pie smothered in Mango Habanero salsa.
That was in 1995 on my first visit to Eureka Springs, where she and her late partner, Clary, had Center Street, the now legendary bar and restaurant where I bet more than a few stories end up in Vernon Tucker’s book.
KJ has continued the Center St. tradition at Caribe, open Thursday to Sunday only, on 62W. So many great tasting choices – her guacamole appetizer piled high in old-fashioned ice cream sundae glasses, the salsa platter where you can sample eight mild to very hot salsas, her veggie bean burrito topped with grilled Portabella mushrooms, the vegetarian sopa, and of course her signature beef, chicken, seafood or veggie Chalupas served exclusively every Sunday evening. Include a nice selection of Mexican beers and I’m happy.
KJ always finds time to come out of the kitchen and greet her guests, her personality as lively and colorful as the framed molas adorning the restaurant walls and the number one reason we keep coming back.
Although Deena Sunday has been cooking at the Oasis for a number of years, she just recently took over the restaurant from founder and long-time owner, Jack Albert.
The popular breakfast and lunch hole in the wall has been feeding locals and visitors since 1988. (More fodder for Vernon’s book).
Deena has wisely kept most of Jack’s classics and further explores her own take on this unusually good “Ark/Mex” food.
I’m usually a sucker for one of her vegetarian specials listed on the board – the curried eggplant, cous-cous enchilada or the Portabella mushroom enchilada in Chipotle sauce.
Working out of the tiniest kitchen ever, you can often hear Dina cooking while harmonizing to Joni Mitchell or Aretha. It still amazes me the amount and quality of food that comes out of that little convection oven. I often send tourists there for lunch just so they can experience the bathroom.
So there you have it – three distinct flavors and three fiery women who all share at least three things in common – a passion for cooking, putting out quality food and no meat in the frijoles.