Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Quartzsite eateries diminish, but still some good places to fill the stomach

This week marks the start of Quartzsite's BIG season. The QIA rock show is on; Kenny's RV show in the big tent is popped up and drawing crowds. Locals are having their seasonal coughing and swearing fits as it takes them "forever!" to get from the post office to McDonalds for their morning coffee. Yep, the town is crawling. But if you're one of those who are crawling around QZ, you may wonder: Where on earth do people eat around here?

There have been a few changes since last year. For one, a couple of "death notices" have to be published. For those who enjoyed a nice bite of Mexican food, the "Best Mexican" (which might have been euphemistic) restaurant on the B-10 rolled up the sidewalks and vanished. That was a loss a few years back. In it's place came the Q-Town Cafe, known for pretty good food, but a pretty strange menu. Instead of calling a hamburger, "Hamburger," the staff gave the food names of local streets. Maybe customers didn't want to eat asphalt, because the Q-Town went down, replaced by the now-current Crazy Jerry's Wings. If you really are in the mood for some kind of chicken wing, flop on in.

The venerable, if not over-priced Palo Verde Café on Highway 95 decided to call it quits after last year. If you have a pot-full of money and want to start an eatery, the place is vacant and decidedly for sale. Just down the block and across the street (and still operating) is the Mexican-themed Casita Mi Rancho. Still offering low-cost coffee, the place heats up every night, and it too, was on the sale block recently.

Locals had been anticipating a revival, of sorts, when folks formerly associated with the Times-3 Restaurant bought up the old Stage Coach Restaurant and Motel. The motel was immediately reopened, and to the shock of many, the restaurant went into full-tilt revamp. Alas, one fine night, shortly before time to reopen to the starving hoards, a fire broke out, completely wiping out the restaurant. Just one of those little Quartzsite mysteries.

Returning to a name already dropped, a relative newcomer to the "fill your yaw" group in Quartzsite is the Times-3 or X-3 Family Restaurant, just west of McDonalds on the B-10 (Main Street). When they first opened, we had high hopes, and were some of the first customers to drop into a booth and sample the chow. At the time it was a MAJOR disappointment. Waitresses and cooks didn't see eye-to-eye, the food (when and if you got it) was often cold. We shuddered, paid the bill, and left, never to shadow the doorway again. That was a couple of years ago.

But visitors to QZ showed up one day recently, and after we accepted an invite to a "bite out," they dropped the bombshell that the Times 3 was their choice for eateries. You know what Mom taught you when you visited Aunt Fannie's place, "Just eat it, and shut up!" Well, we went with a somewhat similar attitude and were completely surprised. Although the place suffers with acoustics fitting for a milking parlor – loud and tinny, and the seating when busy similar to a loafing shed (prepare to "share" a table with total strangers), the food was remarkably good. Portion sizes were generous, and prices ranged an average $8 to $12, with smaller portion options for less. We didn't wait forever, despite the fact the place was slammed. All in all, not a bad place to fill up.

In typical Quartzsite fashion, the advertising left me chuckling: "American Food," proclaims the reader board. Directly under that line another that read: "Spaghetti."

Update history: Corrections regarding demise of Best Mexican Restaurant, 1/25/2014

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Havasu lures Quartzsiters to Balloon Fest

Loyal McCammond photo
Hang onto your safety helmets, the Havasu Balloon Festival is floating into town soon.

Loyal McCammond photo
Just an hour and a half north of Quartzsite, Lake Havasu City draws plenty of attention from folks that winter over in Quartzsite. A wide range of restaurants and "real shopping" tend to beckon some away from the bucolic Quartzsite frontier for relief from the dust and dearth of appetizing cuisine. But the annual Balloon Festival may be Havasu's trump card in all of it.

Set for January 17 through 19, the big festival will have a few more attendees this year, since the Good Sam Club says it wants to draw up to as many as 500 of its club members and their rigs into town for the show. It's a good idea to bring the RV, as there aren't many – if any – motel rooms left to rent for the show. So where to park your rig? Lake Havasu Marina is a popular RV anchor point; clever folk who don't mind being a little away from the traffic often park at the Bureau of Land Management's Craggy Wash camp area, just north of the airport on Highway 95.