Eastside Tucson is a rough area for restaurants, for some reason. If you've been trolling the Weekly comments as of late, there have been plenty of inquiries and complaints as to where to get a meal with consistently tasty food from local restaurants—there are definitely some gems, they just seem to be fewer and more far between than in some other Tucson neighborhoods.
Well, Eastsiders, here's another one to add to your list: Baja Café. The tiny breakfast-and-lunch-only joint is hidden in the back corner of the shopping plaza on the southwest corner of Broadway Boulevard and Kolb Road (the same one the Gaslight Theatre is in). With a scant two-dozen tables, the little diner was bustling on both our breakfast and lunch visit. It's bright, charming, and super family/kid-friendly—everything you're looking for in a diner. I'm just not sure why the owners would choose to open it in a strip mall that has Biscuits Country Café AND Little Anthony's Diner as competition.
Aside from the cute and charming café vibe, the service at Baja is friendly (although maybe just a touch absentminded), and the food is a Sonoran twist on some very tasty down-home cookin'. Breakfast is served all day, and lunch begins at 11 a.m. There's an "Under $5" breakfast menu, which has some substantive-looking offerings, as well as a full selection on the main menu of various flavors of pancakes, benedicts, French toast, omelets, scramble and the like. The lunch menu is mostly sandwiches and burgers, with a few salads, and also a selection of tacos and quesadillas. Most everything has a bit of southwestern-style flair to it.
The food at Baja Café is thoughtful and flavorful, adding interesting twists to classic diner/breakfast fare, though on both occasions, it did take a little longer than expected to come out to the table. Both the Wrangler ($8.99)—a scramble of hash browns layered with bacon, ham, sausage, peppers, chiles and onions, topped with two eggs (your choice), and cheese—and the Coyote Benedict ($9.49)—English muffins with roasted green chilies, jalapeño bacon, poached eggs and chipotle hollandaise sauce, served with hash browns—were absolutely delicious, with just a hint of spicy kick. Both the over-easy eggs and the poached eggs were cooked to perfection, and the hash browns were crisped on the outside and fluffy on the inside (though personally I like them just a little bit crunchier). The jalapeño bacon was especially excellent.
Lunch was tasty, but not quite as good. The mushroom swiss burger ($7.99) hit the spot—it was cooked medium, juicy, and had plenty of mushrooms along with crispy lettuce and ripe tomato; but the diamondback chicken sandwich ($8.99) was just a little off the mark. The sandwich, which was stuffed with adobo pulled chicken with pico de gallo, roasted green chilies, avocado and pepperjack cheese, was lacking much heat, oddly, and seemed a bit dry—maybe more adobo sauce would do the trick. French fries at Baja Café are crispy, salty and hot, and the servers keep drinks refilled appropriately.
Baja Café also has a nice little outdoor seating area, though if the whole indoor space and outdoor space were packed, I'm not sure the tiny kitchen could handle the volume output of food—but it's not exactly a place you'd expect to go and have a harried meal, anyway. The food and service are solid, and there is clearly a great amount of care taken to be creative with food that can become otherwise mundane. It's definitely worth taking a chance to make it one of the few Eastside gems.
7002 E. Broadway Blvd.
Open daily: 6 a.m. - 2 p.m.
Pros: Good solid homestyle cooking with a Sonoran twist; friendly service; inexpensive
Cons: Food isn't always super-fast to get to the table