New Crying Onion on Orange Agrove just East of Thornydale, very good food!
Yes, I am writing 10 years after the fact. And I only recently happened upon this article when trying to remember Boccata's name. My husband (John Richards) had designed the restaurant that inhabited the space previous in that location (as well as completed design work in many back and front of the houses in many of the restaurants named in this article). Well, I was excited to read an article named "The Birth of Tucson Restaurants" as I have worked, managed and owned in the biz there since the late 1970s.
I am glad to introduce myself here: I am Deborah (Gellman) Richards. My first food service job in Tucson was scooping ice cream at Eric's Ice Cream (1977-79). From there I moved to The Blue Willow (1979-80), working with both Tess O'Shea and Marianne Banes (who dated my cousin Bruce Bracker, former sous chef for Claude at Le Rendezvous and Janos as well).
Next up I managed and became a minority owner at The Eclectic Cafe (1980-1982) before rebuilding the neighborhood market at Frank's Restaurant (1982-present), which was and is still an iconic breakfast diner. I did this, partnering with Mark Smith (The Eclectic Cafe, Renee's Organic Oven). In 2002, we added Francisco's Michoacan style dinner service.
In 1986, Tess O'Shea (Barrio, FioRito's) and I started Presidio Grill, opening for business on 15 April 1987. Our first chef was Catherine Matthis (Blue Willow) and over the course of our 13 year tenure, we employed many foodie restaurant workers that worked at or created establishments named in this article. To this day I still receive requests for Presidio Grill recipes as well as accolades and the sharing of fond memories.
Presidio Grill was an amazing place, drawing from lots of talented people, becoming the first of its kind in Tucson, copied, envied and competed with by many later places. Sadly, in 2000 chronic illness forced to leave the business and later Tucson altogether.
As for The Tucson Originals, I was co-founder and at the first meeting at El Parador with Alan Zeman and Don Luria. We three had been called together with my husband's friend at the time, City Councilman Steve Leal.
Love Tucson. Love the food scene. Love the Weekly. AND Presidio Grill was a force in Tucson's restaurant history that I know some still remembered.
cahi61 do you have that link to the Crying Onion?
wow Trivia fun - thanks for all the info. It will come in handy for my new book called 'The Lost Restaurants of Tucson' soon to be published by The History Press. In the book both Pago Pago and Aku Aku are mentioned. Dean Short died about a month ago. I believe the 2200 Club was that building at onetime but the dates are a little fuzzy in my research.
I agree a need for expansion ... I love San Antonio, Texas but I miss eegees in Tucson, Arizona . Any chance of expanding this way ?
Do you know what happened to the 2200 Club and/or the building after 1983? So far the trail has run cold on that, so I'd be curious to know.
(By the way, there is a fun ad in the Tucson Daily Citizen Dec. 16, 1966, with a map of the Miracle Mile area listing popular restaurants, etc.: it's worth checking out for research reference, or just for Trivia Fun!)
As to the closing date of Ports O'Call: the owner, Dean C. Short, sold it in 1980 to one James R. Riley and Bali Hai Associates. It was renamed Bali Hai, and it operated at a loss until 1981. A subsequent legal dispute over the sale led to Short regaining ownership, and in 1983 her reopened it as the 2200 Club
(you can read about the interesting case at Leagle.com, Short v. Riley, No. 2 CA-CIV 5536). I can't find anything after that on the 2200 Club, so I assume its operation was short-lived.
Thanks for the correction on the address of Pago Pago, Ports O Call, and Aku Aku! I knew there had been a change over the years, but didn't know the details, and then with the fire information I thought that definitely made it a different location. Thanks for clearing that up, great article got me into doing some research :) When I worked on a survey for downtown I wasn't aware of the change on Congress years ago when the center of town changed. Odds and evens were opposite from what they were later, gave me a heck of a problem for awhile. Appreciate the history!
Actually, correction to prior correction (posted by cath61): 2201 N. Miracle Mile and 2201 N. Oracle Road (both N., not W. back then) were the same address: in October 1960 segments of Drachman St., Oracle Road, and Casa Grande Highway were officially renamed the "Mircle Mile Strip"; so, 2201 Oracle Road officially became 2201 Miracle Mile in Nov. 1960. Many people and businesses were slow to adopt the address change (and some never did). This is why you can find newspaper ads from the 1940s to 1960s with both 2201 Oracle and 2201 Miracle Mile listed as the address for Pago-Pago (opened 26 Nov. 1947), which became Aku-Aku in 1966, and which finally reopened as Port's O Call in Nov. 1967 after the April 28, 1967, fire (source for all: Tucson Daily Citizen, 1947-1977).
Ooh, another thing! Probably more than you need/want to know...in the 10/13/1973 Tucson Daily Citizen, there is a great article about the history of the Crying Onion and the neat old papers that went back to the late 1800's that were on some old interior walls that were uncovered in some remodeling. The owner in the 70's kept the memorabilia up for folks to read. Another article from 1960 had the owner fighting to keep the address, 3936 E. Ft. Lowell, in a business zone as she had had the restaurant since 1940! I couldn't find any older articles, but the restaurant was in her family's old farmhouse! Neat!
Great article! One change - Ports O' Call which was operating at least in 4/1967, was at 2201 W. Miracle Mile. Aku Aku was actually at 2201 N. Oracle Road. Easy to mix up, same time frame in the 60's until 4/28/1967 when Aku Aku had a huge fire that destroyed the building. It doesn't appear that they ever reopened. Ports O' Call did serve a "flaming Aku Aku volcano" that sounds really cool! Thanks for the cool article, if I find any other info I'll pass it on, love to look up the old stuff!
I cut the hole in the side of the first truck and installed the vending window in it back in 1971!
i miss Corleone's and Da Vinci's. The owner of Corleone's was a piece of work but It just added to the flavor. And there were a lot of great flavored from those places. You don't get family cooking from #%^*ing Olive Garden or the Sleazefake Factory.
I worked at Vinces in the early 90s. I was a host, and it was a fun job. Mr. Vince was a HUGE guy, but he always had a laugh ready. When he died, it felt like losing family!
East Speedway had Paulos, Vitos and Von's which were 50's & 60's Continental Style. The Jet Set hung out at The Barrons on South Wilmot in the early 70's. Wongs on 22nd was great for Chinese for quite a few years. OK Coral had some great steaks. I loved the Green Goddess at Sneaky Petes back in the late 60's.
When "The Bistro" opened on Broadway near Kolb, it was the most expensive restaurant in Tucson. Last but not least were the two Johnie's on Speedway. I loved those burgers and the crinkle fries. YUMMY delish!
Golden Pagoda was own by Mr. David So for 30 years. My dad and mom bought the place in 1982. They own Golden Pagoda from 1982 to 1987. Yes, the whole family was there to help. All my cousins from my mom side of the family. Nowadays, Tucson has too many Chinese restaurants. The taste is not the same anymore. Thank you Rita Connelly and Tucson Weekly for remembering us.
Just discovered the Egees at Tempe Market Place. YEA!!!! Any plans for more locations in the East and West Valley?
Richard, you will be happy to know there are now two places serving Eegees drinks in Phoenix ... we don't have to drive to Casa Grande any more!!! A Blimpie sub shop on Indian Bend and the GreatSteak at Tempe Marketplace both serve the standard trio and FOM Eegees!
How could you leave out Casa Molina and Scordato's ?May have the spelling incorrect on the second one.
They need to expand. People moving to California or as far as Florida miss Eegees
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