By Rebecca Cook
THERE'S NO SHORTAGE of eating establishments in Tucson. With new restaurants opening every other day, old restaurants changing and revising their menus and perennial favorites that haven't been reviewed in a while, there's a heap of food reporting to be done.
Tips from family, friends and astute readers, as well as the occasional news release from a restaurant, offer many options for the food critic. Rarely does serendipity and gasoline play a role in the selection of a restaurant for review.
Yet that's precisely the case with Chef Shawn's Famous Quick Healthy Cuisine. A brief stop at an Exxon station one morning resulted in an unparalleled culinary encounter.
Tucked off to the side of the station at the corner of Alvernon Way and Fifth Street is a tidy white trailer with red awnings that is the present home of Chef Shawn.
Shawn Stanchfield, a one-time Hughes Aircraft international purchasing agent turned chef, describes his enterprise as an attempt to offer a quick and healthy alternative to the usual fast-food fare.
"I was tired of seeing the choices for fast food in this town being limited to hamburgers and pizza, especially on Friday night when people are tired after a hard week's work," he says. "I wanted to show it was possible to do fast food differently."
Stanchfield prides himself on a menu brimming with various combinations of fresh and healthy ingredients, including several vegetarian choices. He also welcomes any and all special food requests.
"People need to understand that I want them to tell me what they'd like or not like," he says. "I don't look upon that as an inconvenience at all. I hope one of the things we can offer our customers is some flexibility in food preparation."
Although brief, the morning menu includes homemade granola, fresh fruit, and something called the "scrambler," which is an egg (or Egg Beater) concoction with your choice of other ingredients added. Served with toast, fried rice or home fries, this dish is guaranteed to get your day off to a satisfying start.
Also worth tasting are Chef Shawn's fresh-baked breakfast treats, your choice of two slices of raisin-pumpernickel or cinnamon-chocolate bread, lightly toasted and with an option of a butter blend and/or honey.
All of Stanchfield's breads are fresh, yeasty and delicious. They're provided by the John Dough Bread Company.
For lunch and dinner, would-be diners can choose from a menu that includes sandwiches, soups, salads, stir-fries, and pasta dishes.
I sampled Chef Shawn's chicken salad on one occasion, a combination of dark-green leaf lettuces, noodles, tomatoes, carrots and cucumbers in a semi-sweet Oriental dressing.
The salad was very tasty, and my only concern was that, after I finished the last crunchy bite of greens, I still had a fair amount of dressing. I was left wishing there were more vegetable to go with the surplus.
Another lunchtime sample was the Earthly Wonder sandwich, an inspired blend of sautéed zucchini and mushrooms, feta cheese, sliced avocadoes, butter lettuce, tomatoes and a subtle honey-dijon mustard served on a red onion pumpernickel bun. Delicious.
Daily specials dot Chef Shawn's menu, including teriyaki chicken, Southwestern cheese steak, calzones, breakfast burritos and turkey chili.
In addition, those of us with an insatiable sweet tooth can check out the daily dessert specials, which on my few visits consisted of tiramisu and an orange-chocolate terrine. Nothing mundane here.
And to think you can have all this while you're filling up your gas tank.
Stanchfield, who refers to his establishment as a "mobile food unit that is pretty stationary at this point," says the decision to locate his business in an Exxon station was based on a well-timed coincidence.
The owner of the station saw an opportunity to better serve the folks at Thomas-Davis Medical Center and improve his beverage sales if he could only offer food of some kind. Stanchfield needed a place to park his business. Thus was forged a mutually beneficial, albeit unusual, partnership of food and fuel. At least for now.
"We're hoping this will give us a chance to grow and get better-known in the community and then, eventually, we'd like to move into our own restaurant space," says Stanchfield.
So whether your tank is on empty or you're running low on meal time alternatives, check out Chef Shawn's Famous Quick Healthy Cuisine. Fast food never tasted so good.
Chef Shawn's Famous Quick Healthy Cuisine. 550 N. Alvernon Way (corner of Fifth Street and Alvernon Way at the Exxon Station). 318-3384. Open 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturdays.
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