Souped Up

Written by Carey Sweet Category: Three Bites Issue: January 2012
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Pro’s Ranch Market
3223 W. Indian School Rd.,
(plus locations Valleywide)

Pro’s Ranch Market has been around forever, first as an everyday shopper for Latin American migrants, then as an oasis for gringos who also love the upbeat strumming of mariachis (sometimes the sound system, sometimes live) and the rock-bottom prices that let you fill up on a huge bowl of soup for about $4 (with recipes spanning Old Mexico, Central and South America). We recommend the caldo de res (beef ) and caldo de costilla (rib), traditional meals treasured all across Mexico and sometimes served as breakfast. Typically, they’re no-frills but rich and beautifully seasoned beef broths with big chunks of meat, carrots, onions, zucchini, chayote, potatoes, corn on the cob and herbs. Sometimes the mix can be slightly greasy, but that little oil slick is just part of the homey joy, and helps the ingredients stick a bit better when you scoop up mouthfuls with fresh, warm tortillas. Order at the counter of la cocina, eat at a picnic table, and be sure to cool off your steaming feast with an agua fresca infused with fresh fruits and herbs.

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La Perla
5912 W. Glendale Ave.,

The Pompa family opened their colorful eatery in 1946, and even though Mexican restaurants abound across the Valley, La Perla is still considered one of Arizona’s finest. They serve Chihuahua-style cuisine, which is subtly spiced and relies on full-flavored meats, vegetables and cheeses, with mild to fiery sauces served on the side. The Pompa recipe for Sonoran cheese soup, or caldo de queso ($6), stocks the piping hot, bubbling creamy broth with fat chunks of tender potatoes and medium-spiced green chile; you can scoop it with tortillas or chips, or for the best texture, both. A cold cerveza helps cut the richness. For other soups, look to classic cocido (a stew-like soup, $7.75), albóndigas soup bobbing with juicy meatballs ($6.25), and white ($6.25) or red ($6.50) menudo, both legendary remedies for imbibing too many cervezas. If you come for your caldo fix on a weekend night, plan on lingering a while in the lounge for live mariachi shows.

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