By Valerie Vinyard
Frida’s Café is hard to find, but it’s worth the hunt.
Located in the shadow of Chuze Fitness near the southeast corner of Grant Road and Craycroft Boulevard, the charming café opened December 20.
It’s named in honor of famed Mexican artist Frida Kahlo. The restaurant’s artwork reflects that, with prints on the walls by Kahlo as well as her self-portrait.
The well-lit, 900-square-foot dining room can seat 67 inside. An outdoor covered patio has four tables for now, but executive chef Antonio Berber says they’’e planning to make improvements to the patio.
Besides a dozen tables inside, there are four barstools at the counter. Each table is adorned with a brightly colored tablecloth, adding splashes of reds, yellows, greens and purples.
Frida’s is owned by Berber and Maria Medina, the former owner of Taco Giro restaurants in Tucson.
Berber, 47, is experienced in baking pastries, as he opened Le Buzz Cafe on East Tanque Verde Road years ago. He plans to start baking pastries at Frida’s soon. But, for now, they’re bringing them in from a purveyor.
“We have a clean and fun environment,” Berber says.
“We don’t have preservatives; it’s all fresh ingredients. Everything is prepared fresh to order.”
Take the Diego Rivera sandwich ($11.75), named after Kahlo’s husband. The sandwich came with roasted poblanos, grilled chicken breast that had been pounded thin, tomatoes, avocado and provolone cheese. I substituted ciabatta for the corn jalapeno bread. The sandwich was juicy and full of flavor.
Sandwiches come with a choice of salad, fries, soup or fresh fruit. With the Diego Rivera, we chose a cup of savory housemade chicken posole as our side.
The least-expensive sandwich, the all-traditional breakfast sandwich ($4.99), still sounded great: It contains thinly sliced honey ham, two scrambled eggs and sharp cheddar on ciabatta bread. The menu features 13 breakfast entrees ($4.99 to $11.99) and a dozen brunch/lunch entrees ($8.99 to $12.99).
Berber isn’t a fan of greasy food, and he says Frida’s kitchen staff avoids using fryers. But what’s most important, he says, is that the recipes remain authentic.
“There are no variations on the recipes from Mexico,” says Berber, who started cooking at age 9 with his mom who owned restaurants in Michoacan, Mexico.
“We didn’t want to Americanize anything.”
El Gordito Diego ($12.25) came on a brioche bun. The 1/3-pound black Angus patty was topped with bacon, cheddar, fire-roasted jalapenos, spring mix, tomato and french fries. There was a great contrast between the roasted jalapenos and the well-seasoned meat. The peppers added a slight kick that made the burger stand out.
The BLT ($8.99) was piled high with lettuce and tomatoes, along with avocado, bacon, mayo, roasted jalapenos and served on corn jalapeno bread. Piled high with plenty of ingredients, this sandwich will be sure to satisfy a lunchtime hunger. The bacon was crisp and delicious, and the bread added an interesting flavor profile to a classic meal. A generous portion of fries rounded out the dish.
James Session, a retired engineer who lives nearby, recently dined at Frida’s with his wife, Mary.
“My wife went there with her friends and said it was good, so we started going, too,” he says. “I’ve had an omelet, which was good, but I prefer the lunch items.”
Session enjoyed the Friday special — a smashed avocado tartine ($7.99). A slice of sourdough was slathered with avocado, pieces of bacon, bits of jalapeno and a poached egg. A “shot” of fresh-squeezed orange juice garnished with a strawberry accompanied the dish.
It looked so delicious we had to order one, too. The tartine stood out with its variety of textures and flavors. All the ingredients made it a nutritionally complete meal, and its price makes it something we’ll seek out every Friday.
Even though it’s only open for breakfast and lunch, Frida’s offers beer ($2.99 to $3.99), mimosas ($8.99) and margaritas ($7.99 to $9.99) for sale. As for nonalcoholic drinks, there’s a large selection of sodas and even five milk varieties ($2.99) — soy, almond, 2%, skim and whole.
Berber says the duo is looking to add another location, possibly on the Northwest side.
But for now, they’re happy with the way things are going.
“Our customers like the presentation of the dishes; they like the pictures we have,” Berber says. “They have a really good experience with our servers.”
5526 E. Grant Road
6 a.m. to 2 p.m. daily