Ajo, Arizona is about as far out in nowhere as you can get in the lower 48. It is in southwestern Arizona in a small donut-hole of private land surrounded by Indian reservations, the Cabeza Prieta National Wildlife Refuge and Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument ("OPCNM"). Ajo, which means "garlic" in Spanish, is located 15 miles from OPCNM and 43 miles from the Mexican border. It has fewer than 4,000 inhabitants, many of them border patrol agents, and was the home of the first copper mine in Arizona (now defunct). In fact the mine tailings all but dwarf you as you go out the south end of town.
Sam and I recently visited OPCNM during a period of rare rain. In fact, the rain was relatively constant for two days and we abandoned any intention of camping out for a small motel in Ajo.
One Hundred Estrella was the site of two evening meals on our trip, run by a couple, one of which is an Estonian immigrant, and the other a former State Department worker, now marathoner. Their fun story is set out in a section of the menu. I don't drink alcohol, but I noted that they carry a Redlands made beer, Hangar 24.
Much of their menu is focused on premium hamburgers, such as the belly buster, which combines beef and smoked pork belly; the free range bison burger; the grass-feed beef burger; the Arizona chorizo burger; the pork kraut burger, topped with homemade sauerkraut; a turkey burger; and a veggie burger, locally made from tepary beans.
I was trying to eat healthy so had a veggie burger the first night, which came with avocado, pico de gallo and sweet potato fries. I had them add an egg and chilis. The chilis were big slabs of Anaheim chili which was nice. The tepary bean burger was quite flat and square, unlike any veggie burger I've had. I had it pretty loaded up with ingredients and really didn't taste the bean-meat, but it was basically tasteless. I loaded it up with mustard and catsup and it was okay.
|Veggie burger, with chilis, egg and sweet potato fries.|
We shared some fried jalapeno caps which were okay.
The next night I decided to order the chorizo burger and seeking a little more zip, I had them add jalapeno slices and an over-easy egg. This burger was better, the chorizo really stood out, although it was a chorizo taste I didn't love. But at least I could taste it. The french fries were pretty good.
|Chorizo burger with egg, jalapeno slices and french fries.|
We also shared some onion rings. I'm not a big fan of the coating and they were over-cooked.
The second night Sam also veered away from the veggie burger and tried the Tuscan (veggie) artison flatbread which had artichoke hearts, roasted red pepper, red onions, cheddar and jack cheeses, spinach, tomatoes and a garlic and tomato pesto. It was quite bland and just okay. Sam suggested that two dinners here was enough.
In some respects it is mind-blowing to find a restaurant of this type so far from anywhere. The fact that it is serving flat bread and chorizo and pork belly and bison burgers is amazing. The ingredients were nice. The food itself was just pretty good. In a land of heat, cactus, rattlesnakes, Gila monsters and scorpions, you'd hope that you might get some food to match the surrounding. But it One Hundred Estrella only partially succeeds.
But, there is not a lot else available, and it sure beats cooking over a portable stove. When I head back to OPCNM, which I would like to do again, I'm sure I will stop again. Maybe the next burger will be the lucky strike.