First of Two Reasons to Visit San Bernardino

My chica has recently enrolled in a food preservation course offered by the University of California all the way in San Bernardino. She usually carpools every Monday with a chef who works at one of the Disney restaurants, but I drove the two of them last week, hoping to finally enjoy the mythical Rosa Maria's.

Clockwork Coker, who grew up in San Berdoo, first mentioned this restaurant years ago as a place that opened and closed according to the owner's whims but that served amazing tamales. He never revealed its name (or, at least I don't remember) until last Monday, when I asked him what was the name of that restaurant he always raved about. Coker quickly sung its praises, suggested I try the chile relleno burrito, was amazed it now exists in three other outposts. But as I left the Weekly world headquarters, he mentioned something curious: "If you don't want to try Rosa Maria's, there's always Lucy's across the street."

Coker must be a prophet because guess what happened: after finally reaching Rosa Maria's and coming across a bit of hole-in-the-wall heaven--no inside seating, in a residential area, with a menu stolen from a high school's Spanish-American fiesta circa 1969--a chilly breeze swept across the 909. "Too cold to eat outside," my chica complained, and off we went to Lucy's: think a primordial El Conejo, with fading murals, Chente on the speakers, and the type of gabachos that exist only in the 909 and certain parts of Fullerton and Orange, more wab than white. Its menu was classic borderlands, and I gorged on a chile relleno burrito unnecessarily drowned in a red sauce, as delicious as it was. No fresh chips: these were thin and wonderfully stale. The best part of Lucy's? It has a vaguely New Mexican DNA. One of the house salsas featured roasted chilies reminiscent of Hatch, and there was a bona fide New Mexico-style enchilada on the menu. The Disney chef, whose family hails from the Land of Enchantment, ordered the dish: three corn tortillas piled on top of each other, smeared with onions, cheese, and beans, then topped with an over-easy egg. I know of only one other restaurant in Southern California that sells authentic New Mexico-style enchiladas: Anita's in Fullerton, and it's nowhere near as good as the forkful I ate at Lucy's. Clockwork Coker, you cabrón: finally, a reason to visit your deranged homeland! But I gotta go to Rosa Maria's...

Lucy's Mexican Restaurant, 4151 N. Sierra Wy., San Bernardino, (909) 883-4638.


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