Mi Nidito, Tucson, Ariz.
Located a mere 70 miles from the Mexico-United States border, Tucson, Arizona is brimming with immigrants who brought over authentic Sonoran recipes from their homeland down south, and Mi Nidito is as good as it gets. The restaurant is celebrating its 70th year in operation this year, and it’s as popular as ever because it’s been doing things the same way for all this time.
All of the staples you would expect at a Mexican restaurant are on the menu here, but what sets Mi Nidito (Spanish for “my little nest”) apart is the quality of everything and the amount of care they put into making it. For example, the refried beans that you see on the plate above are made from scratch every morning and served to you hot, fresh and topped with cheese. They are quite simply the best thing about eating at Mi Nidito…but they’re far from the only amazing thing.
The dish I ordered included, along with the beans, a chicken taco, a cheese enchilada and a beef tamale, plus a heap of lettuce and tomato. Everything on the plate was made to perfection. The flavors work together so well, mixing the cheese, meats and red sauce together to form a perfect combination that simply can’t be beat.
The most accurate thing I can say about this is that I’ve been around for 24 years, and I’ve not found a Mexican meal that has topped Mi Nidito. Taco Bus in Tampa is right up there with it, but the plethora of meals available put Mi Nidito ahead by the tiniest of margins.
Speaking of a plethora of food, what I got isn’t even the biggest thing on the menu at Mi Nidito. That would be the President’s Plate, so named because in 1999, Bill Clinton visited Mi Nidito and asked the restaurant to load up a plate for him with their best dishes, because the president had a pretty big appetite that day.
So the restaurant put together a dish that included a chile relleno, a chicken enchilada, a beef tamale, a bean tostada and a shredded beef taco. Clinton devoured the whole thing, and from then on, the President’s Plate has been a Mi Nidito staple. They even have the President’s booth to commemorate where Clinton enjoyed his meal, which is open for customers.
The atmosphere is pretty awesome, you’re eating at a Mexican institution in a city known for its Mexican cuisine. I really can’t recommend this place highly enough. If you find yourself in Tucson and only have enough time for one meal, make it Mi Nidito.
Time to go: Lunch or dinner. Mi Nidito is closed on Monday and Tuesday.
Wait during my visit: Oh boy. The wait is very lengthy. Once you get in, you’re going to wait, and wait, and wait for a table. However, if things go your way, this wait does have the potential to be an enjoyable one. If you’re fortunate enough to be there while owner/general manager Jimmy Lopez is working and he gets a minute, I highly recommend starting a conversation with Jimmy.
A word about Jimmy: Jimmy is one of the most attentive and personable men in the restaurant business, period. He’s the grandson of the founders of the restaurant, and he treats every customer like the most important person in the restaurant. As I explained, when I visited, Mi Nidito was packed. The wait time was 45 minutes, and the restaurant had the potential to be chaos.
Didn’t matter to Jimmy. Despite the fact that I had never been to Mi Nidito before, giving him my name for my reservation was all Jimmy needed to remember it for the rest of the night. Even after I had completed my meal, Jimmy still addressed me as if we’d been friends for years. I left one of my best tips ever that night, in large part because of Jimmy.
Cost: A meal here is roughly about $10 to $15.
Location: You can find Mi Nidito at 1813 S. 4th Avenue in Tucson, Ariz. Be careful because Tucson uses numerical designations for more than just avenues.
Parking: There’s not much, but you can find a place. If it’s busy, though, it’s going to be tricky.
Website: Mi Nidito
Signature items: President’s Plate, refried beans