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Sonora Breakfast Bonanza



By Gene Kira, February 25, 2002, as published in Western Outdoor News:

Somehow, when Rubén Pinto of San Carlos, Sonora, Mexico, said, "I know a good motel in Hermosillo," it didn't exactly blow my skirts up, if you know what I mean.

Not that I've got anything against Hermosillo, but my only acquaintance with this town was from reading Ray Cannon's old Western Outdoor News columns, c.a. 1966, about cruising in trailer boats from Kino Bay to San Francisquito, and frankly, Ray didn't make Hermosillo sound like any garden spot.

Hermosillo is the largest city of Mexico's big, tough, cattle ranching state of Sonora, where the cactus grows half-a-mile high, rattlesnakes die of heat stroke in January, and real men eat tacos made with boot leather and habañeros for breakfast. This ain't no whimpy, touristy Baja California.

Frankly, I was a little intimidated by the thought of spending a poorly-planned night in what I envisioned as an unfamiliar, really rough Mexican cowboy town, right out of Clint Eastwood's movie, "The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly."

Well, the next morning I was sitting happily at the Hermosillo airport, ready to fly home to "civilized Baja" on Aeromexico, after getting a great night's sleep in the best doggone "motel" I'd ever been to.

It's called the Hotel San Angelo, and if you ever get anywhere near Hermosillo, it's worth a stop, even if it's only a short visit to do nothing more than eat.

This place is exactly six minutes from the airport in a free, just-washed, brand-new shuttle van, driven by a uniformed driver.

At the hotel, there's a glassed-in, beautifully appointed reception lobby with uniformed, English-speaking staff, 184 rooms outfitted to Holiday Inn standards, security-gated courtyard parking for any sized rig, a 24-hour guard, electronic door locks, a nice pool, and most importantly--a 24-hour buffet restaurant with what is probably the best real Mexican breakfast you will ever have for the rest of your life.

I almost missed the breakfast, which would have been a tragedy. Dinner the previous evening had been merely "very good," and I wasn't really that hungry. But, hey, for about $5.00 (45 pesos), I thought, "What the heck?"

The first sign that something special was going on was the collection of brand-new Dodge Ram, Ford, and Chevy pickups out front. The place was full of Sonora "cowboys," ranch managers actually, who looked like regulars, as they stood in line at the cash register in their high-heeled cowboy boots and ten-gallon hats, while talking on their cell phones. In addition, there was one real working cowboy, who looked like he had been dragged in by his horse, plus lots of families, and for some reason, a number of Chinese businessmen and their wives.

I slapped down my 45 pesos (har!), walked over to the buffet tables--and my eyes bugged out about three inches. There, collected in one place, was a Mexican paradise of dishes that you would otherwise have to look far and wide for. The only comparable spread I've ever seen is the Saturday night Mexican fiesta and ballet folklorico at the Hotel Solmar in Cabo San Lucas.

But this was breakfast, with all its special permutations, and it was just amazing to see it all laid out so early in the morning. Between heaping plates, I took notes, and accidentally created a flurry of suspicion among the staff (uniformed, of course), until I convinced them that I was just a harmless Baja columnist with a big love of Mexican food.

In addition to the regular stuff, here's some of what they were serving (all of it ¡excelente!): papas con chorizo, tamales de elote, rajas de chile verde, nopales a la mexicana, huevos rancheros, taquitos, salsichas, chicharron casero (!), menudo (!!!), pozole, cabeza, huevos con jamon, machaca con verdura, chilaquiles, barbacoa, tamales de carne, and of course, quesadillas. I must stress, this was not the tourist versions of these dishes. This was the real stuff.

Afterwards, they had to use a hand-truck to get me out to the airport shuttle van.

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