While I hail from the Southwest, I've lived in New York City for five years and on the East Coast for over ten. At this point, I think I can say I am a New Yorker; I walk fast, I talk fast, I know the subway system like the back of my hand, and I know how to take advantage of all the food and culture that The City has to offer.
And yes, in spite of the endless variety and access to every cuisine, there's something about the food of home. The tacos in Tucson. The In-n-out burgers all over the Southwest. The sandwiches on the beach in California. Sure, I can get versions of all of those things here, but somehow they taste better with a side of home.
I really don't visit my various "homelands" - LA, where I was born, and Tucson, where I grew up - all that often. When I do get home, however, I always make sure I dedicate a day to eating all of my favorite meals and purchasing key supplies to take home. In that vein, this past holiday season, my brother, cousin, and I did our usual food run before returning to our respective cities. I live in New York, which has better everything, except maybe it's missing a chorizo-egg-cheese-potato breakfast burrito. My brother lives in Denver and sometimes he just doesn't want his Mexican food smothered in green chilies, ok? My cousin lives in Philly and was on a mission to collect those exceptional tortillas that are impossible to find outside of Tucson.
So, at 8:30 am, we set out on our "Tucson Day of Fun."
Our first move is to line up at the ever-popular Barrio Bread to snag some loaves for home. You might think that good bread can be found everywhere, and it can, but Barrio Bread has some of the best bread around and that can't be found everywhere. The founder, Don Guerra, uses local and heritage grains, which gives the bread a rustic and hearty taste that can only be found in Tucson. I buy 6 loaves. My cousin buys 2, my brother buys 3.
Next is Anita Street Market for burritos and tortillas. Anita's is near Downtown Tucson in a residential neighborhood. You don't think you're going to find a restaurant among all these homes, but this establishment has been slinging some of Tucson's best tortillas and burritos since 1984. My brother and I both get chorizo-egg-cheese burritos. I add potato to mine and order a dozen each of medium and small freshly made tortillas. My cousin leaves with a pack of tortillas. The burritos are savory, salty, spicy, and cheesy. The tortillas are hand pressed and handed to us warm.
After our burritos, we stop at St. Mary's Mexican Food for more tortillas. St Mary's medium tortillas are thicker, but they're also famous for their ultra-thin, see-right-through-them gigante tortillas. We each get at least one pack of the medium size because everybody needs tortilla variation.
Our last stop - and at this point I can't think about food - is to Barrio Sandwiches, a new popup of fancy sandwiches served on our favorite Barrio Bread. A sandwich is a sandwich, sure, but if Barrio Bread is our most-loved bread, then we must try these sandwiches. We each get a sandwich. I bring home half to my dad and save the other for a later lunch while we see Star Wars: The Last Jedi.
So what is it about stuffing our faces with local favorites and carrying a duffle bag full of bread, tortillas, and local beer back to New York City? For one, sometimes the "home" version is just better. I don't know the nuances of the recipes of Tucson tortillas vs anywhere else, but Tucson tortillas are literally the best I've had. And because Barrio Bread uses local grains, their bread is almost a flavor map of Tucson and the Southwest. It's also that fond memory of the morning drive around Tucson to Barrio Bread and St. Mary's to take back a little piece of Tucson.
But I think, most importantly, that every time I eat a sandwich with Barrio Bread or tacos with Tucson tortillas, I am reminded of where I come from. That I may be a New Yorker, but I'll also always be a Southwest native.
Brianna is the Founder & Editor-in-Chief at Hook & Blade Mag. She is based out of New York City where she enjoys exploring the city, trying new foods, and people watching. She works as an Email Marketing Manager at General Assembly, and tries to travel as much as she can.