Mulligans Menudo.jpg

Mulligans Menudo

Tucson cook Vanessa Baker wasn’t surprised when her 8-year-old son revealed that he wants to be a chef when he grows up. What he doesn’t know is that he’s the fourth generation in a family with culinary traditions steeped in tripe broth.

Mama Baker first learned how to make menudo at her mother’s side, with a recipe handed down from her grandmother, in their Mexico home in Caborca, Sonora. She was 9-years-old, and she remembers that these steaming bowls of beef stomach stew were at the center of the table for all family celebrations and holidays. 

“My favorite holiday is Christmas because I have memories of making menudo with my mother, brother and sister,” said Baker. “We all had different roles, one of us prepared the ingredients, one gathered the pots and pans, one brought the birotes bread. We were all involved.”

Her nana’s original family recipe was for a white menudo, the version for which Sonora is known. But in a maverick move, Baker decided to tweak the recipe with the addition of red chiles to make it more like the Guadalajara version. While she admits that wars have nearly broken out between her native white and rival red menudo camps, she more closely associates with the red version now because it’s “more flavorful and colorful.” 

Given the community nature of this meal and the celebrations through which it’s slurped, the time finally came for Baker to convince her bosses at Mulligans, the Tucson restaurant where she works today at 9403 E. Golf Links Road, to put her family’s menudo on their Sunday brunch menu.

“It didn’t take any convincing since I believed in it before I even tried it,” said C.J. Hamm, Mulligans’ partner/chef. “As soon as Vanessa told me her idea, I told her to get it on the menu now; when I tried it, once it hit my lips, I knew it was the real deal and I was proud to have it.”

Hamm also recognized the menudo’s perfect fit with the chef-driven and scratch-based Sunday brunch program that he and his team have built at Mulligans. 

“We want our dishes to be recognizable as well as regional, and that means offering universally understood concepts while reminding you that you’re in Tucson,” Hamm said. 

One example is their biscuits and gravy, localized with a house-made ancho chile sausage gravy. And the breakfast hash, which Hamm calls “Hash Rules Everything Around Me,” brings together potatoes, caramelized onions, roasted poblano peppers, eggs, and house-made pork chorizo.

Another cheffy touch is their portfolio of artisan butters, including a steakhouse compound butter that’s served with the steak and eggs, a Buffalo honey butter that comes with the spicy chicken biscuit, and a butter made with Guinness beer for melting over the flapjacks.  

But it’s Baker’s menudo that sits atop the nine-item brunch menu, quite literally, and it’s available by the cup and bowl every Sunday from 9:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the eastside sports bar and grill.

So what is Baker’s position on the widely held belief that menudo is a cure for, shall we say, spirituous overindulging the night before?

“I believe it, it’s a breakfast for revival,” she said, “and we put chiltepin peppers on the side to wake you up.”  

That Hamm hasn’t officially branded the Mulligans Sunday brunch experience as Touchdowns & Tripas is beyond me, but hungry football fans will have much to choose from no matter where they land on the issue of stomach lining as a morning and mid-day meal.

 

Contact Matt Russell, whose day job is CEO of Russell Public Communications, at mrussell@russellpublic.com. Russell is also the publisher of OnTheMenuLive.com as well as the host of the Friday Weekend Watch segment on the “Buckmaster Show” on KVOI 1030 AM.