Each month, maybe, you can enjoy First Saturday in Arivaca, a small village 25 miles west of I-19 at Amado. I was invited by local resident Paula Perino to check out their First Saturday festivities. Paula arranged for me to conduct several on-camera interviews with the local VIP’s and enjoy lunch at Arivaca’s new restaurant, Sweet Peas Cafe, before we headed on down the road to the ghost town of Ruby. There we were scheduled to do an on-camera interview with Howard Frederick, one of the partners who own Ruby.
The road from Amado to Arivaca winds through rolling, mesquite-covered hills. It’s obviously very popular with cyclists, motor and otherwise.
Just before we arrived in town, we came to the Buenos Aires National Wildlife Refuge where, by appointment, we met and interviewed Richard Conway, a local geologist and Mary Scott, a seasoned birdwatcher and wildlife photographer.
Given the quantity and diversity of wildlife here, the BANWR is a worthy destination. Walking the trails in the Cienega and Refuge is a walk back in time before the Spanish, then Mexicans, then Anglos settled here.
Next, it was a less than a mile to town where lots of people were walking all over the place from one booth and activity to another. We visited the Artist Co-Op, the Farmers’ Market, and La Gitana Cantina, according to Esquire Magazine, one of the 100 best bars in America.
Here we met Maggie Milinovitch, one of the Cantina’s owners. She also publishes (1) the local newspaper Connection; (2) a visitors guide to Arivaca and vicinity; and (3) a popular book on local wildflowers entitled Wildflowers: A Field Guide to Flowering Plants of Arivaca & Southern Arizona. This attractive book is a fountain of information with over 400 great color photos of 204 plant species.
Then it was back up the hill a short ways to check out the Gadsden Coffee Company and interview roastmaster, Bradley Knaub. The place was packed inside and out. Obviously, it’s an important stop-over for the many cyclists who were out enjoying a Chamber of Commerce winter day. The delightful aroma from the various coffee blends permeated the air.
By now, it was noon, time to feed my hungry film crew and entourage. Sweet Peas Cafe is not in the village, but off the main road a short distance just east of town. Driving west from Amado on Arivaca Road, Sweet Peas has a sign before you enter the village with an arrow pointing left. As a restaurant critic, I wasn’t expecting much. I figured Sweet Peas was going to be just another ‘Mom’s Diner’ in the country.
Right off we met owner Jenni Kelly Stern (aka Olive Oil), a friendly, hardworking gal. She showed me her plans for outdoor dining behind the restaurant and told me that she expected to have her beer and wine license soon. She’s also had a catering business in this area for many years, and her loyal catering customers have followed her to the restaurant. All that was interesting, but what about the food?
My father, Bill, had a very substantial turkey sandwich and declared it excellent. Ms. Karen and Parker each had a bowl of chili chowder – also excellent – although I did notice Ms. Karen adding a little salt. But then she adds salt to most dishes. Her blood pressure is so low that the habit is not a threat to her health.
Dr. Clare devoured a hamburger almost half her size, while her son, 10-year-old Daniel, managed to spread ketchup on everything he ate. He rated the ketchup “Very Good” until we explained that Federal food guidelines allow ketchup to contain up to 10% bugs. At that point, Daniel seemed to have some concerns.
Ever-aware that I am on a very strict diet to lose weight, I ordered a Quiche Lorraine with veggies freshly picked from their garden and hoped for the best. Calories aside, I was not disappointed. It was, in fact, the best quiche I have ever had. Not sure I will ever have quiche at Mimi’s again.
Sweet Peas is not fancy. But it’s a pleasant place with friendly, efficient service. And the food is very good, indeed!
Following lunch, it was off to find a ghost town. Ruby is about 13 miles further on past Arivaca, about half on pavement and the final half on a well-maintained dirt road denoted FSR-39. Take a paper map. Do not rely on Google Maps or GPS. My GPS told us, “You have arrived at your destination.” at least 5 miles before we arrived at our destination.
Find our amazing discoveries at the Ghost Town of Ruby here. Other Ghost Towns in Southern Arizona may be located here.