Powder House Square is home to more than just a chaotic roundabout. It is the launching point for every trip to Davis or to the infamous Pub Tuesdays. It boasts the birthday tradition of Yoshi’s — a likely site for numerous sushi pregames during this fine Scorpio season. I can’t say much on this, but I’m pretty sure there’s a laundromat there as well. Less revered, however, is the unassuming Tu y Yo. In fact, with its current lack of a sign, you’d be surprised to know it even exists.
My first trip to the Mexican restaurant involved a carafe of sangria with a dear friend on an arranged rugby team date. Although the memory of my order has long since passed, I still have a deep appreciation for the buzz of red wine that followed us on our trip to Edinburgh two years later. Admittedly, most of my friendships reach their peak over good food and several drinks.
After a particularly long night, Sunday morning called for a hefty brunch and some midday hair of the dog. I wrangled myself and my roommate out of bed for an impromptu food review, passing a rowdy football game on the way. This all felt very “college.”
We were alone in the restaurant with the exception of one other table — the typical (but undeserved) state of most of my chosen restaurants. The dining room felt like a living room, with colorful art on the walls and the smell of chiles and braising meat catching us at the door. It just needed more people in it. We grabbed the table by the corner and started with two mimosas and an order of tamales. Having spent the summer eating excessive amounts of her mom’s tamales, this was more a test of our loyalty than anything.
The appetizer was a lovely departure from the standard chile and cheese tamale, with a variety of chicken, pork, coconut and sweet corn fillings wrapped in corn husk and banana leaf pouches. We were especially excited about the coconut, which was a delicious pairing to the delicate masa and functioned as our pseudo-dessert. I hesitate to take any “fresh” orange juice at face value, but this mimosa was the real deal. That’s a step that few restaurants take nowadays, and the difference in taste is undeniable. This instantly felt like food made with love, and we were merely on the first course.
Next, we ordered the chilaquiles toluquenos and huevos con papas y chorizo, along with some red and green hot sauce. Both plates came out beautifully arranged with some of the best beans you’ve ever had. I don’t say this lightly either — they were perfectly salted and incredibly flavorful with just a touch of spice. The eggs were equally simple yet delicious, topped with ripe avocado and even better when wrapped in one of the warm tortillas they provided. Both salsas were lovely as well, the verde being the milder and creamier of the two while the red salsa had a nice hot, pickled flavor. We are big hot sauce people, so we doused our plates then took the rest home for the leftovers.
I’ve only had chilaquiles once, so I expected something similar to the soggy tortilla strips I had tried at some place in Dallas. This was so much more than that. It was topped with shredded chicken and crispy chorizo, and the homemade chips were still crisp despite being tossed in more of the salsa verde. Even better, each of the dishes were only $11. For reference, a lunch swipe at Carmichael is worth $15.
After such a lovely and seamless experience, I couldn’t help but wonder why the restaurant was so empty. This kind of business always scares me. I return in fear of a “closed” sign perpetually hung on the door. I convince myself that there was an earlier rushand that we’ve simply come at the very end of it. Perhaps all the students had run to the game. I don’t really know, but I do wish Tu y Yo was at least half as popular as Tufts’ football games. I hope they get a sign too — and a really big one at that.
The restaurant gets a little pricier at dinner time, so if you’re on a budget, lunch and brunch are what you’re looking for. I personally will be back for the mole enchiladas in no time, partially because I fear what will happen if I don’t. I know I can’t single-handedly keep these restaurants open with my business, but I’ll sure as hell keep writing as if I can.