Beans, beans, oh, lovely beans. We rarely rave about refried beans because, to be honest, too many restaurants drop the ball - even those billing their food as "authentic Mexican cuisine."
Frankly, the best beans are made by Mom, and Mom is apparently still in the kitchen at Casa Sanchez.
Mom's touches at the 8-year-old Northwest Side location are everywhere, from the Mexican village courtyard décor complete with strings of twinkling lights and exposed faux bricks to those tasty beans.
Throughout its 20-plus-years history in Tucson, Casa Sanchez has garnered raves for its salsa bar. The all-you-can-eat chips and half-dozen salsas - we're especially fond of the green chile and the extra-spicy red sauce - deserve the attention.
So do the beans.
They're creamy with the occasionally bumpy whole bean and gently seasoned to bring out the bold bean taste without overpowering it.
The beans come with rice on the combination plates. About the rice: It's bland and blah - a chronic problem with Spanish rice - so skip it and carb up on extra beans.
The beans were a nice complement to the fish taco/cheese enchilada combo ($8.25). The enchilada was supremely cheesy and bathed in a bold but gentle sauce. A fat hunk of battered, fried, flaky white fish was wedged between crispy shredded cabbage and a chile-spiked tartarlike sauce that was sweet with a slight bite.
Carne seca beef was substituted for the oven-roasted pork recently in the house special carnitas ($8.75). It was a nice move and was refreshing with the still-crispy sautéed onions, tomatoes and peppers. Oddly, the same carne seca in a chimichanga ($7.25) was salty for reasons that escaped us.
Those lovely beans were stuffed into a fat bean-and-cheese burrito ($5), served with shredded cabbage on the side. Some people might be tempted to drown the burrito in some of that house salsa. Don't: Its simplicity is simply wonderful.
Even the kiddies opted for the beans over the rice. Both come with the ground beef taco kids meal ($4.50), which also includes a bag of cinnamon chips. The kids menu features a burrito, cheese quesadilla, a cheese enchilada and a good ol' hamburger and french fries.
About those cinnamon chips: Parents love them just as much as kids. Don't be surprised if you find yourself wrestling your little one for the last lick of cinnamon and sugar at the bottom of the bag.