Benson, Arizona, Kartchner Caverns, and a Bonus Restaurant Review


Texas Canyon — An area in Southeastern Arizona not far from the New Mexico stateline:

Less than fifty miles southeast of Tucson, Arizona, is a small town called Benson.  Benson isn’t really famous for much.  You may even rightly wonder why Ursula and I made the trip out to Benson over this year’s Easter Weekend.  Benson was founded in 1880 as a stop along the Southern Pacific Railroad, and not much has happened there since.  At least, not much had happened there until the discovery of Kartchner Caverns some nine miles to the south (just over 13 driving miles), and the recent conversion of those caverns into an Arizona State Park.  Now, Benson acts as the overnight stay for those going through Kartchner Caverns.

There are two tours available at Kartchner Caverns.  The Rotunda/Throne Room tour is available nearly year round.  The Big Room is open from mid-October until mid-April.  This year the Big Room tour ceases on April 15 for the annual migration of around 1,000 female Myotis velifer bats, which use this portion of the caverns as a nursery in which to deliver and raise their young.  Both tours are easy to make and require little in the way of physical exertion.  Indeed, the tours are both wheelchair accessible.

I took some fun shots on the approach to Kartchner, but that’s all I could do.  Park regulations do not allow any photographic equipment (not even cell phones or other electronic devices containing cameras) into the cavern environment.  This is rather disappointing when compared to the more lenient rules in Carlsbad Caverns.  And, as I’ve shown in a previous blog on photographing Carlsbad Caverns, knowledgeable and educated photographers truly can live in harmony with delicate cave environments.

Here are my photos of the approach to Kartchner and the surrounding areas (including some really great desert flora):

And here (something I’m loathe to do) are photographs taken not by me, but made available at the Kartchner Caverns website:

Getting back to Benson for a moment, I simply must review a great little restaurant find we made on the way.  It’s called Mi Casa, and it’s very difficult to locate as it’s small and situated well back from the street on which it’s located (732 W. 4th Street, Benson).  Mi Casa bills itself as traditional Mexican cuisine, but there is nothing “traditional” about it from my experiences.  This is simply great, innovative, nuevo Mexican fare at its finest.

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The freshly made tostada chips arrived with a very unique salsa.  What made this salsa different is that it appeared to have been a cooked salsa thickened with something akin to corn starch.  Very, very tasty, and an excellent harbinger of what to expect.

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Ursula opted for the three-encilada plate, which came with an excellent side of both rice and frijoles (refried beans).  The sauces used on the steak (green), chicken (cream-based), and cheese (red) enchiladas were expertly crafted, with Ursula’s favorite easily being the chicken.  Beyond the sauces, the enchilada tortillas had a nice, not-too-soft texture and the fillings were done very well.

Mi Casa — Chips, Salsa, and Enchiladas with Beans and Rice

Mi Casa — Chips, Salsa, and Enchiladas with Beans and Rice

It seems that every U.S. area along the Mexican border has its regional favorite “Mexican” dish, and in Southern Arizona that would be a crispy fried burrito called the chimichanga.  When in Arizona . . . well, this was my choice.  As I couldn’t decide which sauce to put on my steak chimichanga, I opted for both (and was very glad I did).  Both sauces were, again, excellent.  If there was but even one complaint, it would be that the flour tortilla was a tad thick for the filling, thus slightly overpowering the steak.  Had I to do it all over again (and I definitely will at some point in the future), I’d stick with the enchiladas.  Nevertheless, the chimichanga was very tasty and it is worth a try.

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In researching where we would eat during our overnight stay in Benson before the cavern tours, one item that kept getting rave reviews at Mi Casa was the carrot cake with rum sauce.  We opted to split a piece.  Yes, it was good, but it wasn’t worth the hype other reviewers kept heaping upon it.  It’s definitely a unique take on carrot cake, but the cake itself was rather uninspired and very reminiscent of a spice cake mix.  The rum sauce, however, was very tasty.

Mi Casa — Carrot Cake

Mi Casa — Carrot Cake

So, how good was Mi Casa?  Had they been open on Saturdays, we would have seriously considered reversing course and going back for another meal before heading once again south on our tour of Southeastern Arizona (more on this tour next week).

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2 responses to “Benson, Arizona, Kartchner Caverns, and a Bonus Restaurant Review

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