The Desert Rose Cafe: Upscale cuisine without the uptight atmosphere

By Julie Fann
star staff

Christine White knows Mexican cuisine, and she's quick to clear up any confusion about what it is.
   "When people say authentic around here, they don't truly mean authentic, but this is the most authentic cuisine you can get without going to Mexico," said White, owner of the Desert Rose Cafe located in Bluff City near Ridgewood Barbecue.
   Born and raised in Arizona on the Mexican border, White grew up eating Southwestern United States and Northern Mexican cuisine, which she said must be distinguished from Southern Mexican food, much like in the United States.
   "Northern border food is not as hot as food in the south. There is hot sauce there that is so hot it's almost impossible to eat. Of course, it doesn't bother you if you were raised on it," White said. "People there (in Southern Mexico) give their children jalapeno peppers to chew on when they're teething."
   The hot sauce White makes herself at The Desert Rose doesn't compete with sauce made in Southern Mexico, she said. "Ours is so hot, though, it will burn through Styrofoam, so we warn people about it before they eat it."
   One of the most popular dishes served at the cafe is Carne Asada, or steak grilled with jalapeno peppers, tomatoes and onions. "We cook it until it makes its own gravy, then serve it with a side of rice, beans and a salad," White said.
   "We also serve a lot of Southwestern Steak, which is mesquite marinated beef with onions and peppers on top, served with grilled vegetables and a baked potato."
   The Desert Rose Cafe is family owned and operated by White and her four daughters. All dishes are prepared by hand and "nothing comes out of a can," according to White.
   "We cook authentic, delicious food here, but we're not fancy. It's a very relaxed atmosphere since it's family-owned."
   The cafe has been so successful White will be opening another that will be located in Johnson City on West Walnut St., just past Firehouse Barbecue in the old Richard A's building. The new cafe is scheduled to open at the end of June.