Yesterday was the last day that Lorenza "Poco" Guiterrez served breakfast and lunch at her namesake restaurant at 3063 Southwest Boulevard. The petite Guitterez had established an almost cult following as the chef at the Broadway Grille which later became, all too briefly, Poco's Latin American Grille when Guitterez partnered with restaurateur Hope Dillon.
After the Latin American Grille closed, Poco ventured out on her own, taking over the former Waid's restaurant on Southwest Boulevard. She continued serving dishes from the Waid's repertoire (malted waffles, pancakes, burgers) during the day, as well as adding Mexican specialties: huevos rancheros, moyetes, and menudo. On weekends, this tidy little dining room was one of the busiest in the city. On Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights, Guitterez served wonderful dinners -- I ate there on Valentine's night with some friends (and noted, with some concern, that the restaurant wasn't nearly as busy as it should have been) and had an exquisite mole chicken.
Once word of Poco's closing starting circulating in the blogosphere, people started announcing plans to pay respects to Guitterez on the final Sunday. Performance artist Stacey Locke extended an invitation for friends to join her on her Facebook page and arrived with a small group for brunch. "We got there at 1 p.m.," she wrote me, "and it was pretty packed, but almost empty at 2:30 p.m. I had to have chilaquiles and a pecan waffle."
Locke's party spoke for awhile with one of my favorite waitresses at Poco's, a beautiful, but tiny little woman who reminds me of 1930s movie star Sylvia Sidney. Locke told me this delicate creature used to be a boxer! "She's one of the most awesome characters I've ever met," Locke said.
Actor-writer-bon vivant David Wayne Reed was part of Locke's table and told me that he thought Poco's decision to continue using the kitchen in the venue for catering, but not keep the restaurant open -- at least on weekends -- seemed silly. "Where else can you find a great home-style brunch like that?"
I couldn't do brunch that day, so I arrived at Poco's for my final breakfast a few minutes after 8 a.m. The table across from me -- a young woman and her elderly parents -- were eating tortillas and steaming bowls of menudo. Two men were sitting directly behind me and the older of the two was giving the younger man a lecture about not smoking. I didn't mean to eavesdrop, but since I've recently lost two friends to lung cancer, I nodded in silent agreement with the lecture while I sipped my coffee and ate my breakfast: scrambled eggs with chorizo.
I bought a take-out order of Eggs Benedict for a friend of mine who was too sick to get out of bed, then went home. Later that night, I suddenly had a craving for one of Poco's malted waffles. I agree with David Wayne Reed: Poco needs to stay open on weekends.