In 1944 Howard and Petra (Gomez) Wisdom opened the doors to Wisdom’s Café, alongside the old Nogales Highway, never imagining that their little café was destined to become a dining tradition three generations strong.
Because Petra’s father was a property owner in Tumacacori and gifted parcels of his land to his children and their spouses, the café is in a lovely location with a view of the Tumacacori Mountains to the west and the Santa Rita’s to the east. It started out as an L-shaped little place that served breakfast and housed a rowdy bar. And since Howard was a natural born cowboy and an athlete in the saddle, alongside the café he soon built a roping arena where bulldogging and rodeo champions came from around the U.S. and Mexico to show off their skills.
Eventually the building grew to its current size with, as Petra recalled, a little help from the workers building Interstate 19. Howard and Petra provided a great breakfast and lunch and the guys helped Howard pour the floor in the bar. Sadly, the official opening of I-19 in 1979 forced many wonderful businesses to close their doors, including Wisdom’s Café, because of the loss of traffic. Fortunately in 1980, the Wisdoms’ son, Herb, and his wife, Irene (Pesqueira), agreed to return home from Long Beach, CA, where they’d lived for 20 years, to help Howard and Petra give new life to the café. Herb asked his sisters, Jennie Belle and Linda, and his brother, Jesse, to help, too. It became a family affair, including the priceless Frances, whose generations-old recipes make our mouths water, and wonderful Barbara, without whom the business could never have grown and Irene’s mom, Ana, who cooked and shredded and sliced and diced for years. These folks turned the café into the place you see today. They were even written up in the New York Times!
As for the fruit burro, legend has it that one afternoon, quite by accident, a tortilla spread with jam fell into some hot cooking oil and thus the now world famous fruit burrito had its start. Both the yummy fruit burro and the delicious chimichanga have helped make Wisdom’s a dining tradition for locals and travelers alike. And by making the café a completely non-smoking restaurant in 1982, way ahead of any ordinances, Herb and Irene encouraged the residents of the growing retirement town of Green Valley to patronize their place. By word-of-mouth the Wisdoms’ reputation for friendly service and great food began to spread.
Today the café is still run by Herb and Irene. Many customers, most of whom the Wisdoms consider family, watched Herb and Irene’s sons, Richard and Cliff, grow up to help their folks with the place and have warmly welcomed Cliff’s wife, Celeste (Martin), who was born and raised in Nogales, AZ, into the fold. Both Cliff and Celeste, fresh from university with lots of energy and new ideas have added some of their own touch to Wisdom’s. Many of you were on hand when their daughter, Sasha Noelle, was born and have since enjoyed her company at your table. She is the fifth generation to live on this land and was joined by her baby brother, Griffin Ford, in August 2004!
If you can, take a moment to wander around the café and enjoy the family heirlooms & antiques collected by Howard, Herb, Cliff & Celeste, many lovingly entrusted to the Wisdoms by customers. You’ll see paintings by Aunt Jean, Aunt Jennie Belle & customers, murals by Uncle Jesse, photos of family, friends and customers and trophies and medals won by Herb & Cliff and their fastball team, Si Senor. Admire Native American pottery found in our Santa Cruz River, cowboy memorabilia, Herb’s knife collection, beer steins, typewriters, snow shoes, Cliff’s Little League uniform, antique cameras, Celeste & Sasha’s doll collection and countless other treasures. And don’t forget to check out the “artwork” in the powder room, ladies!
Please make yourselves at home and discover why Wisdom’s has been featured in numerous magazines, newspaper articles, travel guides & on numerous internet sites.
We hope you will enjoy your visit with us!