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Taqueria Pico de Gallo
2618 S. Sixth Ave.; 623-8775
It's possible Toby Keith's bar got ran out of town because the only red Solo cup that really matters in Tucson is the one on South Sixth Avenue, full of tropical fruit doused in lime juice and chili powder.
Armitage Wine Lounge & Café
2905 E. Skyline Drive, No. 168; 682-9740
Sadly only available on weekends, but Armitage's more worldly take on the brunch classic (prosciutto instead of Canadian bacon, Asiago toast instead of an English muffin, havarti cheese, thin asparagus spears and a Hollandaise sauce) is worth dragging yourself out of bed for. Thankfully, Armitage gives you until 3 p.m. to get yourself presentable enough for the La Encantada crowd.
Kingfisher Bar and Grill
2564 E. Grant Road; 323-7739
The oyster bar adjacent to the dining area at Agustín Kitchen gives Kingfisher a run for its long-held crown, but a half dozen and a drink in the comforting ambience of a leather booth still can't be beat.
534 N. Fourth Ave.; 622-6868
Last year, one of our writers made a minor stink at the office claiming that another restaurant's garlic knots should have been on this list. He's wrong. Brooklyn still wins, even if your breath might be the ultimate loser.
5601 E. 22nd St.; 790-2888
22nd and Craycroft might not be where you'd expect to find a great Mexican seafood dish, but this off-the-beaten path joint has a way with shrimp. As Rita Connelly wrote last year, "the medium shrimp cocktail must have a couple dozen shrimp and the "juice" is such a perfect balance of tomatoes, scallions, cukes and lime that you want to drink it." Seems worth a trip to the centralish eastside, right?
6960 E. Sunrise Drive; 299-3132
Odds are your Nana probably doesn't use black truffles in her pan gravy. If she does, can we come over for dinner?
East Coast Super Subs
187 N. Park Ave., 882-4005
Sausage, peppers and onions. It's a simple sandwich, but everything's the way it should be.
Surly Wench Pub
424 N. 4th Ave.; 882-0009
You may not think of the home of burlesque/rock and roll/industrial dance nights as a place to get something to eat, but the proficient kitchen cranks out slight variations of bar food, with four choices of spice blends to go with the fries and other creative twists. The hangover tots might be more useful in avoiding your forthcoming hangover than curing an existing one, but swiss cheese, a poblano sauce and a fried egg make these tots better than your nostalgic memories of the ones at the late Grill.
266 E. Congress St.; 207-8201
We're still really thankful for the opportunity to get great ice cream downtown and based on the volume of HUB paper bowls we see in-hand up and down Congress, a lot of Tucson feels the same way.
Nox Kitchen & Cocktails
6370 N. Campbell Ave.; 529-5849
This town has a real ramen shortage. While we eagerly await the day when someone opens up a take on an izakaya bar in town, the pork belly and egg in newcomer Nox's bowl will definitely do. In fact, it's definitely possibly we could end up getting attached to their version.
6453 N. Oracle Road; 797-1233
When the Parish expanded recently, we're pretty sure the credit should have gone to this dish and the thai chile sauce that comes with it.
Guilin Chinese Restaurant
3250 E. Speedway Blvd.; 320-7768
Last year, our vegetarian expert, A Greene, said about this dish: "Always steaming hot and framed with bright green broccoli florets, General Tso's comes smothered in spicy sweet red sauce. It's one of those dishes at a restaurant that kind of ruins the rest of the menu for you; once you've had it, you'll perpetually be torn between ordering something that you haven't tried before, or getting General Tso's."
3025 N. Campbell Ave.; 325-3333
The revamped Pastiche (ooh, look at the shiny bar!) made some changes to their menu when they completed their remodel extensive remodel, but we're thankful that the steak night remained. $15 for a sizeable Angus steak and salad will always be a good deal.
3200 N. First Ave.; 777-8801
Fried pork skin in a tart tomatillo sauce. Perfectly cooked, avoiding the textural issues that can come with chicharron on occasion and practically begging to be eaten with a cold beer aside.
6260 E. Speedway Blvd., 747-7477
Beyond Bread always has an impressive selection of desserts available at their various locations, so it's not particularly surprising that their pie-focused spinoff, Back Dough, offers great pastry-based options as well. The hours are a little restrictive if you have a day job, but for six bucks, you get yourself one of the best lemon meringue pies you've ever eaten, piled high with sugared whipped egg whites.
3306 N. First Ave.; 690-0991
Every city should have a comforting Friday fish fry at a local working-class bar (in fact, the Tucson Weekly had a Best Fish Fry category in Best of Tucson for a few years until 2002) and the Boondocks keeps that tradition alive. $7.50 gets you half a pound of perfectly fried whitefish, fries, homemade coleslaw as well as admission into the global brotherhood of people eating exactly the same thing across America.
Good Oak Bar
316 E. Congress St.; 882-2007
There are people here at the Weekly who hate pickles. People who waste five seconds of a stranger's life at McDonalds, ensuring they won't even have to look at the things. People whose friends just take pickles off their plates without asking. To those people, the fried pickles at Good Oak Bar are a revelation. For one, they're long spears, rather than those weird, crinkled pickle chips; they're coated in a breading that's seems to be made with cayenne pepper and fairy dust; and they come with a spicy take on thousand-island dressing that, we promise, is way better than it sounds. Seriously, these pickles are what bar food should aspire to be, and they're reasonably priced enough to pair with a pint.
While we're certain that the award-winning Reuben sandwich is wonderful, we've (ironically) got a beef with the good folks at Beyond Bread: where's the love for the yardbird? Charlie's Chicken is one of the sandwiches on Beyond Bread's menu that is, unequivocally, a flavor bomb. Grilled chicken breast, bacon, cheddar, tomato and onion are stacked atop each other, given a healthy coating of barbecue sauce, placed in a crunchy torpedo roll and served piping hot. We get that there's a plethora of delicious chicken sandwiches in the world, really, this is absolutely among the best sandwiches in Tucson. We'll promise this, BB: Even if Charlie's Chicken isn't considered one of the world's best chicken sandwiches by a bunch of goofy celebrity chefs (lookin' at you, Guy Fieri), it'll always get a blue ribbon in our hearts.
300 E. Congress St.; 396-3357
Yeah, we know, we've got a bit of a food-on for the chow at Proper (see the entry for the Prop Prop Wings elsewhere in this feature). But c'mon, if anything on Proper's stellar menu deserves singular praise, it's their curried lamb stew. And don't let the mention of "curry" scare you away: it's more a flavorful change of pace than it is a reason to reach for the Tums after your meal. Combine that slightly-spicy agent with the dates and the chunks of shredded lamb, and you're as likely to try licking the plate clean as you are placing a second order of it. Thankfully, the crostini provided with your order will help soak up what's left so you don't make a fool of yourself at the table.
Rocco's Little Chicago
2707 E. Broadway Blvd.; 321-1860
Chances are, unless you're one of the few misguided souls that dines at the altars of Pizza Hut and/or Domino's (and if you are, what the hell's wrong with you?), you already know how good Rocco's is ... but for the uninitiated, we'll throw you a bone. Rocco's is, basically, a homesick Chicagoan's happy place. It's a cozy place with a great patio, inexpensive beer (including, until recently, Old Style) and wings that rival most any place in the city. The star of the show, of course, is their faithful recreation of the classic Chicago Deep Dish, a goddamn casserole in a bread dish, unapologetically loaded with sauce, garlic, cheese and whatever else you decided to throw in. Sure, it's not everyone's cup of tea (that's why they offer their thin crust option, after all) but nothing else in this town approaches their approach to deep-dish. If nothing else, you can still get the warm-n-fuzzy feelings that come along with supporting people who stood up against one of the more stupid laws to roll through our state's legislature. Everybody wins!
Chicken Tikka Masala
While we're mentioning the chicken tikka masala specifically, let's make clear that roughly everything at Twisted Tandoor is outstanding. Really, it's fascinating (though not wholly unsurprising) that one of the best Indian restaurants in town is one of the standouts from the Tucson Food Truck Boom, thriving beyond when the bubble started to deflate. Let's hope that the husband and wife team that runs the truck never slows down, if only because it's fun to consider that the standard-bearer for quality Indian food in Tucson is on wheels.