Still the first thing on our list, but not the sugar-free variety. Tolerable, but just not the same.
Desert Rain Café
Tohono Plaza, Main Street, Sells, AZ; 383-4918
We're stretching the definition of "Tucson" with this pick, but a dish this simple and amazing that you can feel somewhat good about yourself for awhile by eating (100% of the restaurant's proceeds go to educational projects), it's ok to stretch the rules a bit.
350 E. Congress St., No. 150; 882-8226
Albacore tuna is wrapped in bacon and served on a fresh, homemade, tortilla. Wait, there's more. Add in the fresh avocado and street-vendor corn, and this taco is amazing.
Neo of Melaka
6133 E. Broadway Blvd.; 747-7811
Alan Yap's Foothills-area take on Asian cuisine Om merged with Neo of Melaka (formerly Seri Melaka) across from Park Place Mall at the beginning of 2014 and while Om brought its delicious sushi menu with it (try the Beer Belly, which is far better than its mildly dopey name), but considering the relatively unique opportunity to enjoy Malaysian cuisine, the Nasi Lemak makes it back on the list again with its unforgettable collision of coconut, curried beef and flavorfully spicy shrimp.
312 E Congress St., 882-2007
It's hard to really go wrong at Diablo Burger with any of the open-range-and-everything-else-we're-supposed-to-want-from-beef burgers on their relatively small menu, but our go-to choice is the Blake, driven by green chilies, both in their roasted form and flavoring the homemade mayo, with a slice of sharp cheddar.
256 E. Congress St.; 207-7757
Surely, nearly any menu item could be a highlight after a few of Saint House's great rum cocktails (love you, Ron Matusalem), but even for the sober, this originality of this rich, thick stew ("stew" undersells the flavor of the etoufee) with plenty of seafood over jasmine rice would be a star.
311 E. Congress St.; 798-1618
On occasion we complain that there aren't enough weekend brunch options downtown, but it's possible the layers of flavors in the Hotel Congress' signature A.M. dish might have scared off most competitors. As long as we can get this leek, ham and Gruyere powered delight, we might not need many other choices.
2900 E. Broadway Blvd., No. 186; 305-4900
Don't wear a shirt that you're not willing to treat for tiny splatters of the oil that will pop off the hot plate from these Los Angeles/Koreatown-style super-savory (courtesy of the fermented soy sauce, ganjang) marinated beef short ribs. At worst, trading a shirt for a great meal isn't the worst deal.
Omar's Hi-Way Chef
5451 E. Benson Hwy.; 574-0961
Omar's is the sort of place where the waitresses remember the regulars' birthdays, but even if you only make one or two trips a year to the Craycroft I-10 exit's classic truck stop, the tower of soft-serve ice cream atop an individually-portioned cinnamon-enhanced crust feels a little like home.
Poco and Mom's
1060 S. Kolb Road; 325-7044
Last year, we recommended you get anything with red chile pork at the Eastside New Mexico-themed diner, but we'll get somewhat more specific this year. A giant crispy hashbrown with grilled onions is the base, then green chile sauce, cheese, your choice of eggs go on top. Of course, you should double down on the chile, adding the red chile pork for the bargain price of a dollar.
828 E. Speedway Blvd.; 777-8134
More poached eggs on everything. Always.
Prep & Pastry
3073 N. Campbell Ave.; 326-7737
There's a chance you've managed to live your life without hearing about Dominique Ansel's trademark-protected Cronut®, but even if you're completely unaware of the strange unstoppable buzz surrounding the concept of a croissant-doughnut hybrid (hell, Safeway sells a not-all-that-good version now), newcomer Prep & Pastry's multiple versions stand up well on their own.
300 E. Congress St.; 396-3357
In our 2013 Best of Tucson issue, one of the staff picks called Proper's Prop Prop Wings the "Best Future Addition to Tucson's 100 Essential Dishes." Proper's sweet, spicy and fish-sauce funky take on Portland, Oregon's famous Thai restaurant Pok Pok's appetizer is among a bunch of their menu items that could have made this list, but since we called in back in Octobor, we should probably stick to them.
100 S. Avenida Del Convento, Ste. 150; 398-5382
Arizona Wagyu beef presented simply and beautifully, with a soft egg and parmesan mayonnaise.
3301 E. Grant Road; 795-1436
Although Robert's features relatively standard breakfast and lunch menus six days a week (lots of eggs, chicken fried steaks and the like), they make nearly everything in house from scratch, including the oversized cinnamon rolls, which you can make the focus of their #6 breakfast combo with two eggs and two strips of bacon. You'll have to justify your choices later when the sugar rush wears off, but at least you can feel good about the craftsmanship behind what you ate.
Wings Over Broadway
5004 E. Broadway Blvd.; 323-8805
Wings & Rice
5502 E. Pima Rd. # 110; 731-3313
Another media outlet in town would like to convince you that their poll determined that other joints in this town have superior wings to either of these two establishments. That poll, while admirable in weeding out the national chains at least, would be very wrong.
350 E. Congress Rd.; 882-8226
We do recommend one of Gio Taco's actual tacos elsewhere in this list, but the sides alone might be enough to get us to come back (the plantain crisps and yucca tots are quite tasty) with the duck chicharrones the real star. Yes, it's probably a bit of a betrayal to embrace a non-pork version of the fried fat delicacy, but for now, we'll push that thought aside and place another order.
7889 E. 22nd St.; 406-1771
At some point, there will be a video somewhere from the Food Network show Eat St. of our editor, Dan Gibson, trying to talk with his mouth full while discussing the cheesesteaks of Serial Grillers. Dan's mother will be mortified, but as long as the Serial Grillers guys make cheesesteaks as delicious as this one, with jalapeños, avocado and cilantro mayo thrown into the standard steak, onion, tomatoes and cheese formula, the permanent, likely YouTube-able embarrassment will be worth it.
Blu—A Wine & Cheese Stop
Mercado San Agustin, 100 S. Avenida Del Convento
Just go and get a plate of cheese and sit out on the patio at the Mercado some afternoon with a glass of wine. It's a lovely way to spend some time and the staff of Blu will surely set you along the right path, possibly ruining you on grocery store-purchased cheese forever.
50 E. Broadway Blvd.; 203-7681
Diners responded quickly to Penca's Mexico City inspired take on the cuisine of our neighbor to the south (witness the polite, but somewhat incredulous look you'll get from the host if you ask for a table on a Friday or Saturday night), but if you get a seat, don't let yourself get distracted by the variety of taco options. Go directly for the bone marrow, served with a vibrant chimichurri. Not for everyone, certainly, but the slightly sweet, buttery taste is unlike anything else.
3000 E. Broadway Blvd.; 325-9988
Yes, there are a lot of great pizzas in town, but when you have one made in the right kind of wood-fired 800 degree oven with great ingredients driven by the delights of saltiness, that's about all you can ask for. Olives, soppressata and chili oil will always be welcome on our plate.
Sugar Sweet Bakery
18 S. Eastbourne Ave.; 881-1138
It's hard to go wrong at the Broadway Village bakery, where they mix up the selection every day, frequently offering limited edition desserts (we'll take the rest of the cinnamon bun cookies, thanks), but our favorite from the more regular options is the lemon cookie, a sour and sweet charmer.
614 N. Grande Ave.; 622-0685
We didn't do an exact survey, but it seemed the most outrage over our list last year surrounded the exclusion of Tania's 33. Point taken. We're not sure how we managed to skip over the beloved Westside joint, but the place with a thousand soups (ok, not quite that many) deserves to be recognized. Our pick? The delicious red chile version of the tripe laden hangover classic, available every day on Grande.
Mexico in Season
3820 S. Palo Verde; 398-7576
The Tucson Weekly staff appreciates that the Teran family brought an excellent dining option to the Airport Heights area, which isn't exactly the best place to get a meal, unless you really like Wendy's. While everything we've had on the rotating, seasonal menu has been delicious, possibly the best aspect of the heavily-customizable array of choices at Mexico in Season is the sheer number of options for the vegetarian and vegan crowd. Whatever's available the day you stop by will be worth a shot and those with restrictive diets won't feel cheated by their available options at all.
Lindy's on Fourth
431 N. Fourth Ave.; 207-6970
It's a solid and somewhat insanely debaucherous burger, but for our city that's been shockingly underappreciated on basic cable food shows, Lindy's appearance on Man vs. Food earns their burger (five patties, other non-meat things) a spot on this list in perpetuity.