Blessed be the brunch revolution and its surge in the Old Pueblo. One of the best spots in town for the hybrid meal, Prep & Pastry, waxes the meal poetic on their chalkboard wall, which says, "brunch without booze is just a sad, late breakfast." Cheers to that and to spots like the Cup Café, which offer an extensive and very customizable bloody mary bar, but the truth is you don't have to feel excluded at all if you're a daytime (or all of the time) teetotaler.
Restaurants like 5 Points Market, Mother Hubbard's and more prove you can have a perfectly lovely brunch without the liquor, but no matter where you stand, it's clear brunch is all about the dishes. Breakfast with south of the border spice, runny egg topped pizzas and a duck confit hash with cherry goat cheese mousse might end up in a post-brunch afternoon nap. However, the mid-day meal also has plenty of lighter options paired with local produce and quick bites for meals on the go.
So wake up, greet the day and start eating your way through this list of some of our favorite morning time meals:
5 Points Market
756 S. Stone Ave., 623-3888
There's a time and a place for sloppy, greasy diner breakfast, but if you're looking for something a little more refined, the breakfast toast at 5 Points is light and bring with a creamy pesto chevre, over medium eggs, and a tart and sweet chianti jelly all atop red fife grain bread and served with a lightly-dressed side of greens.
444 E. University Blvd., 622-0761
$6.50 - $9.95
Pizza for breakfast? Of course. Time Market's selection of runny egg topped pizzas are a great way to wake up. You can go standard with mozzarella, grana padano, cilantro and green onion; Sonoran-style with all of that plus green chile, queso fresco, coriander and cumin; or with house-cured salmon, dill and capers.
Le Cave's Bakery
1219 S. Stone Ave., 624-2561
A dozen for $8.99
Le Cave's is the true OG of vegan baking, and their mango-filled doughnut is número uno. The fusion of that soft dough, sprinkled with powdered sugar and a very, very generous amount of filling—a mango puree with other sweet goodness—is just, yes. Take a bite, let that filling drip on your body and then lick it off.
Café a la C'Art
150 N. Main Ave., 628-8533
Scramble a few eggs with locally sourced chorizo from the Anita Street Market, roasted red peppers, carmelized onions and pepperjack cheese. Lay down a side of roasted potatoes and multigrain toast. Then you have one of Tucson's best breakfasts in one of its finest historic homes. Special bonus: The Tucson Museum of Art shares its collection with the restaurant to whet your appetite for a stroll around TMA after brunch to work off those calories.
7002 E. Broadway Blvd., 495-4772
There are plenty of innovative plates on Baja Café's menu, but one standout is the healthy breakfast tacos: The corn tortillas are steamed and the scrambled eggs are topped with pico de gallo, habanero chicken sausage and tomatillo sauce and served with a side of fresh fruit. Baja Café is a welcome newcomer to the Tucson restaurant universe.
Applewood Smoked Bacon,
Avocado and Swiss Cheese
2616 N. Campbell Ave., 327-7577
How much detail do you need to convince you that this Blue Willow omelet is perfection? It has the three basic ingredients for a happy stomach: bacon, avocado and a lot of Swiss cheese. That trifecta is wrapped with fluffy eggs and topped off with slices of avocado and bacon on top.
Cinnamon Swirl French Toast
Tohono Chul Park's Garden Bistro
7366 N. Paseo Del Norte, 742-6455
Cinnamon. There is never enough cinnamon in French toast. It's obvious Tohono Chul's Garden Bistro knows that and decided to create this dish. Three slices of thick bread with cinnamon paste swirled into it, cooked in egg batter with more cinnamon. Oh, and you can pair the toasts with pecan smoked bacon. You may not even need maple syrup with this one.
Green Corn Waffle
14 W. Grant Road, 623-7976
Mother Hubbard's is waffle heaven and especially great if you're gluten free. With options ranging from classic and sweet to regional and savory, there's not a wrong way to go, but the fluffy green corn waffle topped with green chile and cheese is a definite standout. Just make sure you get a side of the thick-cut in-house smoke mesquite bacon too.
The Little One
151 N. Stone Ave.
Never mind the recent name change from Little Café Poca Cosa to The Little One: They food is still just as great, the music is still loud and you still get a hug before you're out the door. Try the breakfast combo: A green corn tamal, a chile relleno and a couple of eggs—anyway you like them—along with beans, rice and fresh fruit. Start your day with this and you will be invincible.
Cast Iron Baked Eggs
311 E. Congress St., 798-1618
It's no secret that this Hotel Congress dish is a crowd favorite. Presented in a real (hot) cast iron pan, two runny eggs are left to mingle flavors, simmering in ham, leeks and gruyere cheese with cream and herbes fines. Decadent? Maybe, but we won't tell if you don't.
Duck Confit Hash
Prep & Pastry
3703 N. Campbell Ave., 326-7737
If the prospect of booze-soaked cherries whipped in with a goat cheese mousse atop tender duck confit, over medium eggs and potato slices doesn't wake you up and get you moving, it's likely that nothing will. Paired with a Madras Mimosa with orange and guava juices, this truly is a brunch of champions.
Baked French Toast
La Encantada 2995 E. Skyline Drive, 299-1600
North Italia is known primarily for lunch and dinner, but they also have a great menu for brunch, including one of the best French toast dishes in Tucson. This is not your ordinary French toast dipped in an egg batter and finished on a grill. North's chefs put special effort into their French toast, baking it and then finishing it with a vanilla syrup and fresh fruit.
La Mesa Tortilla
3684 W Orange Grove Rd., 297-2640
As the company motto states: every good burrito starts with a good tortilla. La Mesa Tortilla's west location starts by focusing on great tortillas and finishes its breakfast burritos with a great balance of eggs, potatoes and any meat of choice for the day. Breakfast burritos are served between 9 a.m. and 11 a.m.
8270 S. Houghton Road, Ste. 140, 574-2294
With two locations in Tucson, Rancho Rustico filled a void for good, family dining in Rita Ranch. One of the best breakfast dishes is the chilaquiles platter. For chilaquiles to work, the corn tortilla strips need to be softened by the sauce—but not too much. The dish works best with over-medium eggs.
Pear, Apple, Brie and Honey Crepe
Café Marcel Creperie and Espresso Bar
2281 N. Oracle Road, 623-3700
There is a lot of melted Brie in this crepe, which is a good sign. The flavor of that Brie blends in with the honey and then you get crunchy bites of fresh pear and apple. It's OK to stare while they make it too because it is topped with whipped crème and more fresh fruit.
402 E. 9th St., 222-9889
Turns out The Coronet, at Fourth Avenue and Ninth Street, is a brunch sanctuary that understands this simple morning meal is best, well, simple. This dish proves it so—baked egg with a spicy middleeastern tomato sauce, chickpeas, feta and cucumber salad.
Cheddar Biscuit Sandwich
Maynard's Market and Kitchen
400 N. Toole Ave., 545-0577
Four words: homemade cheddar onion biscuit. After all, if the biscuit isn't homemade, it isn't worth your time so skip the wannabes and go to Maynard's where you can top it with scrambled egg, white cheddar cheese, Applewood bacon and peppered gravy.
828 E. Speedway Blvd., 520-777-8134
For some reason this place has made folks realize you can put a poached egg on a taco and life only get’s better. It started with this particular one though – steak with grilled onions chopped up and topped with a poached eggs—yellow yokey goodness. Don’t forget Chef Maria’s salsas and you’re set.
943 E. University Blvd., 792-6684
What makes this one of the top sandwiches in town is the apple butter, though the tender turkey pastrami, peppery arugula, cucumber and brie round the whole package out into a thing of beauty … but so do those herb fries, am I right?
Scones and Jam
425 N. 4th Ave., 624-4411
You can get an eggs breakfast entrée at this Fourth Avenue café with one of its trademark sweet or savory scones, but on their own they always seem to do the trick. Pair that with butter and if the café has any of its homemade freezer jams, and, well, you have a breakfast that makes the drive, “Potholes? What potholes?”
Keep clicking to see our non-brunch listings.
80 More Essential Eats
Plato Poca Cosa
Café Poca Cosa
110 E. Pennington St., 622-6400
Café Poca Cosa is a Tucson institution for serving some of the best Mexican food in town and the one dish you have to get is the Plato Poca Cosa. The Plato is basically you telling the chef to give you three entrees from the current menu. It doesn’t matter if it’s pork, chicken, beef or fish–whatever is on the Plato is always a delight—especially the tamale pie.
Reilly Craft Pizza
101 E. Pennington St., 882-5550
If you put guanciale and pecorino on anything, it’s probably going to be great. However, at $7, Reilly’s risotto is a steal because the perfectly cooked rice and bits of turnip add the perfect crunch along with all of that cheesy, porky, delicious flavor. It pairs nicely with one of the bar’s imaginative cocktails.
Ricuras de Venezuela
Various Locations, Food Truck
Head to Hotel Congress on weekend nights for a taste of Venezuela unlike anything you can find elsewhere in town. While all of the arepas are delicious, with a crunchy and soft masa base, the pork arepa quickly became a favorite because the pork is perfectly tender and full of flavor.
375 S. Stone Ave., 884-5253
Maybe you go to Casa Vicente for something on the regular menu. Well, bully for you. Others, however, who want to shake away a sense of order, but clutch a glass of wine and pretend the world of time is ruled by Spain, well they go to this place to eat tapas—those yummy dishes served on little plates—stuff mushrooms, lamb chops, olives, patatas bravas and more.
Flourless Chocolate Cake
272 E. Congress St., 838-0818
Pizzeria Bianco is obviously well known for the pizza, but if you’re skipping dessert at the new Tucson location of the iconic pizzeria, you’re really missing out. Crafted from Chris Bianco’s mother’s recipes, desserts like the decadent, dense flourless dark chocolate cake balance bitter and sweet well. Topped with a light vanilla bean crème, the cake is near addicting regardless of if you love chocolate.
300 E. Congress St., 396-3357
Depends on the dish, between $15 and $20 typically
Although Proper smokes and cures a range of delicious meats, the handmade pasta is the star at this downtown spot. Perfectly al dente every time, the pasta is as texturally pleasing as it is tasty, which is especially evident in the tortellini and cavatelli. Expertly paired with a range of sauces, if you want stellar pasta, Proper is your place.
Stuffed Bell Pepper
47 N. Scott Ave., 624-4747
47 Scott’s stuffed bell pepper makes me think of a more elaborated, lighter version of a Guatemalan chile relleno—minus the frying it in egg part. The stuffing is delightful: jalapeños, quinoa, black beans, walnuts, all season with cilantro, garlic and cayenne pepper. So much flavor and pretty healthy for you too, which is a nice alternative to that devilish grilled cheese of theirs.
AK Winter Cassoulet
100 S. Avenida del Convento Ste. # 150,
If any dish is particularly guilt inducing on this list, it’s likely chef Ryan Clark’s decadent combination of Dragoon IPA duck and pork sausage, heirloom white runner beans, fig and greens simmered in a robust pork stock and foie gras butter—yes, foie gras butter. The dish’s richness will have you speedily scooping out spoonfuls until you reach the bottom of the silver serving bowl and you have to convince yourself not to lick the dish clean. It’s a nice restaurant, after all.
Anita Street Market
849 N. Anita Ave., 882-5280
Anita Street is obviously known for their fantastic tortillas, but once you fill those handmade flour beauties with juicy, seasoned, slow-cooked goat meat, you have an irresistible burrito experience. Paired with the delightfully spicy house salsa, it’s simple and satisfying.
Old Pueblo Cheese Steak
1015 W. Prince Road, 1-520-888-1701
If you’re not immediately hungry walking into Sausage Shop, chances are your nose isn’t functioning properly because the smell of smoked meats and barbecue permeates everything once you step in the door. For lunch, grab a pint of spicy hot pickles and an old pueblo cheese steak with smoky brisket, pepper jack cheese and peppers on your choice of roll.
2200 E. Elm St., 325-1541
There’s plenty to recommend on the Arizona Inn’s menu, but one classic is the chicken salad atop petite greens, sprinkled with toasted almonds, sweetened with sun-dried cherries, cranberries and apples, cantaloupe, honeydew, pineapple and berries and dressed with papaya vinaigrette.
Baggins Gourmet Sandwiches
It’s a Thanksgiving dinner on a sub roll: Turkey, herb stuffing, cranberries and lettuce with a healthy dollop of mayo. The Pilgrims never had it this good, but you sure can when you stop into one of eight Baggins around the Old Pueblo.
Banvinos Hot Dogs
There’s no more welcome sight in a booze-addled mind than the Banvinos stand, which sits off of Congress St., near Arizona Ave. on weekend nights. Piping hot bacon-wrapped dogs in a soft bolillo bun topped with tomato, mustard, mayo, onion, ketchup, beans, jalapeno sauce and avocado sauce and cooked to order. What more could you want?
Freshly Baked Bread
421 W. Ina Road, 461-1111
3026 N. Campbell Ave., 322-9965
6260 E. Speedway Blvd., 747-7477
So many loaves! While the green chile and provolone is great for grilled cheese and the cranberry pecan is ideal for those post-Thanksgiving turkey-and-stuffing sandwiches, you really can’t go wrong no matter which you choose. Your challenge is to see if you can get out of there without picking up a pastry, too.
Pollo El Charro Burro
311 N. Court Ave., 622-1922
7725 N. Oracle Road, 229-1922
6910 E. Sunrise Road, 514-1922
El Charro’s legendary carne seca was essential for the Tucson Weekly last year, so this year you should check out the Pollo El Charro Burro, with chicken, green chile, potato, onion and crema. Be warned, though, it doesn’t taste quite right until you slather it with El Charro’s fine red salsa.
Pad Khing Sod
5039 E. Fifth St., 795-1715
If you love Thai food but you’re looking to keep it fresh, the pad khing sod is a bright and masterful balance of flavor that will keep you coming back to Char’s. With your choice of protein, spicy, light ginger mixes with mushrooms for a well-rounded, fresh sauce that will likely be completely soaked up with rice when all is said and done.
El Minuto Café
354 S. Main Ave., 882-4145
You can add green chiles or guacamole, ground beef or care seca or chorizo, or, you can also just leave it alone—an extra large flour tortilla topped with cheddar cheese and cooked to crispy perfection.
2201 E. River Road, 299-6092
So there’s a reason the prime rib at El Corral is called legendary, although we’d argue that this restaurant itself is legendary to those who know and love Tucson. But yes, eat the prime rib, that way you’ll understand.
943 E. University Blvd., Suite 115, 305-4493
These people have been showing us that macaroni and cheese is more than just a box you buy in the grocery store. Basically, if that’s all you’ve had, your mother has been lying to you. Go for the gusto and have the macaroni with lobster and swiss. Repeat often.
Roma’s Signature Hot Sandwich
627 S. Vine Ave., 792-3173
There’s something beautiful about this slow cooked pork sandwich—something Italian that only our friends from “The Soprano’s” would understand. Sit and eat, and then we recommend you buy sausages on the way out.
The fact that Tucson has a food truck that serves out delicious Indian food should all make us feel damn lucky Baja Arizona is the safe zone for sanity in this state. Their samosas, however, beautiful crispy outside love, and inside—potatoes, a little meat and more spices, with hopefully some steam rising out from its middle.
Mission Street Tacos
311 E. Congress St., 622-8848
Although Cup Café might get all of the culinary cred at Hotel Congress, you should know the menu of cheap bar bites at the club and taproom is just as good. Take, for example, the pork belly tacos. Crispy seared pork belly, dangerously spicy pickled jalapenos and a cilantro aioli sit nestled in a warm, tender flatbread. Two for $6 is a pretty good deal, too.
312 E. Congress St., 882-2007
The star of Diablo Burger’s operation is the meat, which is locally sourced from Northern Arizona ranches. But once you slap homemade hatch chile mayo, roasted green chiles and sharp cheddar on top and slide it in the middle of an English muffin, you’re talking burger bliss.
The Dish Bistro Bar
(Rest In Peace)
The Dish has closed, but the steamed mussels were some of the best in Tucson with saffron broth, diced tomatoes, garlic and fresh oregano – this dish pairs nicely with a glass of wine and plenty of bread for dipping.
Don Pedro’s Peruvian Bistro
3386 S. 6th Ave., 209-1740
Think of this as the Latin American version of French fries. Don Pedro’s serves the yucca frita with a side of huancaina sauce—a cold sauce made with queso fresco, aji amarillo (Peruvian yellow pepper), evaporated milk and vegetable oil. Go get your Peruvian fix.
Sense of Place Menu
Downtown Kitchen + Cocktails
135 S. Sixth Ave., 623-7700
Janos Wilder’s Sense of Place menu changes with the seasons—after all, he was a farm-to-table locavore long before it was cool. The latest work of Sonoran-inspired wizardry is short ribs braised in pasilla chile and Dragoon Porter with a chile colorado sauce, vegetable chilequiles and escabeche. Get it while you can—with spring in the air, Janos is surely dreaming up the next creation already.
Dry River Pizza
800 N. Kolb Road, 298-5555
Dry River Pizza on Kolb Road does a good job at keeping the Margherita pizza simple and tasty—just like how the classic Neapolitan pie should be. You can expect a simple tomato sauce, mozzarella and fresh basil, and, really, why would you want any more than that?
Green Chile Pork Nachos
10000 N. Oracle Road, 544-1705
In the small plate and bar menu, Epazote Kitchen’s green chile pork nachos provide a new take on the traditional snack dish. Piled high with pork and soaked in green chili, the smothered chips are then topped with Oaxaca cheese, black beans and guacamole.
La Estrella Bakery
100 S. Avenida del Convento Ste. # 100, 393-3320
Everyone has their favorite empanada place, but if you’re looking for pillowy dough filled with unique flavors, it’s time to head to La Estrella. Mango, pineapple, apple, cherry and more are available, but the best at this bakery is the pumpkin. You might be thinking, “I am so over pumpkin flavored foods,” which is fair, but give this delicately spiced treat a try.
Feast Grilled Cheese
3719 E. Speedway Blvd., 326-6500
As spectacular as it always is, you don’t want to get too attached to anything on Doug Levy’s Feast menu because he changes it around so much that you might be out of luck the next time you walk in. But one constant is that grilled cheese sandwich with honey-roasted eggplant, tomato and red onion on a French roll. That’s some pretty high-class comfort food right there.
Indian Frybread Manna from Heaven
1118 W. St. Mary’s Road, 344-7725
Fluffy, and chewy on the inside, crunchy and crisp on the outside, Manna from Heaven’s frybread is definitely the star of the show. While the spot offers a range of sweet and savory toppings or even just plain frybread, the Navajo taco with beans, cheese, lettuce and tomato is sure to satisfy.
Squid and Pork Bulgogi
2900 E. Broadway Blvd. Ste. # 186, 305-4900
You can find authentic Korean food in Tucson and you can find it at Kimchi Time. The husband and wife team who runs the joint are very secretive about a few things—especially their coveted banchan recipes. However, they’ll freely share dish reccomendations and one you can’t pass up is the squid and pork bulgogi. Tender squid and fatty pork play together nicely in a bright red, lightly sweet and spicy sauce.
Grilled Sea Bass
2564 E. Grant Road, 323-7739
Finding good seafood in Tucson can be a lot like fishing. Luckily, Kingfisher is one of those places where the catch is always good. For a fresh experience, go for the grilled sea bass, served with ginger gastrique, wild mushroom salad, Forbidden rice pilaf, glazed baby bok choy.
201 N. Court Ave., 622-0351
Spend your Thursday nights at La Cocina for live music and the taco du jour served up by Kyle Araishi. The unique taco options focus on fusion, which can mean anything from herby chimichurri to Korean kimchi tacos.
Bun Cha Ha Noi
1072 N. Campbell Ave., 320-9511
It’s hard to tear yourself away from always ordering pho tai at Miss Saigon, but branch out and get the bun cha ha noi. Perfect for summer, the salad-like assemble yourself plate of rice vermicelli, lettuce, cilantro and crispy, crunchy pork bits in a fish sauce has all of those flavors you want but without the steamy hot broth.
Any of the Steaks
Mountain Oyster Club
6400 E. El Dorado Plaza, 623-3417
Top Secret Price
OK, this one is kind of a cheat: It’s a private club, so you’re only sinking your teeth into this beef if you’re a member or you’ve managed to cozy up to one. But that makes the ribeye and tenderloin all the juicier once you’ve gotten inside this historic cattlemen’s club.
7131 E. Broadway, 296-6465
Oink may have just opened a few months ago, but those bacon flights have already caused quite a buzz. Complete witheight slices of bacon: applewood smoked, honey cured, sugar cured, apple cider, pepper, hickory, jalapeño, and the chef’s choice, if eating this is wrong, we don’t want to be right.
Big Boy Burger
820 E. University Blvd., 882-8013
One of the Old Pueblo’s most devilishly over-the-top burgers can be found at Pasco Kitchen. Using grassfed beef and country bread toast as the base, braised pork belly, a fried egg, hollandaise, Oaxaca cheese, greens, tomato and onion all take this behemoth to the next level. You might want to consider sharing this big, bad boy.
50 E. Broadway Blvd., 203-7681
If you’re shy about eating an the meat from an animal’s head, it’s time to give the offal another shot because Penca’s tender cabeza meat makes for one crave-worthy taco experience. With a corn tortilla on the bottom and cilantro, onion, radish and salsa verde over top, you’ll definitely be ordering more than one of these.
2226 N. Stone Ave., 670-1705
What once was Pho Thu is now Pho #1. Like the kitschy dragon-laden décor, the food hasn’t changed much with the name change, which is actually a good thing. Get the pho tai and experience your first broth high. It’s a real thing, trust us. If you’re a vegetarian, this spot is one of the few in town with a legit veggie pho broth, too.
754 E. Grant Road, 623-8182
As they say at the Sausage Deli: “Embarrassing to order, easy to eat.” Turkey, harvati, lettuce, tomato, and sprouts between two slices of whole-wheat bread slathered with mayo. Thank goodness this landmark sandwich shop was able to find a new home when the wrecking ball came for its old one—Tucson wouldn’t be the same without the Sausage Deli.
Seared Rare Ahi Tuna
1785 E. River Road, 299-4275
As one of the top steakhouses in the city, Sullivan’s is also adept with lighter lunch fare. Consider the seared ahi tuna served up rate in the middle. For this dish to work, you’ve got to start with only the best fish and let the ingredients speak for themselves.
614 N. Grande Ave., 622-0685
$2 for a cup
A lot can happen in cooking when it isn’t reliant on meat to carry the dish. Tania’s 33 in Barrio Hollywood gets this right with the spicing in their vegan fideo caldo. The comforting vermicelli-based soup might skip the meat but it doesn’t skip on flavor.
Gnocchi with Pesto
5541 N. Swan Road, 577-6992
When it comes to Trattoria Pina the restaurant really is a family affair. The owner’s 83-year-old father, Cosmo Ali, makes the gnocchi fresh by hand, while the kitchen pairs it with your choice of sauce: a creamy herby pesto, a classic marinara or a spicy arrabiata. We’re partial to the impossibly smooth and tender potato dumplings combined with a traditional herbaceous pesto with a comforting cream sauce.
Tucson Racquet and Fitness Club
4001 N. Country Club Road, 795-6960
What a way to put those calories right back on after a workout: Turkey, mozzarella, avocado, raw onions, sun-dried tomatoes grilled between slices of whole wheat from Beyond Bread. It’s worth an extra half-hour on the stairmaster.
New Delhi Tamales
Tucson Tamale Company, three locations
2545 E. Broadway Blvd., 305-4760
A corn meal mash-up of Indian flavor and the humble tamal? Yes, please. Inside these husks you’ll find tamales spiced with curry and packed with potatoes, carrots, green beans, corn peas and onion. Curry up and get us a six-pack of these samosa-like bad boys!
Banh Mi Dat Biet
Various Locations, Food Truck, 270-7779
You can almost always find the Vina Baguette truck outside of the convenience store at 1540 E. Broadway Blvd. and when it’s there, you absolutely have to get the banh mi dat biet. Filled with bright red Vietnamese BBQ pork, ham, pate, carrot, jalapeno, cilantro and daikon, the eight-inch buttered crispy baguette is at least two meals.
Seared Ahi Sunomono Salad
7037 N. Oracle Road, 219-4230
Wildflower always has a great selection of salads, including the ahi salad, which is refreshing in the spring and necessary in the summer heat. The lightly-seared ahi tuna, sunomono, fresh avocado and cilantro-ginger vinaigrette blend together for a feel good meal.
857 E. Grant Road, 624-3377
Whoever said the Old Pueblo doesn’t have good ramen hasn’t been to Yamato. The savory, unctuous pork broth has a beautifully smooth texture, adding subtle flavor to the long noodles. A bit of nori, a boiled egg, tender char siu pork and a narutomaki fish cake complete this authentic bowl.
Zivaz Mexican Bistro
4590 E. Broadway Blvd., 325-1234
Zivaz is a Tucson treasure and the low-cost, but flavorful, chicken chipotle is proof. The key to this dish is the sauce, which is a cheesy, mushroom cream over grilled chicken breast strips with mushrooms, red bell peppers and, of course, another layer of cheese.
921 W. Congress St., 623-3020
Eat your fruits, kids. The Sonoran Delight’s Macedonia raspado (snow cone) has you covered. Here’s a breakdown of what your mouth will encounter: vanilla ice cream with pineapple, peach, mango and strawberry, topped with more ice cream, pecans and condensed milk. It’ll get your hands and face a bit sticky, but it’s worth it.
2731 E. Broadway Blvd., 323-9928
Yedoro Alicha is definitely in the running for most tender chicken in town. It’s shredded and cooked with garlic, ginger root, onions and other Ethiopian spices that give it a distant sweetness. Chances are you’ll find yourself soaking up all of those juices with the soft injera (a sourdough-like, spongey flatbread).
Chicken Shawarma Plate
1800 E. Fort Lowell Road, # 160, 319-5554
This plate contains the best of the Mediterranean world. The chicken is marinated in olive oil, garlic, lemon juice, onions and spices from the region, and then perfectly grilled with just a little char. That’s not all, though. The plate also comes with rice (with more garlic), hummus, tabbouleh, warm pita bread and a big dollop of garlic paste.
Prosciutto and Parmesan Pasta
Ghini’s French Caffe
1803 E. Prince Road, 326-9095
Let’s get a little fancy. At Ghini’s the chef gets to choose the pasta and you choose the ingredients. Some of the best add-ins include salty prosciutto, champignons, cream and parmesan. While the spot is known primarily for breakfast and the bakery, dinner at Ghini’s is great too.
Kalina Russian Cuisine and Tea House
8963 E. Tanque Verde Road, #201, 360-4040
It’s 100-percent worth driving to the outskirts of Mount Lemmon for this chicken kiev. Kalina’s grounds the chicken, season it with garlic and herbs (the dill really stands out), and then fries it in bread crumbs and olive oil. It comes with three sides, but you’d be silly to pass up the Georgian marinated red cabbage in particular.
Martin’s Comida Chingona
557 N. 4th Ave., 884-7909
Don’t know what to eat tonight? Bring your favorite beer or wine to Martin’s and pair it with three veggie tacos on flour tortillas. The sauteed and very well-seasoned calabacitas are brightened and lightened with shredded cabbage, carrots, cilantro and queso fresco. All it needs is a squeeze of lime and a dip in Martin’s special hot sauce.
The Melty Burger with Mushrooms
5350 E. Broadway Blvd., Suite 128, 514-9797
$10.75 Weighing in with 2/3-pound of beef and topped with four melted cheeses, this burger isn’t kidding around. Swiss, American, smoked cheddar and smoked mozzarella can only get you so far, though, so be sure to add the mushrooms to take it to the next level.
1702 E. Speedway Blvd., 325-1702
1702’s slices of pizza are so gigantic and that’s a good thing. The Mexicali in particular is loaded up with mildly spicy chorizo, black olives, green peppers and tomato for a beautiful fusion of flavor. Make sure to put a lot of crushed red pepper on top too to add an extra kick.
Tempura Ice Cream
2660 N. Campbell Ave., 320-1574
Although anything tempura-battered is usually a pleasure to eat at this Tucson institution, the tempura vanilla ice cream goes beyond any of its savory accomplices. You might just find yourself getting seconds of this chocolate syrup topped treat.
Tortitas de Espinaca
429 N. 4th Ave., 622-8207
Maya Quetzal is the only Guatemalan restaurant in town, so, it automatically stands out in the crowd. The tortitas de espinaca, or spinach patties, blend the leafy green with tomato, garlic, onions and the walnuts to top it for a very traditional and lightly crunchy dish.
Taco Giro Mexican Grill
4140 W. Ina Road, 344-9607
$3.25 - $3.50
Taco Giro has a few ceviche varieties: one comes served atop a tostada and the other in a bowl. The broth in the soupy version really makes the dish shine, but know that it’s traditional Mexican fare like this that keeps Taco Giro busy.
Sea Salt Caramel Gelato
446 N Campbell Ave, Suite 120, 207-1991
$3.50 - $5.75
Allegro makes each flavor of Gelato individually, using the traditional Italian recipe created by a certified Master Gelatiere who uses fresh, natural ingredients. While seasonal flavors such as the pineapple basil are popular, the sea-salt caramel is a staple you can rely on.
Blanco Tacos + Tequila
2905 E Skyline Drive, #246, 232-1007
This is by far one of the best tacos in town and deserves to have the award-winning label next to it. With roasted pork, roasted corn and tomato slaw topped with pickled onions and crème Fresca, you’ll likely find yourself ordering a few rounds of these.
Lucky Lime Eegee’s
Price Varies Depending on Size
You can’t list essential Tucson food stuffs and leave out the Old Pueblo’s iconic fast food dessert: Eegee’s. Luckily, you can still squeeze a few more bites out of March’s flavor of the month: the tart and tangy, but oh-so-sweet Lucky Lime.
Lamb Smahi Korma
853 E. Grant Road, 624-9393
When the serving dish of lamb korma arrives, the sauce is immediately striking—a brown, creamy spicy love sauce that make lamb happy. In this case, small cubes of deliciously cooked lamb. The result is a Bollywood party in your mouth. Keep a little with rice for the next day’s lunch. It only gets better.
3048 E. Broadway Blvd., 326-4700
The baked scallops at Sushi Garden could possibly be the best in town. Yes, there are other sushi establishments that make the concoction of creamy bakes scallops piled on top of rice. But these, these are mounds of golden scallop goodness. If you sushi with a partner, the right thing is to always share that second piece.
Spinach Tarascan Tacos
622 N. 4th Ave., 792-0523
La Indita on Fourth Avenue is where the Indian roots of our Mexican culinary traditions come together. The tacos, served on thick homemade corn tortillas are a good example—filled with spinach and nuts, subtly taking us to the mother country, and another place and time.
#3 Smoked Galician Sandwich
245 E. Congress St., 623-4477
You can throw an herby chimichurri sauce on anything and it’ll be good in most cases. However, the folks at Sparkroot decided to pair that flavor with sweet pickled onion, fresh spinach and tangy smoked Spanish cheese and slap it between two pieces of bread. After a quick press, the whole thing is melty and satisfying like a classy grilled cheese.
Rocco’s Little Chicago Pizza
2707 E. Broadway Blvd., 321-1860
$11.99 per dozen
Yes, there’s good pizza at Rocco’s, but for some reason what’s really worth mentioning is that these chicken wings will make you think those other wings were holding out on you. Served hot or with homemade BBQ and ranch or blu cheese, it’s all good.
Grill Ribeye with Fries
HUB Restaurant & Creamery
266 E. Congress St., 207-8201
Sometimes it’s simplicity that’s man’s best friend and it seems like HUB has always known this—that a ribeye with fries could be the best way to end a long day. It’s simple and fresh and true.
210 E. Congress St., 882-5140
Cast any misperceptions you have of the Iguana—one of the last vestiges of that old downtown we all like to wax nostalgic on from time to time. The regulars there really are friendly, and the cheese enchiladas, just the right amount of sauce and cheese, are the best in town.
Michelangelo Ristorante Italian0
420 W. Magee Road, 297-5775
There’s a real down-home feel to this restaurant that most of us love with the owners attentiveness always part of every meal. Maybe that’s why these breaded morsels of goodness smothered (not suffocated) in mozzarella and marinara with its best friend fettuccine alfredo make this place an Italian favorite in Tucson.
El Mi Nidito
1813 S. 4th Ave., 622-5081
On Feb. 25, 1999, Bill Clinton was in Tucson, and some amazing thinker took him to El Mi Nidito where Clinton, before he was vegan and in shape, decided he had to try a little bit of everything. That how this plate was invented, giving us all a chance to try a little bit of everything this great restaurant does best.
Strawberries, Banana and Nutella Crepe
Planet of the crepes
Food Truck, 271-6083
This creperie has always been a Tucson Weekly favorite. The savory menu is overwhelmingly good, but sometimes the only thing that can heal the big cruel world blues is something sweet with Nutella. Honest.
758 S. Stone Ave., 370-7000
$9 to $45
Café Desta’s food always tastes fresh and the staff is friendly. The combinations served on top of the Ethiopian injera bread—which can be vegan or include lamb and beef—make you love eating with your fingers and love this Five Points tradition.
The Caruso Special
434 N. 4th Ave., 624-5765
OK, so you’ll have a better feel for this recommendation if you eat outside in the back patio. At Caruso’s it’s the only place to eat—you can have spaghetti, meatballs or meat or cheese ravioli with meat sauce, marinara sauce or—our personal fave: white garlic-mushroom sauce. Mangia.
Tandoori Seared Lamb Chops
7607 N. Oracle Road, 742-9100
Lamb chops, cooked to moist delish perfection, are always good. However, at Saffron when marinated overnight and cooked with herbs in a tandoori oven, well, yeah, you are salivating.
Green Chile Pork Stew
Poco & Mom’s
7000 E. Tanque Verde Road, 296-9759
1060 S. Kolb Road, 325-7044
This stew and the restaurant it comes from shows us that we should be more welcoming to New Mexicans in our little city. There are tender chunks of pork, simmered with potatoes, onions and tomatoes topped with cheese.
137 E. Congress St., 882-7499
$18 for an 18 inch
There’s lots of downtown goodness at Empire, but we love this pie the most. Don’t dare call it a “meat lover’s” pizza when you go in. Show some respect. Call it by name or call it Mr. Pizza.
6453 N. Oracle Road, 797-1233
How lucky are we all to have a place in Tucson where you can get a good bowl of gumbo. Made with chicken and andouille sausage and served with a side of hush puppies, the dish is Creole cooking at it’s best. We don’t live in NOLA, but at Parish, we can dream we do.