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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.