100 Essential Dishes

Put your hunger into high gear with some of Tucson’s top food trucks

Pho dac biet

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Trucks, stands, carts and stalls—Tucson loves its food on the go. Whether that means chowing down at your favorite fusion food truck outside of a local brewery, stopping on the side of the road for a few street tacos or sampling the wares from the folks set up between farmers and vendors at local markets, there's plenty to try outside of the typical brick and mortar domain.

So, hop on your social media of choice and start tracking down some of the Old Pueblo's best eats. Though, be warned, finding some of these may require some truck tracking of your own. Happy hunting!

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Heather Hoch

Hass Taco

Karamelo King


A firey grill and a lit up truck stand in front of a dulceria. Inside you'll find brightly colored, handmade piñatas and sweets during the day, but at night, it's taco time. This truck has a throng of devotees, and for good reason. Everything from the salsa to the tortillas to the freshly grilled meats are on point. With the hass taco, you'll get the juicy carne asada with roasted green chiles and cheese for a spicy, satisfying street taco experience.

Sets up: Nights at 3749 E. Grant Rd.

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JD Fitzgerald
Nhu Lan’s owner Nghia Tran dishes up pho dac biet.

Pho Dac Biet

Nhu Lan


When it comes to pho worship, broth is the key to enlightenment. Because of this, Nhu Lan stands out, not only in the food truck category, but the pho category as well. Rich, flavorful broth lets each of its spices shine—from the star anise to the clove and more. You really can taste each element, resulting in an intense and unique experience. From there, rice noodles, beef, tripe and more make this pho fully irresistible.

Sets up: Typically off either Speedway Blvd. and Main St. or Fourth Ave. between 8th and 9th streets

Puerto Rican Combo Plate

DC Jumbie



When indecision sets in mid-food truck line, DC Jumbie has you covered with their little bit of everything option. Juicy grilled chicken, roasted pork, caramelized plantains and rice with pigeon peas will have you diving in bite after bite.

Sets up: Times and locations vary, check online

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Heather Hoch

Super Chipilon

El Perro Loco


Oh, you love Sonoran dogs? That's cute. Probably because you haven't started getting down on Super Chipilones yet. Essentially the insides are the same, down to the bacon wrapped dog, but the key difference is a garlic powder coated, grilled bun. Once you Chipilon, you never go back.

Sets up: Almost all day and into the night at 3051 Country Club Road

Pernil Arepa

Ricuras de Venezuela



A heap of tender, marinated pork crammed inside of a crispy, crunchy, freshly fried masa pocket done in traditional Venezuelan style—what more do you need to know? Top with the special Ricuras de Venezuela chiltepin salsa and you're good to go.

Sets up: Days at 890 W. Grant Road and weekend nights outside Hotel Congress (311 E. Congress St.)

Spicy Pork Korean Tacos

Bam Bam Truck



Fusion used to be such a dirty word in the food world. It meant something approximating indecision and also, unfortunately, mediocrity. However, times have changed and places like Bam Bam prove that, when done right, fusion can genuinely bind two compatible cuisines together. No place is this more evident than the Korean pork tacos, which meld Korean barbecue with street taco style.

Sets up: Weekend nights outside Rialto Theatre (318 E. Congress St.)

Ramen Burger

Fat Noodle



Mounds of handmade ramen noodles are perfectly happy being slipped into Fat Noodle's broth, but the squiggly little heaps are much better when formed into a bun and lightly griddled. When that happens, it means those fresh noodles are about to become the truck's signature offering: the ramen burger. Between that ramen bun, you'll find a beef patty, lettuce, tomato, hoisin and spicy mayo.

Sets up: Times and locations vary, check online

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Heather Hoch

Elote Cocido

Elotes el Frida


It's pretty simple: roasted corn still on the cob covered in mayo, cotija and chile powder. However, when elote cravings come knocking, you'll likely find yourself driving down South 12th to answer the call at Elotes el Frida.

Sets up: Daily on 12th Avenue, south of Irvington Road

Lavender Vanilla Ice Cream

Isabella's Ice Cream



With a couple restored vintage trucks, Isabella's made an ice cream fleet armed with one-of-a-kind flavors. The lavender vanilla is subtly floral and richly creamy, keeping you intrigued, while making sure you're still getting what you want out of ice cream.

Sets up: Daily inside Rincon Market 2513 E. Sixth St.

Ham and Cheese Crepe

Planet of the Crepes



Planet of the Crepes' stuffed crepe cones come filled with all manner of good things, but the truck struck the perfect balance with one combo: salty ham, gooey cheese, bright tomato and asparagus. All together, they offer a simple, yet classy handheld lunch option.

Sets up: Times and locations vary, check online

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Heather Hoch

Beer Brat

Haus of Brats



German food is the name of the game at Haus of Brats and, here, the beer-braised pork brat is the best of all. However, no brat would be complete without a healthy dollop of mustard. Luckily, HoB has three to choose from (or you can choose to try all three).

Sets up: Times and locations vary, check online


Don Pedro's Peruvian Bistro



There's nothing quite as comforting as a chicken and rice soup, but Don Pedro's version has a twist. In this Peruvian style soup, a herbaceous cilantro-based broth serves as the template, making the soup as bright and fresh as it is homey and delicious.

Sets up: Times and locations vary, check online

El Diablo

You Sly Dog



Oh, the hot link. What a brilliant way to take the classic hot dog to the next level. Over at You Sly Dog, you can get the spicy hot frank topped with red onion, ketchup (yeah, I know), mustard and jalapeno salsa. Just be sure to have something handy to wash all that heat down with.

Sets up: Times and locations vary, check online

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Heather Hoch

Taco Baja Mar

Mariscos Baja Mar


If you have any reservations about eating seafood from a truck, throw them out your car window on the way to Baja Mar. There you'll find a generous portion of marinated shrimp, tender octopus and juicy manta piled high on two corn tortillas. The taco bears the truck's name for a reason—it's next level stuff.

Sets up: Daily near 22nd Street and Wilmot Road

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Heather Hoch

Mac and Cheese Bowl

Guero Loco Bubba-Que



You're going to want to grab a friend to get down on this hearty BBQ masterpiece. Creamy mac and cheese is covered in a layer of shredded cheese and cilantro and then topped with smoky barbecue pork and a side of BBQ sauce for dipping—phew, it's almost exhausting just describing it.

Sets up: Times and locations vary, check online

Vegetarian Slider

Perfect Bite



In a food truck world full of fleshy decadence, it's nice to find a homemade vegetarian slider that competes with the meatier dishes in town. Filled with ricotta cheese and more, the veggie loaf patty will satisfy carnivores and veggie folk alike. Plus, if you want to be really good, you can add a quinoa salad on the side. Just don't forget to top your slider with the housemade spicy duck sauce—it's killer.

Sets up: Times and locations vary, check online

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Heather Hoch

Baby Back Ribs

Mr. Cookman's



You don't know how much you need a little New Orleans barbecue in your life until you sink your teeth into Mr. Cookman's baby back ribs. Smothered in a peppery, yet richly sweet sauce, the meat just falls right off the bone with a bark that would make any pitmaster proud.

Sets up: Times and locations vary, check online

Grilled Caprese




Think of Jozarelli's grilled caprese like a grown up grilled cheese. It's packed full of melty mozzarella, fresh tomatoes and basil and griddled, Panini style, between two pieces of herbed foccacia. It's not quite an adult meal, but it's as close as you should be willing to get.

Sets up: Times and locations vary, check online

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Heather Hoch

Prosciutto and Arugula Pizza

Fiamme Pizza Napoletana



Neopolitan pizza is no longer chained to brick and mortar restaurants. In fact, the folks of Fiamme can take their wood-fired pizza-making altar anywhere they please. While they offer several topping options, reading the words "prosciutto" and "arugula" should be enough to register the word "sold" in your mind.

Sets up: Times and locations vary, check online

Big Bad Wolf

Big Bad Wolf



Chicago has its Italian beef and Philly has its cheesesteaks, but New Jersey has its own thing and that thing is the pork roll. Using Taylor pork roll, which is kind of like if bacon and ham had a baby, Big Bad Wolf sandwiches the traditional sliced meat between an onion roll, accompanied with a fried egg, ketchup and gooey American cheese.

Sets up: Times and locations vary, check online

Taco de Pescado

Taco Fish



There might be no better fish taco in the state of Arizona than the humble $3 fish taco you'll find at Taco Fish on Grant and Sixth avenues. That's mainly due to the fact that the folks who run the fishy fryer are insanely talented at getting each piece perfectly golden brown and crispy with tender, flaky fish in the middle.

Sets up: Daily on Speedway Blvd. just east of Sixth Avenue

Catfish Po'boy

Cool Cajun Café



You know what's really cool? Authentic Cajun eats off of a food truck, so you know now why Cool Cajun Café isn't a misnomer. One bite into their crunchy fried catfish po'boy and you'll swear you're back in the bayou—you know, without any of the humidity.

Sets up: Times and locations vary, check online

Meatball Sub

Meatball Madness



Now, it's important to remain calm amidst all of this Meatball Madness, so calmly wait your turn in line and order up a meatball sub the likes of which you've never experienced before. Try it out Chicago-style with mustard, relish, pepperoncini, tomato and celery salt for an extra $1.

Sets up: Times and locations vary, check online

Churro Ice Cream Sandwich

Just Churros



It doesn't take a rocket scientist or even a churrologist to see why making cinnamon-sugar-topped spirals of fried dough into a bun that then surrounds a scoop of ice cream is a good idea, but the folks at Just Churros really are geniuses for sorting out this one.

Sets up: Times and locations vary, check online

The Burgerrito




Everything you love about a burger can and should be crammed into a tortilla and made into a burrito—at least, that's what the Burgerrito crew thinks. And you know what? They're absolutely right. Get yourself a Burgerrito and get hooked.

Sets up: Times and locations vary, check online

But it's not all about the trucks, of course. Here are 75 more dishes that you have to try at restaurants around the Old Pueblo:

click to enlarge 100 Essential Dishes
Heather Hoch


Birrieria Guadalajara

304 E. 22nd St., 624-8020


Nothing is more satisfying than a big bowl of salty birria on a cold night and Birrieria Guadalajara crew does the classic soup right and cheap. So cheap, in fact, that you'll want to get a champurrado, or hot chocolate thickened with masa, on the side.

Spicy Tonkotsu Ramen


2040 W. Orange Grove Road #180, www.facebook.com/ikkyutucson/


You've waited all week for Thursday, Friday and Saturday, and that's because Ikkyu only serves ramen on those days. The delicate miso and salty shoyu are good choices, certainly, but the best of the best is the spicy, rich tonkotsu (pork) broth. Served with chewy noodles and all the traditional toppings, it's well worth the weekly wait.

Chile en Nogada


50 E. Broadway Blvd., www.pencarestaurante.com


This is a dish that you definitely start eating with your sense of smell. The luscious fragrances of the creamy sherry and walnut sauce bathe the chile poblano and the pork, apple and plantain picadillo that come inside—you may not look up for a while after the plate makes it in front of you.

Water Boiled Fish

China Szechwan

1800 E. Ft. Lowell Road, www.chinaszechwan.weebly.com


There's no reason to go all Shakespeare here, but this dish name really doesn't do its contents justice. China Szechwan's water boiled fish is a healthy serving of buttery fish in an intensely spicy red broth, and not, a bunch of fish in a watery base like the name suggests.

Goat Cheese Mezzaluna

Reilly Craft Pizza and Drink

101 E. Pennington St., www.reillypizza.com


Sure, the centerpiece at Reilly is the Napoleon-style pizzas, but don't overlook this house-made pasta stuffed with herby goat cheese. The nuttiness of the browned butter sauce is a perfect balance to the more delicate flavor of the semi-crunchy summer squash that accompanies the mezzaluna.

Carne con Chile Colorado Chimichanga

Mi Nidito

1813 S. Fourth Ave., www.minidito.net


Arizona may be known for its five C's, but these four C's at Mi Nidito make a great team. Beef that's been cooked in a red chile-based thick sauce, stuffed into a gigantic flour tortilla and then fried until crunchy, very crunchy. Get some sour cream so you can dip the chimi. Oh, and hot sauce, obviously.

Geoff's Special


3843 E Pima St., www.franksrestaurant.com


It's the simplicity of breakfast that makes for happy diners. Geoff's Special is perfect in that way with two eggs, home fries or hash browns and half of a biscuit with gravy. The gravy with its few bits of sausage over those flaky Frank biscuits is surprisingly delicate.

Pork Chop

47 Scott

47 N. Scott Ave., www.47scott.com


Resist the urge to pair your pork chop with applesauce and, instead, opt for 47 Scott's elevated creation. Of course, the meat takes center stage here, but the supporting cast of chewy chive spaetzle, intense mustard seed caviar, herby thyme pan jus and Brussels sprouts done up like sauerkraut make this dish all about the ensemble.

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Heather Hoch

Lamb Kabsa

Babylon Market

3954 E. Speedway Blvd., www.babylonmarkettucson.com


While the roasted lamb shank is clearly the star of Babylon Market's Lamb Kabsa, each element of this dish contributes to elevate it overall. Fragrant saffron rice, slivered almonds, golden raisins and more blend together to support the lamb, and let's face it, without those elements it'd just be a hunk of meat.

The Seoul Sister

5 Points Market & Restaurant

756 S. Stone Ave., www.5pointstucson.com


Get a bit of South Korea in your mouth with this sandwich full of housemade kimchi, cucumbers, jalapeño, carrots, pickled daikon, turnip and Sriracha aioli, and, the most important part, flavorful tri-tip. They're not kidding around with this one. Vegan friends, you can also get it with Portobello and vegan kimchi.

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Heather Hoch



943 E. University Blvd., www.barwilko.com


Have you ever felt like a dish was so decadent that you were actually getting drunk off of its opulence? Well, if you haven't or if you're looking to do that again, Wilko's cassoulet is the way to go. Duck breast, duck confit, lardon, pancetta and prociutto all make this dish perfumey, rich and over the top in all the right ways.

Veggie Pho

Pho #1

2226 N. Stone Ave., 670-1705


If this Stone Avenue Vietnamese joint isn't your favorite pho spot in town, you're kind of bonkers. It's fine, though. You'll snap to your senses once you dive into a bowl of their veggie pho. Filled with firm fried tofu, bok choy, broccoli and more, you'll fill up and forget that you ever needed meat.

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Heather Hoch
Latin It Up is, indeed, home of the Cuban sandwich.

El Cubano

Latin It Up Sanwich Shop

344 N. Fourth Ave., www.facebook.com/laplanchaon4th/


A good Cuban sandwich isn't always the easiest to find and that's why Fourth Avenue's newest addition is a welcome sight. This little Latin eatery serves up a stellar Cubano with pulled pork, pickles, ham, mustard and mayo, pressed between two pieces of plancha-griddled bread.


El Guero Canelo

4519 S 12th Ave. (and more), www.elguerocanelo.com


It's like its quesadilla cousin, but it's not. It's better. Asadero cheese is just the start, but when you add carne asada, it becomes a real treat—especially with that crispy tortilla holding it all together. This place has an amazing salsa bar, and a caramelo like this is going to need some dressing. Try the smokey green chile salsa. Perfect combination.

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Heather Hoch

Whiskey del Bac and Fennel Sausage

Sausage Shop

1015 W Prince Road #141, 888-1701

$4.89 per pound

You didn't realize that whiskey and fennel were best friends until you've had this sausage. You also didn't realize how well locally made scotch-style whiskey and handmade sausage needed each other until now. Take home to grill or add to a sandwich made on the spot—pork unites these ingredients into full flavor that make these sausages a local-sourcing dream.

Stewed Chicken Feet

Gee's Garden

1145 N. Alvernon Way, www.facebook.com/geesgardentucson


You're going to have to keep an open mind on this one, but if you do, you'll find these tender, stewed chicken feet coated in a tangy red sauce will quickly become your favorite dim sum dish. Plus, it's kind of fun to pick the little feet bones out of your mouth with chopsticks.

Lobster, Corn and Scallion Bread Pudding


3719 E. Speedway Blvd., www.eatatfeast.com


Feast's menu changes monthly, but the lobster, corn and scallion filled bread pudding is frequently available—and for good reason. This muffin-shaped appetizer comes apart in parmesan cream soaked bites, featuring modest pieces of lobster and kernels of corn that add a satisfying crunch to the buttery dish. Delicious.

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Heather Hoch

Taco de Costilla de Res

Tacos Apson

3501 S. 12th Ave., 670-1248


It's hard to single out one of too many tasty, street-style tacos prepared at Apson. A piece of chargrilled beef rib with meat that glides off the bone when you bite into it, on top of two corn tortillas has got to do it, though. Squeeze some lime, and enjoy one or six at the counter.

Macadamia Nut Crusted Hawaiian Fish


2564 E. Grant Road, www.kingfishertucson.com


Kingfisher is the spot for fancy seafood in Tucson, and diners hoping for a buttery fish dinner won't be disappointed by the macadamia nut crusted Hawiian fish. The fish itself changes seasonally but the accompanying lemongrass butter sauce, Texmati rice, sautéed spinach and fried sweet potatoes are consistently fitting companions.

Classic Mussels

Agustin Kitchen

100 S. Ave. del Convento #150, www.agustinkitchen.com


Mussels are great and everything, but without a killer broth to dip them into, they're really just not as good. Luckily, Agustin's mussels are well matched with a sauce of garlic, shallot and Pernod—it's simple, fragrant and bowl-lickingly tasty.

Prime Rib

The Silver Saddle Steakhouse

310 E. Benson Highway, www.thesilversaddlesteakhouse.com

Prices Vary ($20.95-$27.95)

There are no bad steaks at the Silver Saddle, but the smoky prime rib truly stands out. The dish is served with au jus and horseradish—it's a simple recipe that lets the custom steel and brick mesquite wood grill do the work. With cuts ranging from 10 to 16 ounces and hearty side dish options, no one is going home hungry.

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Heather Hoch

Pan de Muerto

La Estrella Bakery

5266 S. 12th Ave., www.laestrellabakeryincaz.com

Price varies by size

All Souls is a magical time in Tucson, but one thing that makes it even more highly anticipated is when La Estrella starts baking their colorful, traditional loaves of bread brushed with honey and cinnamon called Pan de Muerto. Really, it wouldn't be right to celebrate without one.

Yebeg Wat


2731 E. Broadway Blvd, www.zemams.com


It's tempting to order a sampler plate and thoroughly experience the menu during every visit to Zemam's. However, the original location doesn't include this spicy lamb dish in the sampler—and you want to try to lamb. The grainy sauce is spicy with a hint of sweetness and the lamb itself as tender as can be. Careful though: They mean it when they say this dish is spicy. It burns in a way that makes you feel alive.

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JD Fitzgerald

Goat Soup

Alafia West African Cuisine

1070 N. Swan Road, www.facebook.com/alafiawestafricancuisine


The country Benin might not be on your geographical radar, but Alafia's goat soup should definitely be on your dining radar. Tender chunks of stewed goat meat are elevated by a rich, yet balanced broth that's a little bit sweet and a little bit savory. Try and act like you've had something like it before.

Veggie Burro

Martin's Comida Chingona

557 N. Fourth Ave., 884-7909


The grounded soy chorizo is so perfectly seasoned with classic Mexican spices like powdered red chile that the essence and texture of pork-based chorizo is there. The tender calabacitas and spinach soak in all that flavor in what's probably one of the healthiest burritos you'll eat. Advice: add some of Martin's original homemade salsa.

Fungus Humongous

Rocco's Little Chicago Pizzeria

2707 E. Broadway, www.roccoslittlechicago.com

Prices Vary ($15-$27)

Not into stinky foods? Too bad! Rocco's Fungus Humongous Grilled is the best of their specialty pizzas, featuring grilled portabella and white mushrooms, onions, garlic and the pizzeria's signature sauce on top. Opt for the deep-dish pie, obviously. It is Rocco's, after all.

Corn Bread Waffle

Mother Hubbard's

14 W. Grant Road, www.motherhubbardscafe.com


Crispy and crunchy on the outside with that unique corn bread texture inside, this waffle, like many at Mother Hubbard's, is one of a kind. What sets it apart truly, though, is the lightly sweet mesquite honey butter on the side. Lay that dainty, Sonoran-inspired butter and syrup on and it's beautiful. If you want to bulk it up, order eggs and house mesquite-smoked bacon with your waffle.

Chorizo Sliders

Dante's Fire

2526 E. Grant Road, www.dantesfireaz.com


Dante's Fire shines in its small plates, thematically categorized into limbo (light) and anger (spicy). These slightly spicy sliders come two to a plate, featuring chorizo patties topped with a sweet onion jam, chipotle mayo, melted gouda and lettuce on a house-made Cajun butter roll. The best bites are towards the middle, when the toppings come together in a tangy-sweet harmony.

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Heather Hoch


Rincon Tarasco a la Michoacana

4505 S. 12th Ave.


Cutting open a bag of Tostitos and filling it with lettuce, tomato, hot sauce, jicama, Chamoy, lime juice and more might seem like no big thing, but this refreshing snack is serious business. Plus, you can pair is with one of Rincon Tarasco's many sweet raspado options.

Hayden Polenta


300 E. Congress St., www.propertucson.com


Brunch is as popular as ever and Proper is one of Tucson's top spots to spend a weekend mid-morning. You're going to need more than a mimosa to get you going, though, and the Arizona grown and milled Hayden Flour Mills polenta serves as the base for mushroom ragout, tomatoes and a poached egg.

Pork Bao

China Pasta House

430 N. Park Ave., www.chinapastahouse.com


Spongey buns, or bao, can be filled with any manner of things at China Pasta House. However, the best bao mix-in is the BBQ pork, which compliments that light sweetness of the bun dough ideally.

Pan-Roasted Duck

Maynards Market & Kitchen

400 N. Toole Ave., www.maynardstucson.com


Maynards gets really adventurous with the sweet and savory on this one. It's an interesting pairing of coffee and pink peppercorn—slightly sweet with a bit of heat—that crusts a juicy duck breast. The white chocolate (yes, white chocolate) and brie farro risotto pair surprisingly well with soft spinach and a red wine jus.

Jeff's Pizza

Renee's Organic Oven

7065 E. Tanque Verde Road, www.reneesorganicoven.com

Prices Vary ($10-$18)

There's a lot to love about Renee's Organic Oven (breakfast calzone, anyone?) but take time to appreciate Jeff's Pizza. Named for the owners' son, this pizza brings feta, black olives and cashews together for a tart and crunchy experience. Bonus: Their gluten free crust is also delicious.

Pot de Creme

The B Line

621 N. Fourth Ave., www.blinerestaurant.com

Various Prices ($5.50, $5.95)

The B Line's menu offers a wide range of food, but something about being there makes it feel like dessert time. Rich but light, the pot de creme is a chocolate custard topped with berries and thick whipped cream. This velvety wonder is great for days when chocolate is more of a necessity than a craving.

Salsa Ranchera


Sold at various retail location, Prices vary

Thank the chile gods for Nicolas Segura who started the Poblano Hot Sauce company in 1924. This sauce is a Tucson home staple, and there's a reason people who leave home take this with them and have it sent to them when they are away. There are six flavors produced now, but the original salsa ranchera remains the best—a little bite and a lot of chile flavor, best splashed on meat, from a good steak to your mom's tacos (eggs are also known to beg for a bit of Poblano love).

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Heather Hoch

Uni Nigiri


857 E. Grant Rd., 624-3377

Market Price

People usually think of sushi as light and delicate, but the uni nigiri proves them dead wrong. While adeptly prepared, as is all the sushi at Yamato, letting an elegant, rich ingredient like uni stand almost completely alone in the raw is bold. You'll definitely feel like you're spoiling yourself with this one.

Croque Madame


1803 E. Prince Road, www.ghiniscafe.com


What is it about a good croque madame? The melted cheese and thinly sliced ham? The yummy béchamel, greyere and parmesan cheese? Ghini's own French bread makes a great home for all this goodness, and with the sunnyside egg on top, you'll be mixing in yolk bite after bite. Bon apetit!

Red Chile Burro

Anita's Street Market

849 N Anita Ave., 882-5280


Red chile is best subtle and rich, with a good flavor bringing out the cubed beef. This is the red chile at Anita Street. On it's own. It's great—a Tucson treat that brings all of the home flavors together. But when served inside an Anita Street Market tortilla, it's transcendent. After all, this place produces what many people in our city consider the best tortillas in town.


Com Tam Thuan Kieu

1990 W. Orange Grove Road, 638-7912


Often times, the best dishes are ones cooked slow and low, layering flavors to elevate low quality ingredients. The humble chao is a rice porridge that is basically the food equivalent of a hug emanating from your own stomach.

Classic Graze Single with Cheese and a Fried Egg

Graze Premium Burgers

2721 E. Speedway Blvd., www.grazepremiumburgers.com


Everyone has their own favorite burger spot, but it should be pretty easy to see why Graze stands out. Using quality ingredients, including Niman Ranch grassfed beef makes this local fast casual joint a star. Plus, In-N-Out doesn't let you put a fried egg on your burger, now do they?

Tacos Chicharron

Sonoran Delights

921 W Congress St., 623-3020


This pork and pork skin taco is cooked in a subtle chile sauce means that at $1.50 per taco, why stop at one. Diners can choose between flour or corn tortillas, and unless you specify otherwise, the taco arrives with all the trimmings beyond finely chopped cabbage—cilantro and onion. There's a great salsa bar to the right of the service window of this Menlo taqueria.

Charred Chicken Kebab

Za'atar Mediterranean Restaurant and Bakery

2825 N. Country Club Road, 323-4074


Sometimes light seasoning (not to be confused with under seasoning) is what makes a dish truly shine. This chicken kebab is juicy and refreshing with a hint of that slightly ashy taste from the char grill it was cooked on right before it made it onto your plate.

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Heather Hoch

Pork Rib Noodle Soup

Brothers Noodles

5605 E. Speedway Blvd., www.brothersnoodlestucson.com


Serious noodle lovers, listen up. Brothers Noodles is here to knock your socks off with handmade Chinese noodles that you'll dream about days after. Pair those with pork ribs and broth and you're good to go.

Lamb Vindaloo


853 E. Grant Road, 624-9393


Cardamom, cinnamon, dry mustard, cumin, peppery turmeric and garlic are some of the sweet and savory flavors that are so distinctive of the Indian cuisine. They perfectly fuse into this thick vindaloo sauce from Sher-E-Punjab. The pieces of lamb are tender, and the perfect companion to this spicy curry.

Green Chile Fry Bread

Manna From Heaven

1118 W. St. Mary's Road, www.facebook.com/indianfrybreadmannafromheaven/


Manna From Heaven specializes in whipping out bubbly, chewy discs of freshly fried frybread most of all, but their green and red chile is nothing to sneer at either. The green chile pairs particularly well with the frybread, adding just enough brightness to keep the combo interesting.


Red's Smokehouse

943 E. University Blvd., 500-9009


Red's Smokehouse has some great sauce options, but you won't need them at all with the moist, tender, smoky brisket. It's everything you want brisket to be, paired with sides that have a bit of Tucson's distinct flavor palette.

click to enlarge 100 Essential Dishes
Heather Hoch

Tepary and Cholla Salad

Downtown Kitchen + Cocktails

135 S. Sixth Ave., www.downtownkitchen.com


No dish on this list is more Sonoran than chef Janos Wilder's salad, which incorporates locally grown, native tepary beans, cholla buds, goat cheese and amaranth shoots, along with a few other components for a cohesive dish that showcases just what this land is capable of.

Pozole Colorado

Tanias 33

614 N. Grande Ave., www.tanias33.com

Price varies depending on size

It's all about the broth and the soft chunks of pork in this one. You can taste the love, herbs and spicy red chiles that went into making this classic Mexican caldo. It has a balanced kick that's just spicy enough to give you a runny nose. The hominy and cabbage bring it to the next level. Be sure to add some lime, too.

Pat's Big Burger with Chili and Cheese

Pat's Drive In

1202 W. Niagara St., 624-0891


Yes, the chili dogs at Pat's get two thumbs up, but they certainly know their burgers, too. The beef patty is flattened on the grill and cooked until juicy. The American cheese melts with the heat, and it will get a little messy with Pat's chili. The bun is toasted until golden brown. Add a little mustard, shredded lettuce and pickles and this burg' is perfect for the munchies.

Margherita Pizza

Pizzeria Bianco

272 E. Congress St., www.pizzeriabianco.com


The people who act like Pizzeria Bianco pizza isn't worth the hype are just wrong, plain and simple. You know what else is plain and simple? Bianco's margherita, which is truly great because of the smartly sourced ingredients that compose it. It's pizza just as it should be and nothing more.

click to enlarge 100 Essential Dishes
Heather Hoch

Avocado Toast

Café Passe

415 N. Fourth Ave., www.cafepasse.com


Toast is having a moment right now and Passe's will show you why. Served with hummus made in-house, slices of buttery-textured avocado, lemon zest and pickled crunchy radishes (also made at Passe), the dish is light, bright and guilt-free. Grab a cold brew, and you're set.

AM Tacos

BOCA Tacos y Tequila

828 E. Speedway Blvd., www.bocatacos.com


The child of two of the best things in the world: street tacos and breakfast food. Two corn tortillas (or flour if that is your thing) with hash browns, a friend egg and a refreshing creamy and spicy basil-cilantro-jalapeño crema. A shot of tequila shouldn't be optional.

Corn Tortillas

La Noria

704 E. Prince Road., 690-6947


It's just three simple ingredients: corn, salt and water, yet somehow, La Noria turns those three things into magic. Chances are, you'll find yourself munching on these thick corn tortillas all on their own.

click to enlarge 100 Essential Dishes
Heather Hoch

Classic Mac

Saguaro Corners

3750 S. Old Spanish Trail, www.saguarocorners.net


Only in Tucson can you enjoy a big bowl of mac and cheese mountainside, so take advantage of your current surroundings and dig into a bowl of creamy mac from Saguaro Corners. Topped with herbed bread crumbs, this dish is just like mom used to make, but maybe a little fancier.


Polish Cottage

4520 E. Broadway Blvd., www.polishcottageaz.com


You don't have to travel far to get authentic pierogis. This Polish version of dumplings has a light dough with a variety of concoctions for stuffing like the creamy and mild-tasting farmers cheese or the tangy sauerktaut and mushroom.

Machaca Tostadas

Poco & Mom's Restaurant

1060 S. Kolb Road, www.pocoandmoms.com


Machaca basically means dried shredded meat (pork and/or beef), but this machaca tostada is anything but dry. The meat is flavorful with a mix of Southwestern and Mexican spices. The corn tortilla is freshly fried to the maximum crunch, and it's topped with lettuce, tomatoes and shredded cheese. It'll take you back to the streets of Sonora.

Whipped Cream Bismarks

Le Cave's

1219 S. Sixth Ave., 624-2561


Le Cave's has quite a few favorites, depending on whom you ask, but the whipped cream bismark is truly a work of donut art. It's whipped filling makes it light, the raised donut is chewy and the chocolate glaze is decadent. Just sit back and enjoy this one.

Beef Bourguignon Cottage Pie

The Coronet

402 E. Ninth St., www.cafecoronet.com


Pieces of soft sirloin steak and a variety of veggies swimming in a mushroom and red wine stock, with a thick layer of garlicky mashed Yukon potatoes on top. Every bite brings tenderness, creaminess and juiciness. The roasted green beans add the perfect crunch.

click to enlarge 100 Essential Dishes
Heather Hoch

Torta de Barbacoa

Taqueria El Pueblito

1800 E. Fort Lowell Road #A156, www.facebook.com/taqueria.elpueblito/


Torta, where to begin? The bun is toasted, buttery in flavor and smeared with mayo and fresh guacamole. The juicy, marinated meat drips through that bun and down onto your fingers. Grab some napkins.


Empire Pizza

137 E. Congress St., www.empirepizzapub.com


The term meat-lovers pizza is cringe-producing, eliciting images of pizza chain establishments that overdo every pie they get their hands on. Empire, however, has some respect for pie lovers. This pie is all about the meat, but doesn't feel cheap and easy. The pepperoni, Canadian bacon, meatball and Italian sausage all work together with a little sauce and cheese to make good pizza and kick those chains.

Shorba with Lamb

Café Desta

758 S. Stone Ave., www.cafedesta.com


Eat your veggies, kids. Especially in the form of shorba—a vegan soup made with blended red lentils, carrots, potatoes, tomatoes, orzo and onions. Spike it up with shredded lamb. It comes with ambasha, an Ethiopian bread made with wheat and spices, including cardamom. Dip the ambasha in the shorba. Do it.

click to enlarge 100 Essential Dishes
Heather Hoch

Banana Pancakes


2938 E Grant Road, www.bobostucson.com


For those mornings when a cup of hot coffee and a sweet breakfast is needed—this place and these are the pancakes. Bobo's has been proving to us for decades that simple is best. Caramelized sugar on the edges, chunks of banana inside and a bit of butter and syrup on top make every bite delight. The texture of these cakes are perfect, taking you back to mom or whoever made you pancakes long, long ago.

Los Olivos Pizza

Los Olivos

937 W. Congress St., www.losolivospizzeria.com


In a sea of Mexican food joints, there's this small pizzeria in the heart of Menlo Park serving its discs of goodness. The self-titled artisan pizza has a generous amount of mozzarella cheese melted over green olives, tomatoes, basil and artichokes. The freshly-made crust will definitely make you happy.

Salmon Cakes

Blue Willow

2616 N. Campbell Ave., 327-7577


The salmon patties crusted in panko—a Japanese-style of breadcrumb—are crunchy, warm and perfectly seasoned. But it's the refreshing cucumber-dill-yogurt and spicy sesame-chile mayo sauces that will win your palate and your stomach.

Smoked Pork Shoulder Pibil

Pasco Kitchen & Lounge

820 E. University Blvd., www.pascokitchen.com


When you hear the words "it's been marinated for 24 hours," you know something good is coming. This pork shoulder smoked with cinnamon, achiote and toasted chiles is an homage to Southern Arizona and our Mexican culinary influences. It comes complete with black beans and organic veggies.

Kimchi Chigae

Kimchi Time

2900 E. Broadway Blvd. #186, 305-4900


Tofu never gets its due in the Western hemisphere. Maybe that's because people don't know how silky, velvety and dreamily smooth it can be. Here, tofu is put in a bright red spicy stew with house pickled, fermented kimchi and pork.

click to enlarge 100 Essential Dishes
Heather Hoch


J's Chicken and Waffles

1628 E. Sixth St., www.jschicken.com


This restaurant might have moved off Park Avenue, but that crispy, crunchy fried chicken coating in all its perfectly spiced glory remains the same. The dark, right thigh meat in this waffle combo wins out. Prepare to start slathering everything in hot sauce and syrup.

Matt's Special

Roma Imports

627 S Vine Ave., www.romaimports.com


Evidently the Ultimate Roma cold sandwich wasn't enough with it's capicola, Genoa salami, mortadella, provolone, gardiniera (get the hot), roasted red peppers, lettuce, tomato and balsamic vinaigrette. They had to add proscuitto and fresh Mozzarella for this special sando. This is Matt's Italian cured meat party and everyone is invited, including you.

click to enlarge 100 Essential Dishes
Heather Hoch

Octopus Salad

Ginza Sushi

5425 N. Kolb Road #115, www.ginzatucson.com


There's no disassociating this meat from its source. Ginza's octopus salad looks like half a dozen tiny octopi on a bed of daikon, cucumber, sprouts and more, and, to be honest, it pretty much is. That doesn't take away from the fact that it's so refreshing you'll likely find yourself craving it all summer long.


Time Market

444 E. University Blvd., www.timemarket.xyz


It's just bread, right? Wrong! From the spongy, airy inside to the crusty heel, this might be the best baguette you can find in all of Arizona and needs little more than a smear of butter to become a vision of French bread making. You know, if you can wait 'til you get home to start ripping pieces off.

Nicoise Salad

Cup Café

311 East Congress St., www.hotelcongress.com


Comfort food in a salad? You bet. The lemon vinaigrette is a clear winner for this salad, but even without dressing, this salad is a great, fresh meal that never gets old: seared rare ahi tuna, field greens, marinated purple potatoes (a great turn with this dish rather than regular potatoes), asparagus, olives, soft-boiled egg and tomatoes. All the best of salading without feeling like a rabbit, and perfect for monsoon nights out on the patio.

Chuletilla de Cordero

Casa Vicente

375 S. Stone Ave., www.casavicente.com


Fork tender and full of flavor, luckily these lamb chops come three per order. Sure, expand your horizons, but this might be the best tapas offering on the menu. Every bite, which falls apart in your mouth, is superb.

Hot Legs Le'Jean

The Parish

6453 N. Oracle Roade, www.theparishtucson.com


Now when you hear that these Southern-style frog legs have a kick, it's not just because they're legs. No, the kicker here is the horseradish and black pepper rub on these froggy delights. Wrapped in bacon and served with a creamy Creole remoulade, you'll be happy you ventured out of the norm with this dish.

Green Chile and Beef Tamales

Taqueria Pico de Gallo

2618 S. 6th Ave., 623-8775


Maybe you never thought of going to Pico de Gallo for tamales, but that's about to change. With a masa with some texture, the roasted green chiles or tender beef with carrots and potatoes sing. Paired with beans and rice and sold as a set, you're sure to fill up on these green corn goodies too.

Fish and Chips

Crispy's Fish-N-Chips

736 E. Fort Lowell Road, 622-5111


You might just think you've been transported to Londontown when your two-piece basket of fish with accompanying chips arrives in front of you. Crispy as the name suggests, but tender and juicy on the inside, this is what this classic combo is all about.

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