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
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.