100 Essential Dishes

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

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click to enlarge 100 Essential Dishes
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.

click to enlarge 100 Essential Dishes
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.

click to enlarge 100 Essential Dishes
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.

click to enlarge 100 Essential Dishes
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.

click to enlarge 100 Essential Dishes
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.

click to enlarge 100 Essential Dishes
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).

click to enlarge 100 Essential Dishes
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.

click to enlarge 100 Essential Dishes
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.

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