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

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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