In the summertime, Tucson is for the locals. The snowbirds have flown the nest and the Wildcats have left for the rent-free luxuries of their parents' houses. Tucson is left full of scorching days and the hardy inhabitants that endure them. Those locals, however, still have to eat.
As temperatures rise and traffic falls, many local businesses are offering summer specials to keep their tables full during these quiet and sunny months.
Downtown Kitchen + Cocktails (135 S. Sixth Ave.) Chef Janos Wilder of Downtown Kitchen + Cocktails is bringing back his summertime tradition of celebrating Tucson's designation as a City of Gastronomy. Every summer, Janos and his team pick from Tucson's sister Cities of Gastronomy and prepare menus from around the world fit to transport Tucsonans to a summer vacation minus the airfare. This year Tsuruoka, Japan; Panama City; and Burgos, Spain are on the itinerary. Up first, the Tsuruoka menu includes specialty hot and cold ramen dishes, hibiscus-cured hamachi crudo with prickly pear ponzu and candied jalapenos, black sesame ice cream and more. Take your tastebuds on a trip without ever leaving Tucson this summer at this swanky downtown spot. The restaurant will also continue to offer their regular menu alongside the summer specials.
Kingfisher (2564 E. Grant Road). The skilled chefs at Kingfisher are sticking closer to home with a good old-fashioned American road trip. Throughout the summer they will be passing through the South, the Pacific Northwest, Hawaii and more. Like any real roadtrip, they are kicking the whole thing off right here in Tucson. From May 24 to June 5, the Southwest Tour menu will be your pit stop with delicacies such as Chorizo Relleño, seafood paella and an apple green chile tart. Now in its 26th year, Tucsonans can return to their favorite road trip of the summer for the ultimate staycation.
Sullivan's Steakhouse (1785 E. River Road). To celebrate the summer, Sullivan's Steakhouse is opening for lunch with a new menu nationwide. From 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily, guests can choose from revamped business menus and lunch entrees. The restaurant also introduced a weekend brunch menu complete with lump crab benedict, filet mignon benedict, Challah hazelnut French toast and more.
Pastiche (3025 N. Campbell Ave.) Midtown favorite Pastiche is enticing Tucson's summer dwellers with refreshments to keep you happily hydrated. During weekdays, the restaurant is offering extended happy hour, and every Thursday this summer all tequila cocktails are half price! Tequila Thursday does have a nice ring to it. Each week, the restaurant will also offer a dinner special rotating through their entire menu. The restaurant plans to also discount whiskey drinks and bottles of wine throughout the summer, so make sure to check in periodically to make the most of the specials.
Tohono Chul (7366 N. Paseo Del Norte). Everyone loves the Tucson Botanical Gardens (rightly so!) but have you ever ventured north to Tohono Chul Park? Spend some time this summer amongst the plants and butterflies and visit the garden bistro. Bottomless prickly pear margaritas and mimosas are delicious year round but taste especially refreshing once the temperatures ramp up.
Little Anthony's Diner (7010 E Broadway Blvd). This classic diner has a special for those truly scorching summer days where any food not frozen sounds too hot. If the temperature reaches 106 degrees, all customers get a free Jr. Sundae all summer long! So, if the heat makes you want to scream, remember to scream for ice cream!
Barrio Brewing (800 E. 16th St.) Barrio Blonde is somewhat of a classic in these parts, a light refreshing beer from one of the oldest breweries in Tucson. But as the weather heats up, the brewery has put a spin on their classic beer and taken it to the beach. Barrio's Beach Blonde is on tap now and served with a wedge of lime. Fruity but not sour, this beer will have you trading the sands of the desert for the beach.
Not only are there plenty of specials to take advantage of at restaurants over the summer, Tucson summers also host many food-centric events to keep you busy. Celebrate the specialties that make our desert town a City of Gastronomy and Mexican food hotspot while the weather climbs the Scoville scale.
SAACA's The Tucson 23 Mexican Food Festival. Tucson is known for many things, but one of the best is its Mexican food. The Southern Arizona Arts and Cultural Alliance is celebrating the miles upon glorious miles of delicious food we have here in our borderland town with their fourth annual festival. Sample local food and drink while enjoying live music and interactive arts experiences. 6 p.m. June 15. JW Marriott Tucson Starr Pass. 3800 W. Starr Pass Blvd.
Taste the 23. Didn't have the chance to make it to the festival? Or maybe you did and you loved the food so much you want to eat at all those local restaurants? Either way, Taste the 23 is a real treat. For the week following the festival, local restaurants are participating with their own specials and deals. In 2018, 18 restaurants participated with deals like two for one entrees, discounted desserts and on-sale specials to delight every Mexican food fan. June 16 to 22.
Tucson Originals 2019 Pizza Throwdown. June 15 must be the best day for foodie events. If Mexican food isn't your thing, head on over to Fresco Pizzeria for the fifth annual Pizza Throwdown where local pizza chefs go head to head for the title of best pizza in Tucson. This year's cheesy deliciousness will be cooked up by ten local restaurants including favorites like Fiamme Pizza Napoletana, Empire Pizza, Dominick's Real Italian and newcomer Trident Pizza Pub. Barrio, Crooked Tooth and Dillinger will also be on tap to pour accompanying beverages. 6 to 8 p.m. June 15. 3011 E Speedway Blvd.
Iron Chef Tucson. The top chefs from the region are poised to battle it out once again for the title of Iron Chef. Will anyone be able to topple Chef Brian Smith of Maynards from his throne? While the competition takes place from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. food enthusiasts can fill their day with culinary delight at the Culinary Experience taking place noon to 5 p.m. on June 29. Casino Del Sol, 5655 W Valencia Road.
SAACA World Margarita Championship. So it's August, you have made it through months of heat at this point, and it is about time for an ice cold margarita. Or five. The World Margarita Championship, put on by SAACA, once again looks to crown the winner of the best signature margarita around. Make sure to cast your vote while sampling a mixture of margs along with local food pairings, yum! 6:30 p.m. Aug 2. Westward Look Wyndham Grand Resort and Spa, 245 E Ina Road.
SAACA Salsa, Tequila & Taco Challenge. One more tasty SAACA event squeaks in before the end of the summer, although the heat is sure to last. The Southern Arizona Salsa, Tequila & Taco Challenge takes over La Encantada Shopping Center for an evening of local delicacies ranging from classic to avant-garde. Live music, plenty of food and voting fill the evening lineup until the winner is crowned in over 15 individual categories. Send the summer off right with this tasty night. 7 p.m. Sept 1. 2905 E Skyline Drive.