Tucson's 100 Essential Dishes

The Tucson Weekly staff tries to determine what menu items are essential to our culinary culture

First, let's get something out of the way: We're sorry. We're sorry we missed your favorite dish in town. The place you recommend to everyone you know? We should have included it. If this is some consolation, we'll take the best of the likely-angry emails and comments we get from this feature and we'll publish them somewhere in the near future. We want you to have you say.

But, we did try. We asked our staff, talked to restaurant owners, chefs and smart people who love food. We put the question out on Facebook and our blog. This is what we came up with. The 100 dishes (and we use that term somewhat loosely) that are most important to what we call food culture here in Tucson. The items you just have to try, the ones we'll miss if we ever move away (although we probably never will). It's a list, created by people with limited memories, so it's inherently flawed, but we think it came out well, from breakfast joint biscuits and gravy to Janos Wilder's favorite fine dining menu item. Have fun reading it, enjoy trying some new food referenced here and we'll try harder next year.

If you'd like to see this list in map form, click here.

The Eegee's Frozen Fruit Slush


Multiple locations

If this wasn't on our list, you should have thrown the paper away.

Pizza Lussuria

Vero Amore

Two locations

All of the pizzas at Vero Amore are amazing—the crust is thin, bubbly and that perfect balance between crunchy and chewy—but the lussuria is my favorite with Genoa salami, red sauce, just the perfect amount of garlic, and that amazing house-made fresh mozzarella. — JK

Hot links

The Original Mr. K's BBQ

6302 S. Park Ave.; 792-9484

Mr. K's is the best BBQ in Tucson, and the hot links are my go-to item (though the sliced beef is a close second). The combination of the spicy sausages with their snappy casings, and the slightly-sweet sauce that has a nice kick to it is unbeatable. — JK

Spicy chili dogs

Pat's Drive-in

1202 W. Niagara St.; 624-0891

There's a reason this place has been around for as long as it has, and it's not because of the hamburgers. In fact, I'm not even sure what all is on the menu besides chili dogs. You have to get the chili dogs with onions and mustard though—or it's just not a proper chili dog. Delicious. — JK

Kobe cheeseburger

Jax Kitchen

7286 N. Oracle Road; 219-1235

Buttery bun. Bacon. Gruyere (often overused but oh-so-tasty). LTO. Get it medium rare.  Anything else is unacceptable. — JK

Any beer


1702 E. Speedway Blvd.; 325-1702

OK, OK, it's not a meal. But it could be (just be responsible and have a friend drive). But seriously, they have, hands-down the best beer selection on tap in town. You could make a meal out of some of the stouts and porters alone. The pizza is pretty delicious, too. — JK

Honey-hot wings

Wings Over Broadway

5004 E. Broadway Blvd.; 323-8805

WOB, as it is affectionately known, is a serious wing contender in Tucson. Their wings are consistently amazing, super crunchy on the outside while still being juicy, tender and meaty on the inside. They hit all the right notes with the honey hot flavor—it's sweet but definitely has a nice spice to it, too. — JK


Maynards' Market & Kitchen

400 N. Toole Ave.; 545-0577

Chef Addam Buzzalini takes the national dish of Canada into the stratosphere with hot crispy pomme frites topped with duck confit, duck gravy, duck cracklins, foie gras and local cheese curds. It's the kind of dish that I wake up dreaming about. — RC

Philly Cheesesteak

Frankie's South Philly Cheesesteaks

2574 N. Campbell Ave.; 795-2665

This is the very definition of the Philly Cheesesteak. Philly natives have been known to travel all the way across town to have the iconic 'wich from their hometown. Have it with the 'Wiz to make it authentic. Once you have a cheesesteak at Frankie's, you'll never go back to the imitators. — RC

Top Five: Joseph Blair- Wildcat, Philanthropist

Carne Asada tacos


Two locations

How can you not love these?! They're served quick and at only $1.50 each! Not to mention the salsa bar is always filled with other great items that can fill you up on a cheap budget.

Breaded Chicken Breast


4310 N. Campbell Ave.; 795-7221

The black pepper sauce on top of this chicken and the perfect and delicate way in which they fry the chicken works so wonderfully with the flavorful mashed potatoes. Perfect for any business lunch or just add a bottle of wine for a romantic night out.

Chopped Beef Brisket sandwich

Mr. K's Barbecue

4911 N. Stone Ave.; 408-7427

If you want a full meal in the palm of your hands, there is no better place to go. The brisket is always cooked perfectly and the selection of barbecue sauces is amazing. I personally add their chopped onions and spicy pickles that come complimentary at their condiment bar. Happiness in a bun!

Beef Satay skewers

Sullivan's Steakhouse

1785 E. River Road; 299-4275

Not just for happy hour anymore! These are one of the great small plates menu items in Tucson. The soy flavored sauce that these are cooked in could easily be a shot! Love it! And you know at Sullivan's, they will always cook the meat perfectly. Plus, the happy hour deals make it impossible to miss. Add a Knockout Martini and just wait for your socks to be knocked off!

Caldo de Queso soup

Mi Nidito

1813 S Fourth Ave.; 622-5081

Does it get any better?! I've had Caldo de Queso all over town and nothing, I repeat, nothing compares to that of Mi Nidito. Besides the fact that they should give you a trophy if you can finish a bowl, the flavor and perfect combination of all the ingredients is just amazing! The potatoes are always cooked perfectly and they aren't scared to throw in the cheese! Love, love, love it! And while you're there be sure and have a michelada. One of the absolute best in town!

Armitage Eggs Benedict

Armitage Wine Lounge & Café

2905 E. Skyline Drive, No. 168; 682-9740

There is a decidedly modern spin to this classic dish at Armitage. Prosciutto instead of Canadian bacon, Asiago toast instead of English muffins, havarti cheese, thin asparagus spears and a Hollandaise sauce with a pink hue all add up to a great weekend brunch (and sadly, this in only available on weekends). Yes, this is a wine bar but the Armitage's Bloody Mary is the way to go. — RC


Kingfisher Bar & Grill

2564 E. Grant Road.; 323-7739

From the presentation to the last glorious slurp, the steamers that Tucson's best seafood restaurant serves are in a word wonderful. They're tiny—as all good steamers should be—but their natural juices and the white wine come together in a most heavenly broth that enhances the clams rather than competes with them. They can be a stand-alone meal or a great beginning. — RC

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