Tucson's 100 Essential Dishes

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

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Crawfish Hushpuppies

The Parish

6453 N. Oracle Road; 797-1233

The Parish serves up solid dishes riffing on Southern cuisine, but the crawfish hushpuppies (with their delicious green-onion dip) are a bargain, and worth grabbing as a main course.

The Ice Cream


266 E. Congress St.; 207-8201

Why did it take this long for someone to serve high-quality ice cream downtown? Our petty first-world-problem complaint? There might actually be too many flavors to choose from, but if the bourbon almond brittle is available, the decision process is a bit easier.

Baked Eggs

Cup Café

311 E. Congress St.; 798-1618

We're of the opinion that anything with leeks in the product description is likely to be delicious, so it's no surprise we have these cast-iron-cooked baked eggs, enhanced by Gruyere and cream, on our list. When people rave about staying at Congress, it's partially due to their next-morning breakfast.

Garlic Knots

Brooklyn Pizza

534 N. Fourth Ave.; 622-6868

Brooklyn's actual pizza shows up elsewhere on this list, but their knots put the breadsticks seemingly offered by every other pizza place in town to shame. Get a dozen and garlic lovers might follow you down the street.


Kadooks! Costa Rican Fusion Food Truck


Food trucks have hit a bit of a plateau in town, but the Costa Rican-inspired menu that Kadooks! offers is a nice addition to our city's mobile food scene. You can feel comfortable picking anything they offer, but save room for dessert: fried plantains with homemade whipped cream and cinnamon sugar.

The Rufus

Sausage Shop Meat Market & Deli

1015 W. Prince Road, Suite 141; 888-1701

There aren't many seats, the occasional lunch rush line and the location isn't exactly the part of town we find ourselves in often, but give us an absurdly cheap sandwich with pulled pork, a sausage hot link and cole slaw and we'll endure some minor inconveniences.

French Fries

Little Luke's

101 E. Fort Lowell Road; 888-8066

There are multiple Luke's locations, but the one on Fort Lowell and Stone is easily the best and the fries are a revelation. It probably makes sense to get a Chicago dog or an Italian beef as well, but the fries are really the main event. Let's not fool ourselves.

Top Five: Janos Wilder - Chef, Culinary Superstar

Guacamole Quesadilla

Pico de Gallo

2618 S. Sixth Ave.; 623-8775

The tortillas are always perfectly griddled and crunchy, the guacamole generous and the cheese melting and runny. I love it with their limonada. A majority faction in my family prefers the horchata, both of which are the best in Tucson.

Osso Bucco


4310 N. Campbell Ave.; 795-7221

Nobody does this dish anymore and it's the priciest item on their menu, but they tell me they lose on it anyway. It's succulent, tender, the braising liquid full of tomatoes and vegetables, the mashed potatoes seem to have as much cream and butter as potatoes. How can you go wrong with that?

Sonoran Hot Dog

El Guero Canelo

5201 S. 12th Ave.; 295-9005

I only go to the original on South 12th. Guero and I have competed against each other, his Sonoran hot dog against my J Dawg and he always kicks my ass (but I still like mine better).

Fillete Veracruzano, Callo de Hache (when they have it) and Michelada

Mariscos Chihuahua

1009 N. Grande Ave.; 623-3563

Really, I like everything they do here but these are my favorites. There are several Mariscos Chihuahua in town but I keep on coming back here. 

Red Chili and Bean Burro and any and all the flour tortillas

Anita Street Market

849 N. Anita Ave.; 882-5280

They do it right, no raw flavor in the red chili sauce, the meat is tender and beans put out the heat- just the way it should. About those tortillas-in the 30 years I've been eating them not once has a package made it home unopened; that's all you need to know.

Nasi Lemak

Neo of Melaka

6133 E. Broadway Blvd.; 747-7811

Say this for Tucson: How many cities our size have a restaurant serving Malaysian cuisine anyhow? There are still more mainstream Asian dishes on the Neo menu, but if you go with friends and they order sesame chicken or something instead of something incredibly delicious, like the coconut milk and turmeric laden nasi lemak, it might be time to get new friends.

Late Night Slices

Empire Pizza and Pub

Brooklyn Pizza

Downtown Tucson

Sometimes, timing is much a part of what makes food great as extensive craftsmanship. In the case of Empire on Congress and Brooklyn on Fourth Avenue, sometimes you just need a slice of pizza so big it hangs off the paper plate.

Macaroni and Cheese


266 E. Congress St.; 207-8201

The dining world's obsession with macaroni and cheese is a little out of control (after all, there's a restaurant in town dedicated to the dish), but HUB does a great job with the creamy pasta dish. Plus, if you're ever trying to entertain kids at mealtime downtown, a bowl plus the promise of ice cream (mentioned elsewhere) is generally enough to soothe the fussiest young one.

Phyllo Wrapped Chicken

47 Scott

47 N. Scott Ave.; 624-4747

You'd be forgiven for momentarily overlooking how good the food is at 47 Scott while looking over the cocktail menu, but the downtown eatery's elegant take on comfort food really shines with the spinach and goat cheese stuffed chicken breast enveloped in the lightest of crusts.

Pork Belly

Brushfire BBQ

Two locations

It took a bit too long for pork belly to really hit Tucson menus, so in our bacon-obsessed food culture, it seems like a cliché of sorts when we're offered the opportunity to throw more pork fat on a plate. The crispy pork belly side dish at Brushfire is a little disappointing portion-to-price wise, but $2.39 for some slices added to your sandwich? Yes, please. Just put off that cholesterol test for another month.

Triple Lindy

Lindy's on Fourth

431 N. Fourth Ave.; 207-6970

Obviously, there are more places to get a burger in this town all the time, but Lindy's was serving an intimidating selection of artery-blocking options ahead of most of the upstarts. You might hate yourself the next day, but every meat-eating Tucsonan should probably take on the AZ Hooligan (five patties, cheese, lettuce, tomato, onion) or its more fatty cousin, the Triple Lindy (adding bacon, an onion ring, and a fried egg), at some point in their lives. Just resist the temptation to step up to the Man v. Food featured OMFG. That won't likely end well.

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