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Best Lunch Over $5

The Cottonwood Café
60 N. Alvernon Way

READERS' PICK: (See Best Outdoor Dining.)

READERS' POLL RUNNER-UP: There's never really a lull at Buddy's Grill (4821 East Grant Road), nor is it difficult to tell why: The consistent quality of its casual cuisine could make a repeat customer out of anyone. In addition to the beef and chicken dishes one might expect from a soi-disant grill, Buddy's has a variety of tasty seafood specialties, usually including at least one superior catch of the day. From frankfurters to filet mignon, all of the dishes are well presented--chic, but not unbearably trendy. Airy, comfortable and refreshingly unpretentious, the ambiance, too, deserves top marks for encouraging conversation rather than competing with it. All this, plus superior air-conditioning and those addictive zucchini-bread muffins, makes Buddy's a favorite midday escape.

A REAL SCREAM: Cushing Street Bar & Grill, 343 S. Meyer Ave., is the official bar and grill of the Tucson Weekly staff, a much-coveted designation that isn't bestowed lightly. We've downed many a fine draught of boutique beer, scarfed many an inventive pasta dish and delighted in innumerable savory quesadillas in this old adobe structure on the edge of what's left of charming Barrio Historico, just south of the boxy empire that is the Tucson Convention Center. Check out the cool statue across from the ancient wooden bar--we're told this Lady of the Lamp once overlooked London's Fleet Street, bringing the noble light of journalism to England's working classes. Did we mention the beer is really good here?

Case History

1998 Winner: Café Poca Cosa
1996 Winner: Presidio Grill
1995 Winner: Presidio Grill

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