8 Great Restaurants to Try in Tucson
I am not done with Tucson.
Let me clarify.
I am not done talking about the food scene in Tucson.
Last week, I described how I ate the town on a food tour. But, let’s be honest. The tour lasted 4 hours. I was there five days.
Therefore, it is easy to assume I ate way more than what was presented in last week’s post.
And, let me tell, we had an incredibly delicious food related ride under the Arizonian sun. I had plans to spend the last night of the trip somewhere else. Plans were changed and we made it back to Tucson to have one last meal before returning to California.
As I have already mentioned, Tucson is more than Mexican food. If you want to satiate your Mexican cravings, this is the place to do it. If on the other hand, you want to enjoy eclectic and varied options, this is the place to do it too.
Now, without further ado, here are 8 places you should try in Tucson.
The Cup Café
Our food adventures started on Christmas Day. We loaded the car with food because we knew the eating options were going to be limited.
Once we arrived to Tucson, we drove to Downtown and parked in the street. I just got off the car when I saw “The Christmas Menu” on a window. Turns out we parked in front of the historic Hotel Congress and its restaurant, The Cup Café, was serving lunch and dinner.
My husband had the cast iron baked eggs and I had the Cubano sandwich.
We finish out meal with a chocolate mousse cake.
This is a great place to have creative entrees and old-style desserts.
I almost gave up on Nook because we walked like three times in front of it and we couldn’t see it. I am glad we kept searching for it because the food was delicious. This New American establishment is known for its inventive dishes.
I had the hanger steak with eggs and chimichurri sauce.
My husband had the huevos rancheros. He liked them so much that he wanted to order another plate. I had to stop him.
We also had a side of griddle cakes.
Prep & Pastry
Please, do me a favor. Do not leave Tucson without going to Prep & Pastry. You are going to thank me later.
The place is a little afar from Downtown but that shouldn’t stop you from going. First, the décor is gorgeous and the service is impeccable.
Second, their house made pastries are creative and delicious. If you do not want to wait for a table, you can sit in the counter area and have a pastry and coffee.
We had the churro donut with cream cheese frosting.
For breakfast, I had the French toast with berries and vanilla whipped cream.
My husband had two eggs, bacon, potatoes and toast.
I can’t stop recommending this place.
This is the most famous greasy spoon in town. Their breakfasts are huge and dirty cheap. In addition, it opens at 5:30 a.m., a rarity in Tucson (looks like breakfast places open at 8 or 9).
I had the corned hash and eggs. My husband ordered steak and eggs.
We made a mistake though. We ordered two pancakes and ended up with monster cakes! Those things were bigger than my head. So, order with care even though you feel like eating the entire menu.
This pizzeria, which started in Phoenix, is kind of a big deal. Its pies have been rated the best in the United States by several prestigious publications. Its creator, Chef Chris Bianco, has won a James Beard Award and the admiration of its peers.
Since I have heard about this place so much, I had to try it. The best part is that in Tucson you basically walk and get a table right away. In Phoenix, you may have to wait hours to eat in there.
The pizza is prepared in a wood oven and it is very thin (Bianco has studied pizza making in Italy). I liked what I had but to be honest, I wasn’t impressed. I have had other pizzas that have pleased more my palate. Anyway, I still think it is a very good place to eat.
Full disclosure: I only had appetizers at Proper. Judging for what I had, I am pretty sure the food in here is great.
We ordered the Prop Prop Wings (garlic, sesame seed and cilantro) and the House Board (cheese, chicken pate, parmesan lavosh, figs, grain mustard and pickled vegetables).
Everything was tasty and fresh. Service was fantastic.
El Guero Canelo
There is one dish that can be considered Tucson’s emblem: the Sonora dog. It consists of a hot dog wrapped in bacon, served in a soft bolillo and topped with pinto beans, pico de mayo and mayo. It is one of those things that explode with flavor in your mouth.
Most sources tell you that El Guero Canelo has the best Sonora dogs in town. I couldn’t resist. I had to try this treat.
Here is the thing, I was disappointed. So disappointed that I felt bad. Not sure if there was something wrong with the particular location we visited but the hot dog tasted bland to me. We tried the famous carne asada too. Same story.
Why then I am including this place on the list? Mainly, because I want to bring your attention to the Sonora dog. Try it for yourself or try to find a better version of it on other establishments.
Maynards Market and Kitchen
This was my least favorite restaurant in Tucson. It is a shame since the place is located at the historic Train Depot. You can see the trains zooming by as you dine (so exciting!).
My whole problem was with the server. I felt a hostile and uptight attitude when I was given the menu. I really wanted to stand up and leave since there is no reason to stay on a place where you are not welcomed. After a moment, I recognized it was rude to leave.
We decided to order appetizers and move on. We decided for the poutine topped with duck confit, roasted duck gravy and cracklings.
We also got the chef’s board (three cheeses, two cured meats, quince paste, house-made mustard, pickled vegetables, seasonal fruit).
My experience does not take merit from the quality of the food.
Bonus: Santiago’s in Bisbee
Bisbee is a small mining town located about 90 miles from Tucson. If you are road tripping around the area, Santiago’s is a great place to get your Mexican fix.
I ordered a sampling containing a fish taco, a chilorio taco and an enmolada. Ah, it was so good!
My husband ordered the fajitas and those were great too. I feel so happy when restaurants get Mexican food right.
What do you think of Tucson’s food scene?
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