About This Page:
This is a collection of reviews from Tucson restaurants we have eaten
at since we moved here in 2000. It is mainly so we can recall and
recommend places to friends, family, and visitors. It is by no
means a complete list of Tucson eateries. YMMV. If
you want reviews of more upscale places, try Zagat.
About Us: We are a
family that eats out somewhat often
and enjoys a variety of foods and cuisines (mostly
international). We are not paid critics and have received no
compensation for the reviews below. Some
of us are vegetarian/seafood eaters, others omnivores. FYI we are
originally from California,
so factor that in however you deem appropriate;)
Reviews are organized by cuisine, with the exception of the last
section on University Eats, which contains
University Ave. just West of campus as well as a few to the northeast
in Nob Hill Plaza on Speedway. They are roughly listed from
our most favorite to least within a category. Restaurants
Entree prices based on dishes we usually order (note- NOT total bill
$: 2-5 buckaroos
$$: 5-8 simoleons
$$$: 8-12 dead presidents
$$$$: 12-20 greenbacks
$$$$$: 20-30 blow straws
if you have to ask: you can't afford it
Links to full-length
reviews, mostly from Tucson Weekly,
have been added when found
Links to home pages with menus have been added
The top of the taqueria food chain. This chain (unfortunately
owned by Carl Karcher of
Carl's Jr. fame) follows in the fast-growing "Fresh Mex" avenue of fast
food. The fish and shrimp tacos are grilled, not batter fried,
and the meat is lean cut. But the real catch is the amazing salsa
bar, where you can flavor each morsel exactly to your liking even if
you have Sybil-esque taste buds.
$ A Southside favorite. Nice selection of tasty tacos in homemade
corn tortillas, and the
ceviche rules. The namesake dish is a cup of seasoned tropical
fruit, an oasis on a Tucson summer's day. An eclectic customer
mix, with some old-timers and others who just
started coming after it got written up in some national magazine.
Famous Baja (batter-fried) fish tacos are the specialty of this San
Diego-based chain. They haven't kept up with the Fresh Mex
Joneses in variety but they have kept prices refreshingly low.
$ Big food at small prices, and tasty enough to try again. Great
late-night eats, with 24-hour drive-thru. Meat tacos are better
than the fish ones, and
they all want for avocado, but at these prices just shut up and eat!
$ While all of the above places are worth a visit, there is really
nothing much to recommend this chain. Adequate, cheap but not
cheaper-than-food cheap. Beats Taco Bell, I suppose.
Mexico City food is their claim to fame, and though most
dishes are fairly familiar, there are some noticeable differences
versus Tex-Mex or Sonoran foods that are the Tucson staples.
Best chile rellenos in town, and their chimichangas rival El
Charro's. Mexico City fare is hearty and cheesy, so come
(funny review, even if they couldn't figure out that the name, which
translates to Swiss Grill, comes from their fondue-like cheese baths.)
Of the plethora of excellent places to choose from in
this category, this one rates highly. Colorful tropical
ambiance complements a
menu that offers both the inventive (dipping into Southwest
cuisine) as well as the traditional, and is consistently
top-notch. The tableside guacamole is a must. The lunch
menu features eclectic and tasty items as well, though service can
slow to a crawl when crowded. Taco
$$ Solid, fairly cheap Sonoran
cocina. The food and ambiance transport you south of the
border. Hearty solid fare, great
margaritas with a daily happy hour, and a nice build-your-own-burro
option for you
finicky types. Good table
service is a plus. . El
Mezon del Cobre:
$$$$ For seafood lovers, this is the place to be. It's rare
to find a place that does Mexican seafood well (other than fish taco
but this one hits the jackpot.
Their landlubber dishes are worth sampling as well.
(contrary to this review, we found their lunch uninspiring.)
$$-$$$ This low-key Guatemalan spot located in the alternative
heart of the city really deserves its own category, offering cheap and
that are distinctly different from the endless Mexican variants
populating Tucson. Atmosphere is
low-budget and there aren't many vegetarian options, but that aside, it
gets a Sissy Hankshaw-sized thumbs up.
longtime Tucson institution features mariachis every night and some
truly authentic and well-prepared Sonoran cuisine. The noise,
bustle, and open-air ambiance makes you feel like you're at a Mexican
wedding reception with a few hundred of your closest friends. A
tad pricey for what you get, but still worth a visit.
self-proclaimed inventor of the chimichanga, this
Tucson original is a great place to let visitors experience a slice of
Pueblo. Make sure to go to the downtown one; the other ones'
atmospheres pale in comparison. Food here is good across the
board, but their Carne Seca is outstandingly bone-dry and
advised, especially on weekends.
$$-$$$ Cozy character-filled cocina specializes in green corn tamales,
the rest of their menu of basic Sonoran food is pretty tasty as
$$$ In many towns, this would be the best Mexican restaurant,
with an immersive atmosphere, tableside salsa, and hearty
servings. In Tucson, however, it barely stands out from the
crowd, and we tend to find the food bland.
This sports bar/happy hour spot/family joint offers good value for
reasonably tasty Tex-Mex meals like fajitas and tacos. Full bar
partake, but their margaritas are just OK. Noise is a minus (or a
plus, if you have noisy kids).
Torero: $$ Formica tables provide an unpretentious
counterpoint to Mi
Nidito's relative glitz at this traditional Sonoran neighborhood joint.
Favorite of the late renowned Archeoastronomer and Tucson icon Ray
White. [JDS] El
$$ This campus-bordering eatery serves up macho Cuban sandwiches and
hearty plates of meat. Nice change of pace from the usual
off-campus grub. Blanco:
As with many La Encantada businesses, this new Fox Restaurant
is more style than substance. The atmosphere is chic but bland;
this is reflected in the food, which looks promising on the menu but
fails to inspire on the palate. Sure it's better than your usual
taqueria, but for the price I'd expect more, especially in this
town. City views and tequila selection are plusses.
This South Tucson hole-in-the-wall has
acclaim, boasting such eminent visitors as President Clinton. As
a result, the
restaurant draws overwhelming crowds, with long waits beginning around
6pm (reservations not accepted). To its credit, the simple,
unadulterated Sonoran food has remained consistently good, and the
prices haven't increased... much. It is the sort of place that
would be an absolute find as an unpretentious neighborhood restaurante,
but now its
reputation probably exceeds it. Vegeterians tend not to be
enamored of this place. Rosa's:
$$-$$$ A "swear-by" spot for many locals, our experience has been one
of relative disappointment. Food is good but not great, and
justify the expense. Another place with eminent visitors listed
on the wall.
This Arizona chain serves some fairly good Sonoran and
Tex-Mex style dishes, but it isn't great value for the quality of the
Chihuahua: $$$ These seafood-specialty restaurants
that would rank higher if they weren't so
pricey. The atmosphere is simple, and the food equally
so. A worthy choice to sate a spicy seafood craving, but nothing
to get excited about in a town full of quality Mexican food. Las
Tucson: $$$ Another South Tucson sit-down joint that's
a tad upscale. While a slight cut above in quality, the prices
don't really justify. They have a norte branch too now.
Solid but uninteresting Mexican food, with nothing in particular to
recommend it except its neighborhood feel (partially negated by being
in a strip-mall). Casa Molina:
$$$ A disappointment. Touted as one of the oldest and best
of the Old Pueblo's many Mexican eateries, we instead found the food to
be generally bland and unappealing. Also seemed to be popular
with the snowbird crowd, which we didn't take as a positive sign.
Placita Cafe: $$$-$$$$
Trying to carve out a niche in semi-upscale but conventional Mexican
food, this place fails to entice or invite. The salsa was
uninspired. The food equally so: one of our chile
rellenos arrived still cold inside. Service was the only
plus. Apparently we're not the only ones disappointed:
Cosa: $$$$ Their location changed, but fortunately the
menu and the food are as good as ever. Simply put, this
consistently serves some of the best food in Tucson. Southwestern
basically nouvelle preparation with mexican spices, and nobody does it
better than Poca Cosa. Virtually nothing that I've ever had here
has been anything short of excellent. Note that while the
board features ~15 items, the
focus is on meat, leaving pescatarians/vegetarians with limited
albeit choice (note: singular). The new venue is more hip/chic
and less colorful/homey, but the upside is that it's now possible to
hear what the person at the other end of the table is saying.
hipper, more causal spin-off of Janos at the La
Paloma Resort offers inventive and flavorful cuisine heavily utilizing
local Sonoran ingredients. The main drawback is the fairly
limited menu, but fortunately every dish is a winner. Despite the
fancy foodage, the portions are Mexican size, and the prices are pretty
reasonable for what you get. Margaritas are fabulous too.
Definitely one of our new faves in Tucson.
$$-$$$ They say that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery,
Wei should feel flattered, because this restaurant is almost
identically a Southwest cuisine version of it. Which is not to
say that Zivaz's isn't great; the idea of serving high-quality,
inventive, and flavorful Mexican-inspired cuisine in a low-budget yet
pleasant atmosphere is surely an idea whose time has come.
$$$-$$$$ First, this is a Spanish restaurant, but being the only
one I've been to in Tucson it doesn't get its own category (yet).
That said, this place is distinctly worth a visit, whatever it
is. The food is mostly delicious, but you have to pick and choose
what you like: Two-thirds of the tapas we ordered were super
scrumptious, while one-third were fairly ordinary. There is often
live music and the place does get packed. Overall a thoroughly
satisfying and enjoyable evening.
Pueblo Grille: $$$-$$$$
Interesting southwestern flavors, immersive ambiance, generous
portions, and reasonable prices make this outdoor patio-featuring venue
an excellent choice for a hearty meal. The food isn't quite as
good as the above places but it's not far below, in line with the cash
outlay. Fine margarita and tequila selection as well.
Probably the best value in the Metro Restaurants
food continues to improve in Tucson, as this
conveniently-located (Speedway&Tucson) newest entry
demonstrates. Rich, flavorful coconut curries and interesting
chef's specials make this a more than passable place for a Thai
fix. One report of ultrabland veggie dishes, but other veggies
love the place. .
$$$ Prior to Bangkok Cafe, this was the best of an unimpressive
collection of Tucson Thai eateries. It's still not far behind,
though the portions are smallish and the food unspectacular. The
fascinating Far East-Old West murals add an oddly whimsical touch to
the cozy ambiance. .
$$$ Mediocre. The crispy fish is the best
dish. Beware of "multi-ethnic"
restaurants, as it is evidently quite difficult to do more than one
of cuisine well. Don't confuse this with Thai
China Palace ()...
though come to think of it, it probably won't matter if you do.
$$-$$$ Bare-bones joint draws
crowds, though we're not sure why. The lunch buffet is worth a
cheap enough so you get what you pay for.
Thai: $$$ Add another option to the altogether
uninspiring selection of Thai restaurants scattered about town.
Nothing particularly outstanding here, either in food or ambiance.
$$ Authentic, tasty bowls of Pho, vermicelli, broken rice, and other
favorite staples. Ignore the picture menu pasted along the
wall, they don't have most of that.
Fortunately, you can't go wrong with what they do have, unless you are
averse to shredded dried fish
sprinkled on your Pho. Limited
vegetarian options, though I've never heard complaints. Dao's
Taipan's: $$ Almost as
good as Miss Saigon, this Eastside eatery serves up the usual noodle
and Pho bowls with all the accoutrements. The Vietnamese fare is
solid and tasty, and they have Chinese food as well. And it has
one thing you don't see often in a Vietnamese joint: A
$ Cheap and reasonably tasty, this off-campus order-at-the-counter
joint with patio seating is a solid choice for a quick Pho or noodle
bowl. A significant dropoff from the above two places, however. Pho
$$ Neighborhood joint serves up standard
if a tad greasy Vietnamese chow.
88: $$ Serves similar dishes as the above places, but
at about $1-$2 more per bowl, and not as fresh or tasty. At least
Nam-Son has a draw as a walkable campus option and is almost cheaper
than food. This place is just a miss.
The full teppan experience awaits. Neither quality nor quantity
is lacking, nor selection (depending on your budget). They
have sushi as well, it's well done but not eminently recommendable.
evening for the whole family. You can spot the veteran customers
as the ones who nonchalantly catch the spatula-flipped shrimp in their
Basically the same as Sakura, except perhaps a notch down in
price, quality, and liveliness. A separate reason to go is for
Tucson's best Korean fare, including Korean BBQ. [JSK].
on Oracle: $$$-$$$$ Its pedestrian name may not pique
interest, but the quality, quantity, price, and ambiance should.
Overall probably our favorite sushi restaurant in Tucson, similar to
Sushi-Ten in quality and price but in a nicer setting with better
service. Good range of non-sushi offerings as well.
$$$$-$$$$$ Tucked into Yoshimatsu is this cozy, ambianced sushi bar
that serves some of the most authentic and freshest sushi in
town. The Lexus to Sushi on Oracle's Toyota, this place is
a visit, it just depends on how much you want to spend. Oh, and
get that babysitter on speed-dial, because no children are allowed!
The "upscale" sushi restaurant in town gives you a more
creative selection, elegantly prepared, but not particularly fresher or
better. Dress LA and go
hang out with the yuppies after work at their
half-price sushi happy hour.
$$$-$$$$ This used to be our favorite spot in Tucson for fresh,
delicious, and (relatively) inexpensive sushi, but has gone somewhat
downhill after a change in ownership. Still not a bad choice.
$$$$ About the same quality as Sushi Ten but somewhat more
expensive. You're paying for atmosphere. Good place for a
date. Go East, young man (or woman); don't even bother with the
one by the airport. Sushi-Cho:
$$$-$$$$ A fairly standard but solid sushi
enterprise near campus. The main draw is the size of the rolls,
which are somewhat larger than most.
$$$$ Also a teppan place, but we've only tried the sushi and it's
fairly run-of-the-mill. Atmosphere is nice but you pay for
it. Their Tucson roll is the best reason for a visit.
$$$$ Not sure what the lure is here. The sushi is a step down
in freshness and a step up in price. There are better
$$$$ Nothing in particular to recommend this mini-chain.
The "spicy" rolls are
Korean-style (hoisin, not spicy mayo), which is not our
A true gem.
Surprisingly authentic Malaysian food alongside cut-above Chinese fare
makes this strip-mall eatery one of our favorites. The menu is a
tad limited (on the Malaysian side), but it's so good that you don't
mind coming back for the same curry again and again. The daily
lunch buffet sports a high quality sampler of Malaysian and Chinese
dishes for a friendly
price. Overall, a stunning counterpoint to the "beware of
multi-ethnic" mantra. They recently opened a sister
of Melaka, which is a bit more upscale and just as tasty.
Club (Asia Fusion): $$$-$$$$ Somewhat
upscale Chinese-inspired food in the vein of P. F. Chang's, this Park
Place Mall eatery gets a thumbs up for its solidly prepared and
reasonably interesting dishes. Many Chinese standbys are on the
menu like Mongolian Beef, but they are done with a bit of elan, or else
choose from their more inventive offerings. The crispy sweet
calamari is not to be missed. Cocktails were a bit of a
dissapointment, but they cheerfully made it right upon complaint.
(Mongolian BBQ): $$-$$$ While many "super buffet"
restaurants offer a lite version of Mongolian barbecue, this restaurant
gives you the full works. Nothing spectacular, but how can you go
wrong quick-grilling meat and veggies over a searing hotplate the size
of Genghis Khan's butt? Hint: The secret to juicy and
flavorful Mongolian BBQ is to overload on the sauces.
They also have a Broadway
$$-$$$ Despite the generic name, this cozy joint offers up
reasonably high-quality Chinese and Thai-inspired fare for a more than
reasonable price, even if their claims of offering upscale "Pacific
Rim" cuisine fall a bit short. China
Phoenix (Dim Sum): $$$ This has now superceded
Gee's as our favorite dim sum in Tucson. The main reasons are the
generally higher quality and noticeably lower cost. The downside
is the selection, which is not nearly as extensive as at Gee's.
But all your standard favorites are in circulation, including barbequed
chicken feet! Don't all jump up at once, now.
Sum): $$$$ After
several failed Chinese restaurants at this location, Mr. Gee has
finally brought upscale dim sum to Tucson. Frankly, Chinese fare
is not our cup o'
green tea, and I find few that merit a return visit
(Chef Chu's in Palo Alto is one). But dim sum... that's another
story. Battle the throngs of Chinese that show up after noon on
weekends to get a seat (what better sign is
there than that?), and then don't be shy flagging down passing
large parties of Chinese folks arrive, they bring out the good stuff,
so be patient.
It's expensive and not quite up to the freshness standards of LA &
SF's Chinatown, but it does just fine in a dim sum pinch.
(Asia Fusion): $$$$
The big brother of Pei Wei's offers
creatively prepared Asian-inspired dishes in a trendy high-end chain
setting. A bit overhyped and
overpriced, but worth an occasional visit. Make
Yoshimatsu (Healthy Japanese):
$$-$$$ What do you get when you take a Tokyo family restaurant,
cross it with a Santa Cruz ex-hippie vegan diner, and stick it in a
former Denny's in Tucson? Probably something like this cute
restaurant serving udon, Japanese curry, and other oddly healthy
Japanese fare at a reasonable cost. Our experience is that
everything is good but needs extra flavor; fortunately there is plenty
of soy sauce, dried fish, nori, and powdered chili to sprinkle
on. A better reason to go is their upscale sushi bar,
$$-$$$ Grilled meats, falafel, and exotic preparations of fish
and vegetables are yours for the asking at this low-key and low-priced
strip mall joint. Lots of veggie options. Sadly, their
impressive buffet is no more. Don't forget to check out the
Arabic foods store in the back. Luxor
$$$-$$$$ The outwardly nondescript strip-mall
exterior houses an equally nondescript Middle Eastern eatery. The
food is decent but nothing to get too excited about, just the usual
Egyptian/Lebanese/Turkish fare, good enough for a fix. The best
part of this place is its ambiance, left over from the previous two
Middle Eastern restaurants to inhabit this unlucky venue. They do
have a hookah area, if that floats your boat.
$$-$$$ Fast food Middle Eastern fare is a great concept, and the food
itself is solid enough, but the atmosphere is lacking. For these
prices you can't have it all I guess.
$$$ Finally, a cut-above Indian restaurant in
Tucson. The flavors are more subtle than at the stock North
Indian places below; still spicy, but lighter on the onions and garlic
which brings out the other flavors, and less heavy. The lunch
buffet is a touch more expensive but still a good deal.
$$-$$$ This North Indian tandoori joint is run by a Sikh family,
and the authenticity shines through. Rich curries, succulent
tandoori, and well-done naan make this our favorite Indian restaurant
in Tucson. The lunch buffet is one of the better deals in
$$-$$$ This place favors a mix of central and northern Indian
cuisine, and has some of the best vegetarian Indian food in
Tucson. The lunch buffet is cheap, but it's mostly about
the vegetables as the meat dishes are below par.
$$-$$$ This latest entry to the Tucson Indian
scene is somewhat enigmatic. First of all, it is the only place
to get South Indian food (dosa, idli, sambar, etc.), so this
automatically puts it on our regular stop list. On the other
hand, we've had a wide range of experiences there, from brutally
amateurish service and offendingly bland food, to attentive service and
sambar so spicy we couldn't finish it. Reports are they may
actually have two batches of dishes, the authentic spicy one and the
snowbird version. We hope they settle on the former and find some
consistency. They have a lunch buffet as well with not-often-seen
central Indian dishes, but we were not overly impressed by selection or
Oven: $$-$$$ This place features a quirky but
friendly owner, and the food has the same feel, satisfying but somehow
not quite right. The lunch buffet is quite decent, but why not
motor the three minutes to Sher-e-Punjab for a
$$-$$$ All the above are at least worth one visit, maybe
Not the case here. The lunch buffet had the least selection and
looked tired, and reports are
that dinner is in the same vein.
$$ This is actually a Hare Krishna restaurant
(within a temple compound) that offers an eclectic mix of foods
buffet-style at all times.
Come for the chow, stay for the chants. Unfortunately,
they don't make up for the lack of onions and garlic
(forbidden) with other spices, as they do at some other Hare Krishna
selection of Indian food is usually small, though they also have salad
and out-of-place pasta dishes to accompany. All this for a rather
hefty price makes this one a miss, with the exception that they
sometimes have $3 nights... then at least you get what you pay
$$$$ Hellenic specialties are done right at this cozy
restaurant. Nice moussaka, and also try the calamari-based
dishes. Some of the freshest seafood we've had in Tucson.
Open only for dinner, and not on Sundays.
$$-$$$ This walk-up-and-order joint features a nice
selection of menu items from the usual Gyro and Souvlaki to fancier
dishes like Moussaka and Lemon Chicken. The food has a healthy
feel (down to the free filtered water), but it's plenty tasty and
solidly prepared. All around a pleasant and convenient stop for a
good Greek fix.
$$ This walk-up joint serves up
filling and delicious souvlakis, piping hot and accompanied by mounds
fries, onion rings, or salad. Tastiest of the Greek fast-food
places (cf. The Fat Greek, in University Eats),
though the falafel is a bit oddly seasoned.
$$$ OK, I have to begin by saying that my wife grew up around the
corner from Little Ethiopia in LA. So while Ethiopian is among
our favorite cuisines, our standards are mighty high. So perhaps
not surprisingly, we found Zemam's a disappointment. The spices
right, the injera (spongy bread) lacks flavor, and the cook uses
instead of real butter, etc. Our friends are much more
positive about Zemam's, so perhaps we are simply too picky. It is
worth at least one visit to judge for yourself, especially if you've
never experienced Ethiopian cuisine, which pleasantly
set you back too much in the cash department.
$$$$$-(if you have to ask) The top rung of the Metro Restaurant chain,
this locally-owned steakhouse serves up impressively tasty hunks of
meat with the usual assortment of well-done sides, and some interesting
appetizers. Even their cheapest steaks are better than almost
anything you find elsewhere (though they're also more expensive than
anything elsewhere). Sullivan's:
(if you have to ask) World famous chain of high-end steakhouses
branch right here in Tucson. Bring the company credit card, or a
Giant open-fire barbecue pits cook your meat in full view at
this indoor/outdoor old west round-up, which used to be a stagecoach
in the late 1800's. Nothin fancy here, just
great barbecue (Texas style, but sadly no links!), plenty of beer, and
rip-roarin' square dancing from time to time. Vegetarians
have a choice of 3 types of dressing with their iceberg lettuce.
Kingfisher: $$$$$ Impeccable service and swank
atmosphere define this high-end seafood restaurant. Don your
bowtie and join the geriatric crowd for some of the freshest seafood in
town; guaranteed to impress your date.
$$$$ The prime rib is what they advertise, and the prime rib is what
you'll get, pod'ner. If y'all know what's good for ya, that
If you wear a tie, they cut it off. Maybe they resell
off" (insert groan here) and that's how they can afford to sell
their well-portioned steaks so cheaply. On
the other hand, the steaks are so flavorless and bland, maybe they're
buying 'em half off. The surrounding Trail Dust Town is
fun for kids, complete with train ride and Wild West stunt shows.
$$$$$-(if you have to ask)
Fondue restaurant wins for most
romantic dinner experience
in Tucson. Cheese, meat, and chocolate fondue make for a perfect
evening, though saving room for the latter requires more restraint than
I possess. Skip over the sound-better-than-they-taste "healthy"
dipping broths, and go for the traditional hot oil meat bath.
The Dish: $$$$$ Cozy,
mostly unmarked bistro tucked in behind the Rum Runner (one of Tucson's
finest liquor stores, by the way) is a Tucsonan jewel serving
sterlingly-prepared nouvelle cuisine.
Acacia: $$$$$ An
eclectic menu of interesting fusion choices highlights this pleasant St
Phillips Plaza bistro. The consistently high quality on a
wide range of dishes was impressive.
Rendez-vous: $$$$$-(if you have to ask)
Authentic and hearty Southern French cuisine makes this the best true
French restaurant in Tucson. But don't expect a cozy candlelit
atmosphere for romance, it's more like that of a Bordeaux village
Red Sky Cafe:
$$$$$ This "American bistro" takes the angle of using fresh
Western U.S. ingredient in creatively prepared nouvelle dishes, and for
the most part it totally works. Another plus is that they serve
Western American instead of French portions.
Cute idea to sell high-end nouvelle cuisine in a
down-home cafe format.
You can pick from the weekly-changing menu board (see their website) or
tapas-style from the
Recent expansion means seating is no longer a game of musical
chairs. Nice selection of beers and ciders, and the desserts are
tempting. Make sure and browse the racks of high-end wines and
olive oils that you can purchase for a nominal fee. French
Not exactly French but rather Cajun, this noisy and smoky bar offers up
some nice po'
boys and other down-home cooking, with the appropriate level of
Louisiana spice and the full range of Bourbon Street alcoholic
The best patisserie in town also serves delicious
homestyle French meals in a simple cafe setting. You will want to
save room for dessert, trust me. Also ideal for a morning
croissant (they feature a nice breakfast menu as well) or a
dessert rendezvous, but make it early as they close at 8 most
$$$$ Many locals swear by this affordably priced nouvelle
bistro, but we have a hard time getting excited about the food
here. It's all somewhat pedestrian, fairly bland, and doesn't
really live up to the promise of its seemingly extensive and
interesting menu. It's still quite good, but if you want this
type of cuisine then you can get a range of more interesting options in
town for just a few more bucks.
Within the Pinnacle Peak complex is this mildly upscale
restaurant attempting California nouvelle cuisine. I say
"attempting" with a half-serious California sneer. It's actually
passable food, but a bit pricey for what it is.
Purveyors of molto-cheesy,
molto-yummy Chicago style
pizza. They also reportedly make a fine thin-crust pizza from
the "yeah, whatever" department. Huge and delicious shrimp caesar
salad for the
Atkinsers, who merely have to resist the bed of irresistible
vermicelli. The downside is the omnipresent wait (reservations
not accepted) and cramped quarters. Zona
California wood-fired pizzas are done just right at
this hip Northside eatery with patio seating. Best thin-crust
pizza in town. Kid-friendly.
Street Pizzeria: $$ Solidly good pizza, no
gimmicks. Lots of cheese, nice wood-fired crust, good
atmosphere. A tad pricey but worth it. They deliver now too.
$$$$$ Excellent but still perhaps somewhat overrated, this
receives a lot of acclaim from critics and plebes alike. All the
are in place for a top-of-the-line restaurant, including excellent
service, pleasant ambiance, an extensive wine list, and of course
well-prepared food. It's the kind of place to take a rich
relative from back East in order to show them that Tucson does indeed
have high quality authentic Italian food, albeit at a cost.
This expanding local chain serves
up some absolutely scrumptious high-end Tuscan fare. If you're in
for pasta, head here basta.
Chef Gavi Colaleo has now expanded into French cuisine at his Kolb
& Sunrise location; haven't sampled it ourselves but it did get a
Of the local chains this one consistently rates the best, both
with us and in popular surveys. Nice range of gourmet toppings
prepared on your choice of crust, and they don't skimp on the cheese or
Authentic New York style pizza done right (or as close to right as
you're gonna find) in
Tucson. Fuhgeddaboudit. By the slice, too.
$$ This after-school hangout just south of campus serves up
ginormous deep dish pizzas to go with a none too shabby selection of
beers on tap. The pizza is not over-the-top good, but the whole
scene is just plain fun, and if you leave hungry then you must be on a
George Foreman seafood diet ("I see food, I eat it"). Caution for
Bay Areans: This is
unrelated to the fabulous same-name
Chicago-style pizzerias, which
disappointed me so much that I boycotted the place for a year.
This budding nationwide chain does a creditable Chicago style deep dish
and a mediocre
thin crust. Really, it's quite nice except the sauce is lacking
in herbs and (particularly for us) garlic, so tends to be rather
bland. Go home and sprinkle on fresh garlic, basil and oregano
and you got it going on. Check out their new off-campus location
at 6th and Campbell.
Gourmet pizza outlet for a local fancy Italian place. Wood-fired
thin-crust pizza with creative toppings, including many with
salad. Downsides? The wait, no substitutions allowed, and
the limited menu choices, particularly for vegetarians who don't want
arugula on their pizza.
The Chicago-style deep dish here is a bit sparse on cheese
and sauce, leaving us wanting. Sports bar atmosphere makes it a
popular after-work hangout. Good selection of beers on tap.
selection of gourmet breads and
scrumptious pastries make
le boulangerie par excellence in town. But wait... there's more
than just bread! (get it?) They also offer a range of delicious
hot and cold sandwiches, for which you can choose any bread from the
Cafe: $$-$$$ Our favorite breakfast spot in Tucson,
hearty and tasty, with gigantic muffins to start and well-prepared
standards to finish. Good service, kid friendly. Dinner
favors a slightly Cajun flavor, but offers a range of dishes to please
$$ Head through the kitschy shop in front to get to a pleasant
courtyard serving airy breakfast/brunch fare. Great spot to while
away a Sunday morning hangover with friends.
Grill: $$-$$$ Burgers, steaks, chicken, ribs --
American food served in an upscale yet homey setting, at reasonable
prices. Woodfired pizzas, seafood, pasta, and a nice selection of
desserts round out their diverse menu. Everything good, but
Eclectic Cafe: $$
Like Blue Willow, a nice spot for a lazy weekend breakfast, albeit with
less atmosphere. Fare tends to lean towards the healthy side, for
example their pancakes are whole wheat. Otherwise it's pretty
standard and reasonably well done.
[Note: This section is listed
alphabetically, and all places are $$ for
lunch. On University Ave. unless otherwise noted]
Sandwich Deli: In the underfrequented Nob Hill Plaza
on Speedway is this new authentic Vietnamese deli, offering asian subs,
buns, boba drinks, and other tasty on-the-go treats. It's the
sort of place you usually only find in ethnic areas of big
cities. A nice change of pace from the usual University lunch
fare. Update: Reports are this has closed. Sad day.
A little slice of Santa Cruz right here in Tucson (Nob Hill
Plaza), this communal-feeling coffee house offers sprout-based
sandwiches and fresh-made simple and healthy dishes. The coffee
is pretty good, and the tea selection is extensive.
burritos prepared line-style feature
nicely seasoned rice and
some interesting salsa choices. Barbacoa is a must-try if you can
handle the spice; other fillings are good as well, but they have no
Greek: Souvlakis with home fries or a greek salad are
to order by the restaurant's namesake. Check the specials board
for occasional treats like dolmas and spanakopita.
Firkin: Best option for the "life's too short for bad
beer" crowd, this hip hangout features a wide selection of plus-quality
menu items and beers. A single slice of their deep dish pizza
makes for a hearty lunch, or you can go Austin Powers with
fish&chips and an Old Peculiar.
This local brew pub serves up solid pub fare
burgers, sandwiches and quesadillas. Lunchtime homebrew pint is
case you have a light work load for the afternoon.
Bistro: An upscale but high-quality addition to the
University Ave scene, offering gourmet sandwiches, superb soups and
delicious salads. Sure it costs a bit more, but as the ad goes,
I'm worth it.
Cozy place with nouveau-Mogul furniture and Bollywood posters features
Indian food served in
crispy paratha wraps. The fillings and bread are no doubt tasty
albeit smallish. Nice option if you aren't that hungry or don't
feel like driving to one of the Indian lunch buffets.
Taking over from the iconic Eric's Fine Foods and Ice Cream is this
pizza and sandwich joint in Nob Hill Plaza. After selling the
businesss, Eric has re-purchased it but thankfully has retained the
motif with a nice range of lesser-known microbrews.
Decent pizza served by the slice, nice variety of toppings. Beats
Papa John's at
student union. Pei
Fast-food version of P. F. Chang's serves great noodle/rice bowls and
inventive Chinese-esque dishes.
Best falafel in town, along with a wide range of great pita sandwiches
and full Middle Eastern meals. Sadly, in recent times
gone Alice in Wonderland on us, with larger
prices and smaller portions every time we go. Next time we go we
fully expect to pay $20 for an empty plate. Strangely, we haven't
Palace: You don't find an Afghan restaurant too often
period, let alone as a campus chowhouse. The novelty itself makes
it worth a visit, but the food will not leave you disappointed.
The lunch buffet is pricey but tasty, and reports are the dinner is
than you would expect, this sit-down spot upstairs from the Fat Greek
draws crowds for its rich curries and well-done Thai standards.
Lunch specials aren't the cheapest around but well worth it. Also
offers an upscale dinner menu, though we haven't yet sampled.