Tucson’s rich cultural heritage, which saw Native American and Spanish influence cross paths, can be seen in the sheer variety of food vendors and restaurants dotted around the city. From a street food van selling burgers named after serial killers, to fresh, organic fare and top-notch fine dining, here are 10 of the best restaurants and cafes in Tucson.
Restaurant, Mexican, American, Fusion, Fast Food, Gluten-free, Vegan, Vegetarian
At the Tucson Tamale Company, the emphasis is on fresh; fresh produce, fresh ingredients, fresh service. The restaurant serves over 25 different varieties of tamale, and has recently opened a second branch of the restaurant. The outdoor garden patio makes it the ideal place to spend a lazy afternoon eating your way through those 25 different varieties of this Meso-American specialty.
At Cafe Poca Cosa the menu, incorporating old favorites with innovative new combinations and changing twice daily, makes for an exciting meal. Pick the plato, and the chef will choose three dishes for you to share. For breakfast or lunch, try the lively Little Poca Cosa, the Cafe’s more casual, younger sibling. The music, coupled with a bubbly and attentive staff, never fails to provide an enjoyable atmosphere. Make sure to sample one of their fresh juices or lemonades.
There are now branches of Frost Gelato all over the world, and with their variety of flavors and toppings, we’re not surprised. Each month sees new flavors grace the freezers of Frost Gelato, and the newest additions are margarita, spicy chocolate, and white chocolate macadamia nut. The team at Frost Gelato are so keen on making authentic Italian gelato, that they order all their equipment and ingredients (excluding milk and sugar) from Italy to their three Tucson branches. Their sorbet selection is no less impressive, including blackberry cabernet, and strawberry and champagne.
The majority of ingredients in the kitchen at Renee’s Organic Oven are organically sourced, and they try to support local suppliers wherever possible, which ensures their fruit and vegetables are free from preservatives and pesticides. They offer a number of vegan pizzas and also accommodate gluten-free requests very willingly — with their gluten-free pizza bases made on a different line from their wheat pizzas. The menu features a wide range of salads, and you have the option to combine one of these with a slice of pizza. A trip wouldn’t be complete without a taste of their gluten-free carrot or chocolate cakes.
Beyond Bread is an award-winning bakery serving soups, salads and a wide variety of sandwiches, it’s not difficult to see why the three Tucson branches of Beyond Bread are always full at lunchtime. Their daily specials mean there’s always something new to taste.
Prep & Pastry serve breakfast and brunch daily, but theirs is no ordinary eggs and bacon job. The menu includes ‘doussants’ or ‘cronuts’ in varieties as exciting as cranberry and coconut. Chicken and French toast, duck confit hash, and their homemade grape jam are three must-try options. The chef’s omelette changes daily, and while fresh biscuits and gravy might sound like an unusual choice for a morning pick-me-up, we’ll challenge you to find anything better! Now with a license to serve alcohol, there’s no reason to go anywhere else for the perfect mimosa with your weekend brunch.
Serial Grillers (Speedway Blvd.), East Speedway Boulevard | Courtesy Agustin Kitchen
Named one of the 25 coolest food trucks in the USA, Serial Grillers is run by two brothers who, looking for something different, created a menu where each dish is named after a serial murderer. The Boston Strangler, for example, is a rib-eye steak served with blue cheese crumbles. The Food Truck is open on weekdays for cheese-steaks and burgers as well as a number of vegetarian options. Alternatively, head over to the Serial Grillers Pizza Shop which serves pizzas, calzones, sandwiches, burgers and steaks as well as a selection of finger food, perfect for a quick snack on a busy day.
At any one time, the Barrio Brewing Co. will have between 10 and 12 of its own fresh micro-brews on tap, in addition to the traditional beers. But this isn’t only a place for beer-lovers as they also offer a delicious selection of both bar snacks and full meals. The aptly named ‘beer sponges’ are one of our favorite starters: two big pretzels served warm with mustard. Their burgers are made by blending three different primal cuts of meat and are served with a host of exciting toppings, such as ‘The Greek’, which comes with olive tapenade and feta cheese.
This Tucson gem has quality food and drinks in spades, as well as a wonderful atmosphere to top it off. For dinner you can’t beat their Moqueca de Peixe, a Brazilian fish stew.Their afterDARK events, held from 10 p.m. until closing time on Fridays and Saturdays are a trendy addition to local Tucson culture.
Maynards Market and Kitchen has all you need for breakfast, brunch, fine dining, and daytime snacks. While the Market is a hive of activity throughout the day, selling traditional breakfast foods, sandwiches, and an ever-changing selection of salads and pizzettes at the deli case, the Kitchen is perfect for a more formal evening meal. Chef Jared Scott and his team provide award-winning recipes using only the freshest ingredients.