|Eats in Sunny Arizona|
If you find yourself lamenting the falling temperatures, falling snow, and falling icicles on the East Coast, it might be time to make some westward travel plans. For all the foodies out there who crave something a little out of the ordinary (and some warm sunshine), we have compiled a small sampling of the most delicious and legendary food in Tucson, Arizona. Whether it’s a bacon-wrapped hot dog, the spicy Mexican meal you’ll dream about for weeks, or some of the tastiest gelato to be found in the desert, Tucson has a unique treat (and a whole lot of tacos) for any discerning palate.
Eats.com’s Top Tucson Foodie Picks
This family-run restaurant, with two locations, has been featured on the Travel Channel’s “Food Wars” and is celebrated for its Mexican Hot Dogs, frequently called the Sonoran Dog. This specialty starts with a hot dog. The hot dog is wrapped in bacon. The bacon-wrapped-hot dog is then stuffed into a fluffy bun, where it is smothered in beans, onions, and tomatoes before being topped with mayo, mustard, and jalapeño sauce. It might sound a bit scary, but Tucson natives with brave pallets swear by this Mexican take on ballpark fare.
What to get: Sonoran Dog
Café Poca Cosa is the spot to go for upscale Mexican dining. The large, modern restaurant doesn’t have traditional menus. Instead, your waiter brings a chalkboard with the day’s offerings (there is always one vegetarian dish) and explains each one in depth. As soon as your waiter finishes the dish descriptions, your mouth will be full-on watering as images of chicken mole, chile sauces, and pastels dance in your head. Each entrée comes with fresh fruit and a massive salad—but be sure to savor every bite of the highest quality Mexican food you’ve ever had before bothering with the greens.
What to get: Pastel (a tamale pie, generally with a fresh vegetable sauce on top); let the chef choose three items for you
Little Café Poca Cosa is Café Poca Cosa’s little sister, located in downtown Tucson and open for the best lunch deal in town. Here, the menu is permanently scrawled on a giant chalkboard wall. Typical items, like quesadillas, are available, but venture out with a tamale or slow-cooked meat dish. Every item comes with salad and a side of fresh, warm tortillas. For cooling off on hot Tucson days, try the basil lemonade. Expect a warm hug from the owner on your way out!
What to get: Carne con Chile Colorado; let the chef choose for you
Tucson Tamale Company deals almost exclusively with tamales. A tamale is basically a corn meal (masa) cake that is wrapped in a corn husk and steamed. The result is a slightly sweet and very filling meal that can come in just about every flavor imaginable. Some of Tucson Tamale Company’s offerings include the Wisconsin tamale, which is chock full of tasty cheese, chicken tamales, shrimp tamales, vegan tamales, and even a Dogmale with all the fixin’s of a Sonoran Dog inside.
What to get: Green Corn tamale (fresh corn masa, green chile, cheese); Tucson tamale (lots of cheese in grilled jalapeño masa)
Frost, a gelato shop, has three locations in Tucson. Their fresh gelato is made using traditional Italian techniques, and the finished product looks as beautiful in the refrigerated case, covered in fresh fruit, as it tastes. Decadently smooth and creamy, Frost’s gelato comes in a plethora of flavors, including Amaretto, Bailey’s Irish Crème, Gianduia (chocolate with hazelnut), Nutella, Coconut, Honey, Root Beer, and Strawberry Yogurt. Ask for a taste before placing your order, of, if you want, the Eats editorial staff would be happy to perform a taste test for you.
What to get: Gianduia gelato
La Parilla Suiza also has several locations in Tucson, and it offers an extensive menu of classic Mexican dishes. What’s a little more fun than ordering the classics is getting together with a group of friends for the Queso Suizo. What you get is a hot skillet bubbling with slightly golden, melty cheese and warm tortillas. Break off a piece of tortilla, scoop up some hot cheese, top it with a bit of guacamole or salsa, and pop pure tastiness into your mouth.
What to get: Queso Suizo; Guacamole
For any movie lovers out there, a trip to the Loft is a must. The Loft screens indie films, classic films, and crazy weird cult classics. The snack bar offers movie theater standards like popcorn and candy, but you can also try one of the microbrews on tap before settling into your seat. And, at some screenings, you can pay $1 to fill a cup with as much fun-size candy as you can.
What to get: Beer of the Month; $1 candy cup
President Bill Clinton once ate at this South Tucson restaurant, and, if you’re lucky, you’ll get to sit at his highly decorated table. If not, you’re still going to enjoy a huge, traditional Mexican meal. Mi Nidito has been featured on “Man vs. Food” and offers portions enough to defeat any eater, especially with their “President’s Plate:” a bean tostada, a birria (spiced, shredded beef) taco, a chile relleno, a chicken enchilada, and a beef tamale. Be warned: there is always a long wait for this famed food, so get there early.
What to get: Flat Enchiladas (thick, old-fashioned enchiladas in a red sauce)
Eegee’s is a fast food chain beloved mostly for their Frozen Fruit Beverages. More dessert than beverage, these fruity, sweet sorbets are packed into Eegee’s cups. Pina Colada, Lemon, and Strawberry are always available, but check the sign outside for the flavor of the month. If you can’t pick just one, ask for a combo.
What to get: Flavor of the Month Frozen Fruit Beverage
Located right across from the University of Arizona campus, Wilko feeds students and locals alike from their New American menu. This modern gastropub features chunky wooden tables and a variety of classic dishes with a modern twist. Take the mac and cheese, for example, which comes with gruyere and crispy onions. Or try pizza and flatbreads like the Murcia: marinated cherry tomatoes, toasted pinon nuts, drunken goat cheese, and fresh mint. Wash it all down with a glass of wine or a microbrew.
What to get: Penne & Red; Grilled Cheese w/ Gruyere and Caramelized Onions
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