Restaurants


Now here is a topic I like, good restaurants. First off, you won't find any national chains listed here; after all, if you're visiting Tucson, why in the world would you want to eat at a restaurant that has its food delivered from the corporate kitchens in 55 gallon barrels? You can do that anywhere. Besides, chain restaurants bite! Also, FYI, we're vegetarians, so you won't find any steak houses listed here. However, our cat Sonora isn't and she writes cat food reviews. Really.

Now, we can't try all the restaurants in town, so we also provide this link to Tucson's Originals, a listing of local restaurants. Please patronize these before the only restaurants left are McBarfalds. Also, if you know of some Tucson restaurant that should be featured here, please e-mail ( ) us and we'll check it out. All we ask is that you remember we're vegetarians, and, as always, it must be a local place.

Think we were way off in our review? Post yours (and read others we've written) at Chefmoz.

With that out of the way, here's the best we've found in Tucson.

Caffe Milano

46 W Congress St. Phone: (520) 628-1601
Cost for us: $45-$50 (soup, dinners, a glass of wine, and a desert to split)

If you are looking for great Italian food, this is it. After seaching the Tucson area for nearly ten years we can finally say that we've found a really good Italian restaurant: Caffe Milano. The food here is outstanding, and the atmosphere, while a bit on the loud side, matches the food. Expect to be greeted in Italian when you enter and leave, and you can be sure that Carlo will stop by your table sometime during your meal to make sure everything is just right. We do have a couple complaints. First, Caffe Milano is only open two nights a week (Friday and Saturday), and for lunch. And second, we wish they'd offer up some risotto.

Our recommendations: the Orecchiette Quattro Formaggio, the Gnocchi with Gorgonzola sauce, the soups, the Tiramisu, well everything really.

Cushing Street Bar & Grill

Guinness198 W Cushing St. Phone: 622-7984

Cushing St. B&G StatueThis is our favorite watering hole in Tucson, bar none. Quiet, quaint, comfortable, a place where you can talk with and hear your partner, Cushing St. B&G feels closer to a true Irish pub than any other place in Tucson. We regularly stop in (almost every Thursday when movies are playing at La Placita -- see Events) for happy hour (Tues.-Fri. 4pm-6pm) when they have $2.50 pints of Guinness. Non-smoking inside, and out back they have a great patio where you can relax and enjoy yourself. Besides, when you're there, you're in the heart of Barrio Viejo (the old town); what could be cooler than that? They also serve up some really good food. Our pick is the pasta primavera.

Grill

100 E Congress Street. Phone: CLOSED
Cost for us: $20-$30

Grill. It's open later than you think!

Grill. It's open later
than you think.

Guinness Glass

Unfortunately, Grill closed in 2011. Now whenever we walk by we doff our caps and say, "Grill is dead. Long live Grill!"

Grill is fast becoming one of our favorite restaurants in the downtown Tucson area. Located in a diner that has seen some better days and some worse days, this place is serving up great food! And it's not all  diner-like food, instead, you can find dishes like portabello stroganoff, or spinach ravioli in herbed pink sauce. The latter dish, or the cheese tortellini in the herbed pink sauce, is so good, you'll be coming back again and again! We do! And if these don't really sound like they'll be right for you, there's lots of other things listed on the menu. In fact, take the time to read the menu; it's quite entertaining.

While this place might not have the ambiance of some of the more upscale places in town, it does have its own sort of ambiance. From the pinup above the door to the Red Room, to the chalkboard listing of the adult beverages (including Guinness, but not on draft), this place is pretty cool.

If pressed, we would have to say that the desserts offered are just okay. While they are made fresh daily, they seem to be lacking somehow. Of course, they're might be something just right for you.

El Minuto Cafe

354 S. Main St. Phone: 882-4145
Cost for us (dinners, drinks, tip): $25

So you've come out to the southwest and want to try some real Mexican food. Well, be careful, there are a lot of Mexican restaurants that serve food no better that Taco Hell. El Minuto is not one of them! Located on the corner of South Main and Cushing St (just south of the Tucson Convention Center), El Minuto stands out from the rest. After all, it was established in 1936, and is still doing a booming business, so the cooks must be doing something right. After dinner (or lunch) make sure to stop by El Tiridito, just a few feet south on Main St. Now if you don't want to make the trek downtown for some reason, there is another El Minuto at 8 N. Kolb (essentially on the northeast corner of Broadway and Kolb). It doesn't have the same ambiance as the downtown location, but the food is just as good.

Our recommendation: the Chile Rellenos; these are the best we've found in Tucson, and we try them at nearly every restaurant that offers them.

The Blue Willow

2616 N. Campbell Ave. Phone: 327-7577

Guinness Looking for good home-style meals? Look no farther than the Blue Willow. Located on the east side of Campbell Avenue just north of Grant Road, the Blue Willow has something for everyone, including the chocolate dessert of the day. All served up in a nice casual atmosphere. So casual, in fact, that you seat yourself. Recommendation: Spinach lasagna (and a Guinness, of course) while sitting on the patio out back. We often get the vegetarian chili as a starter, too. Other items available include: spinach crÍpes, stuffed peppers, and generally a quiche of the day.

The Tea Room at Tohono Chul

7366 N. Paseo del Norte. Phone: 797-1222

GuinnessMore than tea, they also serve lunch, (but not dinner, so don't stop in at 6 p.m.). And if you're not quite hungry, you can stroll around the grounds to work up an appetite. Our recommendation: The portabello sandwich, along with a prickly pear margarita. After a moderate hike in the nearby Santa Catalina Mountains, this is the perfect combo! Be sure to ask for patio seating if the weather is to your liking.

For those who are so inclined, they do have Guinness, although it's not on draft.

Magpie's Pizza

Location

Phone

605 N. Fourth Ave.

628-1661

7157 E Tanque Verde Rd.

546-6526

7315 N. Oracle Rd.

297-2712

105 S. Houghton Rd.

751-9949

4654 E. Speedway Blvd.

795-5977


Cost for us (pizza to go): $15-20

Looking for pizza, but just can't bring yourself to go the Pizza Rut? Try Magpie's instead. Voted the best pizza in Tucson since forever (we won't count the time Pizza Rut stuffed the ballot box – we're not making that up – since no one else counts it either). Magpie's has more options than you can shake a stick at. Crusts: whole wheat, white, sourdough, all with or without herbs and/or cheese mixed in. See, that's twelve combinations already. Four kinds of sauce, and nearly a countless number of toppings. Now chose delivered, eat-in, or take-n-bake! Our recommendation: the Greek, on whole wheat crust, and have them add herbs and cheese to the crust while you're at it.

Gandhi Cuisine of India

150 W. Ft. Lowell Rd. Phone: 292-1738

One of the great things about going to ethnic restaurants is that the food tastes so much different (read better) than you could make at home. That is indeed the case at Gandhi. Located in the northwest corner strip mall at Ft. Lowell Rd. and Stone Ave., Gandhi has been serving up delicious Indian food for as long as we've been in Tucson. Most dishes can be ordered in different level of spiciness (mild, medium, hot, or crazy hot), and everything we've tried has been excellent.

Our recommendation: Stop in for the Lunch buffet. It's actually one of the few buffets that serves excellent dishes (most buffets are terrible), and you'll get to try a wide range of dishes, from pakoras for an appetizer, dal saag or curry for the main course, and even a choice of several desserts. Trust us, you won't go away hungry. The one down side to the buffet is that you can't get your meals "crazy hot," if that's what you're after.

Casita De Cecilia

Just North of Valencia Rd. on Old Nogales Hwy. Phone: 573-2983
Cost for us (lunch, drinks): $10

Casita Logo So you've just finished checking out San Xavier del Bac, the white dove of the desert, and are now looking to get a quick, but tasty, bite to eat? Try Casita de Cecilia. It may be a little difficult to find, and some tourists may be put off by its appearance, but don't let it put you off. This little roadside stand serves up some of the best Mexican food in Tucson (even their Chile Rellenos rival those of El Minuto) with a real southwest flavor. The staff speaks Spanish, sometimes only Spanish, making it a little difficult to order (fortunately, the better half of the local couple speaks some Spanish; otherwise your writer would go hungry). The customers are almost exclusively Hispanic adding to that southwest atmosphere, and Mexican music plays in the background.

Now, the Casita is open Monday through Saturday from 8am until 9pm, so you can stop in just about anytime and select something from the menu. Note that it is mostly in Spanish, and there are a number of items that we're not sure about, so let the orderer beware.

Our recommendation: The Burro Vejetariano, or the Chile Rellenos (if they have them as a special).

Cafe Poca Cosa

110 E Pennington St. Phone: 622-6400
Cost for us (dinner, drinks, tip): $45-50

Many people may remember when Cafe Poca Cosa was located in the Clarion Hotel. Well, not any longer. With the renovations that are going on there, Poca Cosa has moved into new digs. Fortunately, they've stayed downtown; moving just two blocks north to Pennington and Scott Ave.

Like always, the food here is great, fresh, well presented, and filling. And the place is just hopping with the locals who know that you can come back time and time again and not get bored with the food, for the menu changes daily depending on what happens to be in season and the chef's whim. Not just part of the menu, but the entire menu changes. In fact, it is hand-written on a chalk board and brought to the table for your perusal. Our recommendation: Margaritas and anything that appeals to your tastebuds. And, of course, reservations to prevent a long wait.