Check out Tucson’s Ultimate Food Guide
Tucson is officially a foodie town. Named the nation’s top food city by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) in 2015, Arizona’s second largest city has a rich agricultural history. It has been continuously cultivated for 4,000 years, the longest in North America. Other qualities include its native ingredients, James Beard-appointed chefs, and a wide variety of cultural influences that collide to serve everything from artisan breads and loaded hot dogs to inventive salsas and roadside burritos. So head to Interstate 17 and eat your way through “Old Pueblo” like a pro.
Chorizo Burrito + Coffee at Barista Del Barrio
1002 North Grand Avenue, Tucson
Like many foodie stories, this one began with beloved family recipes, a dream and a coffee cart – the birth of Barista Del Barrio. Launched by owner Flavia Briones and her two children, Sergio and Ariana, the property now features a walk-in window with outdoor patio in historic Barrio Hollywood. Made with local tortillas from Tortillas de Harina Linda, the burritos are filled with potatoes, cheese, beans, and the fluffiest scrambled eggs. You can choose the protein (bacon, ham, sausage, soyrizo), but the obvious best choice is the homemade chorizo with its secret blend of chilies and spices. It’s panini-pressed to crispy perfection and comes with two burritos in every order. Say yes to extra salsa and wash it down with coffee, from killer cold brew to a delicious lechera latte.
Breakfast at Meyer Avenue Café & Mercantile
353 South Meyer Ave, Tucson
Everything is cute, cozy, and made from scratch at Meyer Avenue Café, a quaint counter-service spot tucked away in the Barrio Viejo neighborhood with a large patio and Parisian vibe. Order delights like Lil Dutch Babies for a trio of puffy pancakes filled with tangy citrus cream and seasonal fruits; Coronet Eggs Benedict with shaved beef brisket, potato kugel, and dill Hollandaise sauce; and Horchata Steel Cut Oatmeal in ginger horchata with fresh berries, apple butter and spiced pecans. Open daily from 8:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m., so perfect for those holiday days when you want to sleep in, the mercantile is also stocked with jams and hot sauces to take home.
Donuts at Le Cave’s Bakery & Donuts
3950 East 22nd Street, Tucson
Le Cave’s donuts are incredibly chewy, with a springy, cloudy texture and a ridiculously indulgent finish that doesn’t feel heavy or greasy — and they happen to be vegan. The original store opened in 1935. Now under new ownership in a new location – a former Jack in the Box with drive-thru – it offers the same tried and tested recipes. But which donut to order? The apple fritter is a favorite, soft on the inside with a tappable exterior. Ditto for the icy, a glistening, melt-in-your-mouth piece that’s both featherweight and filler. Oh, and a chocolate glazed donut that’s kind of the milkiest chocolate you’ve ever tasted, but vegan. And for non-vegans, Boston Cream is whipped cream, a chocolate revelation that tastes better than any donut. In other words, you can’t go wrong.
Jackfruit anything at Tumerico Cafe
2526 East Sixth Street, Tucson
Wendy Garcia, chef-owner of the plant-based, Latin-inspired Tumerico, can carve a jackfruit like a boss. She starts with the giant green fruit, adds a mix of spices and seasonings, frys it, and piles it into tacos and enchiladas. Also included are adobo sauce, fiery salsa, cashew cream, and guacamole, all homemade. The ever-changing blackboard menu features options like fiery jackfruit tacos al pastor, jackfruit carnitas, ropa vieja and huevos rancheros, all beautifully plated creations that are bursting with color and spice, everything as its owner.
Sonoran hot dog at El Güero Canelo
5201 12th Ave South, Tucson
We don’t know what we love best about Sonoran El Güero Canelo Hot Dog House, a Tucson institution that’s been serving up bacon-wrapped dogs since 1993. There’s the toppings, a mix of pinto beans, drizzles, and more. fresh and grilled onions, diced tomato sauce, mayo, mustard and jalapeno, a fair ratio that gives it crunch and character. There are the delicately steamed and lightly sweetened buns, which owner Daniel Contreras receives from his hometown of Magdalena, Mexico. There’s the single dog Sonoran style ($3.99) and the Sammy Dog ($5.00) which comes with two bacon-wrapped franks in a bun. And the epic topping bar gives you the chance to take your already-laden dog to new heights with pickled onions, shredded cheese, more grilled scallions, and loads of homemade salsas. Additionally, the hot dog joint won a James Beard America’s Classics Award.
Chocolate at Monsoon Chocolate
234 East 22nd Street, Tucson
This is no ordinary candy store, Monsoon Chocolate is a bean-to-bar operation in historic Santa Rita Park that serves handcrafted, sustainably sourced cocoa confections like you’ve never seen or seen before. tasted. The candies are sculptural, hypnotic gems infused with Southwestern flavors like chiltepín pepper, prickly pear caramel, and Sonoran sea salt that almost taste too good to eat. But, man, when you do, they coat your mouth in a sturdy, velvety texture that makes regular, waxy chocolate feel flat. They also serve signature hot chocolates made with “La Buena Blend” 62% dark chocolate; melty brownies with miso and toasted sesame seeds; cold-infused horchata with roasted cocoa nibs; and a homemade ChocoTaco with chocolate-dipped sweet corn ice cream. The modern Willy Wonka-esque setting adds to this delightful experience.
Salsa at BOCA Tacos and Tequila
533 Fourth Avenue North, Tucson
Be sure to order a taco to go with your salsa at BOCA Tacos y Tequila, where the statement “Our salsas are hotter than your wife” says it all. Far more than a prop, executive chef and owner Maria Mazon, who is also a 2020 James Beard Award semi-finalist and Top Chef Portland nominee, takes salsa seriously. And he doesn’t think of it in terms of simple red and green, not when inspired ingredients can be turned into a carnal condiment. Think banana and habanero, pickled jalapeno and honey, chai tea and soy sauce, peanut butter and guajillo, watermelon wasabi, an ever-changing repertoire with no less than five freshly prepared every day. Start with the flight fries and salsa and move on to tacos, where you can choose from 19 creations ranging from the Taco Dog inspired by the Sonoran hot dog and the chipotle barbecue made with boneless pork ribs.
Pizza at Anello
222 East 6th Street, Tucson
Anello has strong ties to Phoenix. Gilbert-born chef-owner Scott Girod worked under Chris Bianco at Pizzeria Bianco and also spent time in Italy as a pizza maker before opening Anello in Tucson’s Warehouse Arts District in 2017. But his pizza is all Tucson, built on naturally leavened dough that’s fermented for 30 hours and wood-fired with native Arizona mesquite wood to a charred, fizzy finish. There are only four regular pizzas on the menu, including: the Bianco with fresh mozzarella, ricotta, garlic, basil and local chiltepin peppers; and the Verde with smoked mozzarella, salsa verde and pistachios. There’s also a standout market specialty made with seasonal ingredients (think local kumquats, smoked ricotta, rosemary and chili oil). The minimalist space — mostly blond wood with a bubblegum pink wall — matches the clean menu.
Bread at Barrio Bread
18 Southeast Bourne Avenue, Tucson
Between Marco Bianco’s baguettes at Pane Bianco and Jason Raducha’s natural sourdough breads at Noble Bread, Phoenix knows the right bread. Yet we don’t see the queues that exist at Barrio Bread, where diehards line up outside the small Broadway Village storefront before it even opens. Barrio means neighborhood in Spanish, and owner-baker Don Guerra’s bread is infused with lots of local love. Look for a blend of locally grown, heritage flours/grains unique to the Southwest, including Sonora White Wheat (one of the oldest surviving varietals in North America) and engraved cactus on the signature heritage loaves. Pick up the Locavore featuring three local organic flours, the Cinnamon Raisin loaded with Thompson and golden raisins, the Jalapeno-Cheddar with sharp cheddar and spicy jalapenos, or the Pan de Kino with its Sonoran white wheat. Let’s just hope they don’t sell out.