The foodie scene in the Southwest is popping, and Tucson is playing a big part in the region's recent culinary successes. The Old Pueblo's been recognized as a Unesco gastronomy city since 2016, and Food and Wine Magazine has listed it among the Next Great Food Cities.
You'll find all the tamales and huevos rancheros your heart desires, but also borderland cuisine featuring the bounties of the Sonoran Desert. Agave, chiltepin pepper, cholla buds, and amaranth combine with fruit from the trees planted many decades ago—quince, figs, and white pomegranates. You'll find top eating spots in the Fourth Avenue district near the University of Arizona campus and beyond. Don't forget to buy lots of Monsoon chocolate bars as edible souvenirs.
A born and raised Tusconan, Chef John Martinez owns Tito and Pep, a 2022 honoree on the New York Times's annual 50 Best Restaurants in America list. This bistro offers tapas that are flavorful and peppered with local ingredients. Try the seafood stew with tomato broth and masa dumplings or the grilled meats cooked with mesquite fire.
Folks love the Queso Fundido, the smoky eggplant, and the passionfruit panna cotta, a simple but unforgettable dessert. When the place is packed and loud, socializing can be difficult, so book a table at the back if you're going with pals or clients.
In Downtown Tucson, 47 Scott sits where a peep show parlor once did. Foodies come to this rustic and upscale restaurant for a different kind of fun.
There's modern American comfort food and a range of classy cocktails to enjoy. You'd do well to order some fried cauliflower, duck meatloaf, an heirloom tomato salad with ricotta toast, the phyllo-wrapped chicken entree, or steamed muscles.
Chef and owner Maria José Mazon is the taco queen. At this celebrated establishment, the creative tacos are next-level, and the seasonal homemade salsas dance on the palate with the tartness of raspberries, a kick of chili, or unconventional ingredients like cookies.
The queue moves quickly, so don't stress if you see one. Try the bistek or the Don Pancho.
Natural light streams through this popular eatery, and the vibes will make you want to stay for a while. Prep and Pastry often has an hour-long queue for their weekend brunch, so you may need to conquer the line first.
The gorgeously-plated food is worth the wait, though. The duck confit entree is sublime, and the brioche French toast with candied almonds and macerated berries will put a smile on your face. The pastry chef here makes must-grab croissants and Danishes to sweeten the rest of your day.
Seis Kitchen at the Spanish-colonial-era market, Mercado San Agustin, serves critically-acclaimed food from six regions of Mexico. This is street food on gourmet steroids and will make you daydream about authentic quesadillas and tortas for days.
Try the birria, a glorious beef stew, the tinga de pollo, a Pueblan smoky chipotle chicken, or the poc chuc chicken taco. The fresh juices are uniquely delicious too.
Vegans and vegetarians rejoice—Tumerico makes Latin food even carnivores rave about. Chef Wendy Garcia puts out well-spiced and exciting plant-based options and blackboard menu surprises.
You can look forward to jackfruit carnitas, red chili nopalitos made from prickly pear cactus pads, meat-free cochinita pibil, and saffron and lavender lattes if it's a hot beverage you're after. Portions are generous, and each mouthful is fresh and tasty.
In the mood for a pizza party? Renee's has got you covered with innovative pies, gluten-free fare, and yummy vegan options. This is an intimate trattoria with a handful of tables, so make a reservation if you'll be in the area and crave Italian grub.
Sample the garlic knots, black bean tostada, spinach artichoke dip, blackberry tea, and the hearty lasagna. Service is fantastic, and you'll be well looked after on a private date night or evening out. Renee's leans healthy and sustainable, and we love that.
Chef Doug Levy will take you abroad with his Asian and Mediterranean dishes. The menu changes on the first Tuesday of every month to make the most of seasonal ingredients and inspiration, so patrons always have something new to try.
Frequent favs include the delightful red curry tart, and the rabbit and duck dishes will fancify your protein intake. Finish the meal with some heavenly chocolate truffle cookies, or give the homemade ice cream a go.
There's bread, and then there's the bread from Barrio Bread and Barrio Charro. James Beard award winner Don Guerra has collabed with James Beard nominee Chef Carlotta Flores from El Charro. Guerra is a baking legend and a heritage grains expert, and his artisanal creations made from the likes of heirloom White Sonora wheat pair well with Flores's Northern Mexican food.
The sandwiches are exceptional at this primarily takeout place. Try the Barrio Hollywood Toast and the café de la olla. Buy a loaf to take home—they freeze well.
Tucson is entering a new and sexy food phase, where it's impossible to list all the amazing locations. If you're looking for even more food inspo catering to diverse palates, there's La Indita serving Native American food, Zemam's serving Ethiopian, and Kababeque Indian Grill.
Ruiz Hot Dogs Los Chipilones is a beloved street food spot, and Noodleholics, Kingfisher, and 5 Points Market & Restaurant won't let you down either.