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A Verde Pizza on a round metal pan with green swirls of sauce on the top and white plated sides of seasonal vegetables.
Verde Pizza and seasonal vegetables at Anello
Jackie Tran

17 Essential Tucson Restaurants

Where to eat in the Old Pueblo, from neighborhood cafes and taco shops to seasonal pizzerias

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Verde Pizza and seasonal vegetables at Anello
| Jackie Tran

With Tucson just over an hour away from Nogales, Mexico, Sonoran style cuisine shines. Don’t get caught up exclusively with the mesquite smoke and paper-thin flour tortillas, however. With a recent UNESCO designation as a Creative City of Gastronomy, Tucson stand out on the map with a deep agricultural history, and now, a wide range of culinary perks. Even humble taquerias and pizzerias will feature locally grown produce down to the I’itoi onions and heritage White Sonora wheat, and Green Valley pecan wood.

Although several treasured restaurants closed with the arrival of the pandemic, many are back to thriving with dine-in services returning, continuing the city’s prior momentum in the culinary scene. Below find 17 absolutely essential spots to check out in Tucson.

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Note: Restaurants on this map are listed geographically.

1. The Parish

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6453 N Oracle Rd
Tucson, AZ 85704
(520) 797-1233
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Chef Travis Peters showcases his distinct Tucson flair with Southern specialties and upbeat Mardi Gras energy at the Parish. Although classics such as gumbo and hushpuppies are easy picks, regulars don’t hesitate to try Peters’ experimental weekly specials. Also, check out the evolving line of house-made hot sauces and infused spirits as well.

2. The Quesadillas

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2418 N Craycroft Rd
Tucson, AZ 85712
(520) 296-1345
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Don’t mind the inconspicuous location by a gas station. Instead, let the fragrance of the mesquite grill lure you to the exceptional carne asada from this hidden taco shop. Although the namesake quesadillas are the star, make sure to try their thinly sliced crispy ribeye taco. When ordering the al pastor, don’t forget a side of the house chiltepin-pineapple salsa.

3. Tito and Pep

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4122 E Speedway Blvd
Tucson, AZ 85712
(520) 207-0116
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Chef John Martinez fully embraces his mesquite grill in his full-service mid-century modern restaurant. While Tito and Pep’s queso fundido is easily one of its most popular dishes, must-haves include the carne asada tartare tostada, grilled octopus, and seasonal pozole.

4. Noodleholics

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3502 E Grant Rd
Tucson, AZ 85716
(520) 305-4262
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This Chinese noodle shop offers a variety of dishes with rice noodles and freshly made wheat noodles in a modern fast-casual environment. The small dishes are also key to the full experience; don’t miss out on the salt and pepper wings, spicy chaoshou dumplings, and cooling garlic cucumber.

5. Kingfisher

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2564 E Grant Rd
Tucson, AZ 85716
(520) 323-7739
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Kingfisher features several staff members that have been with the restaurant for decades. While the restaurant is also a local’s top pick for traditional seafood and expertly shucked oysters, the menu expands biweekly in the summer with dishes from various American regions such as the Great Plains, California, and Hawaii.

6. El Taco Rustico

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2281 N Oracle Rd
Tucson, AZ 85705
(520) 623-3478
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A former swap meet stand, chef Juan Almanza signed the lease to open his restaurant mere weeks before the pandemic. Regardless, the spot is now thriving with regulars enjoying his slow-grilled costillas and crunchy-tender tripas tacos. The trendy quesabirrias have also become a popular must-have.

7. Barista Del Barrio

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1002 N Grande Ave
Tucson, AZ 85745
(520) 244-5285
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Barista del Barrio offers a simple but well-executed breakfast menu with marvelously friendly service. Rather than serving one massive burrito, the smaller grilled breakfast burrito comes as a pair in each order order. The lattes feature distinctly Mexican flavors such as horchata and mazapan.

8. Zemam's Too

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119 E Speedway Blvd
Tucson, AZ 85705
(520) 882-4955
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Zemam’s began as a five-seat restaurant almost 30 years ago. While the original Broadway location is temporarily closed, the secondary Speedway location still offers the icon’s Ethiopian cuisine with dishes such as beef simmered in spicy berbere sauce and spiced cauliflower roasted with peppers and garbanzo flour.

9. Tumerico

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2526 E 6th St
Tucson, AZ 85716
(520) 240-6947
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Vegetables steal the show at chef Wendy Garcia’s restaurant. Although cheese and eggs are offered, most of the restaurant’s ever-changing menu is vegan with options such as jackfruit carnitas and cochinita pibil. Garcia isn’t scared of spice, so adventurous palates will never be bored.

10. BOCA Tacos Y Tequila

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533 N 4th Ave
Tucson, AZ 85705
(520) 777-8134
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A James Beard Award semifinalist and recent contestant on Top Chef, Maria Mazon has earned an honorary title as Tucson’s salsa queen. Diners receive a variety of creative, rotating daily salsas, which can include unconventional ingredients such as raspberries and bananas. Mazon is also working on opening a tortilleria next door.

11. Anello

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222 E 6th St
Tucson, AZ 85705

Savor the Neapolitan-style pizza with a side of vegetables kissed with char from the wood-fired pizza oven at Anello. Pizzeria Bianco alumnus Scott Girod showcases seasonal, local ingredients beautifully in a minimalist fashion, matching the minimalist interior. The building doesn’t have any sign or window decal, but keep an eye out for the red bar of light above the window.

12. Reilly Craft Pizza and Drink

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101 E Pennington St
Tucson, AZ 85701
(520) 882-5550
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A downtown staple, Reilly serves Italian favorites in a laid-back yet elegant environment suitable for both business lunches and romantic dates. Share some of the fresh pasta and Brussels sprouts with pecan brittle crumbs. Downtown parking is easily available in the garage across the street.

13. Charro Steak & Del Rey

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188 E Broadway Blvd
Tucson, AZ 85701
(520) 485-1922
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Although the Flores family is best known for the chimichanga at their iconic El Charro Cafe, their downtown restaurant steps it up with premium steaks and seafood. The restaurant’s signature lobster tamalada features a split lobster stuffed with masa and green and red salsas.

14. Kukai

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267 South Avenida del Convento #11
Tucson, AZ 85701
(520) 367-5982
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Kukai serves its Japanese comfort classics out of a modified shipping container kitchen. While onigiri was originally the focal point, the menu has since evolved to offer a selection of rice bowls, ramen, and sushi rolls. Diners can enjoy their meal in the courtyard with libations from Westbound next door.

15. Five Points Market & Restaurant

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756 S Stone Ave
Tucson, AZ 85701
(520) 623-3888
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American and Mexican breakfast and lunch shine in this neighborhood eatery. Dishes such as the smoked salmon Benedict gracefully juggle elements of comfort food with conscious eating, utilizing stellar produce from the restaurant’s own local micro-farm.

16. Ruiz Hot Dogs Los Chipilones

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1140 S 6th Ave
Tucson, AZ 85701
(520) 406-1649

In a town specializing in Sonoran hot dogs, Ruiz stands out with its toasted bun and optimal topping ratio. The slightly sweet bun cradles the toppings for a less messy bite, while the savory and tangy grilled pepper on the side provides a fiery contrast.

17. PY Steakhouse

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5655 W Valencia Rd
Tucson, AZ 85757
(520) 324-9350
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One of Tucson’s lesser-known treasures, PY Steakhouse is located the southwestern edge of town at Casino Del Sol. While steak is in the name, the restaurant truly stands out with its sophisticated use of seasonal local ingredients with dishes such as the confit Red Wattle pork shoulder.

1. The Parish

6453 N Oracle Rd, Tucson, AZ 85704

Chef Travis Peters showcases his distinct Tucson flair with Southern specialties and upbeat Mardi Gras energy at the Parish. Although classics such as gumbo and hushpuppies are easy picks, regulars don’t hesitate to try Peters’ experimental weekly specials. Also, check out the evolving line of house-made hot sauces and infused spirits as well.

6453 N Oracle Rd
Tucson, AZ 85704

2. The Quesadillas

2418 N Craycroft Rd, Tucson, AZ 85712

Don’t mind the inconspicuous location by a gas station. Instead, let the fragrance of the mesquite grill lure you to the exceptional carne asada from this hidden taco shop. Although the namesake quesadillas are the star, make sure to try their thinly sliced crispy ribeye taco. When ordering the al pastor, don’t forget a side of the house chiltepin-pineapple salsa.

2418 N Craycroft Rd
Tucson, AZ 85712

3. Tito and Pep

4122 E Speedway Blvd, Tucson, AZ 85712

Chef John Martinez fully embraces his mesquite grill in his full-service mid-century modern restaurant. While Tito and Pep’s queso fundido is easily one of its most popular dishes, must-haves include the carne asada tartare tostada, grilled octopus, and seasonal pozole.

4122 E Speedway Blvd
Tucson, AZ 85712

4. Noodleholics

3502 E Grant Rd, Tucson, AZ 85716

This Chinese noodle shop offers a variety of dishes with rice noodles and freshly made wheat noodles in a modern fast-casual environment. The small dishes are also key to the full experience; don’t miss out on the salt and pepper wings, spicy chaoshou dumplings, and cooling garlic cucumber.

3502 E Grant Rd
Tucson, AZ 85716

5. Kingfisher

2564 E Grant Rd, Tucson, AZ 85716

Kingfisher features several staff members that have been with the restaurant for decades. While the restaurant is also a local’s top pick for traditional seafood and expertly shucked oysters, the menu expands biweekly in the summer with dishes from various American regions such as the Great Plains, California, and Hawaii.

2564 E Grant Rd
Tucson, AZ 85716

6. El Taco Rustico

2281 N Oracle Rd, Tucson, AZ 85705

A former swap meet stand, chef Juan Almanza signed the lease to open his restaurant mere weeks before the pandemic. Regardless, the spot is now thriving with regulars enjoying his slow-grilled costillas and crunchy-tender tripas tacos. The trendy quesabirrias have also become a popular must-have.

2281 N Oracle Rd
Tucson, AZ 85705

7. Barista Del Barrio

1002 N Grande Ave, Tucson, AZ 85745

Barista del Barrio offers a simple but well-executed breakfast menu with marvelously friendly service. Rather than serving one massive burrito, the smaller grilled breakfast burrito comes as a pair in each order order. The lattes feature distinctly Mexican flavors such as horchata and mazapan.

1002 N Grande Ave
Tucson, AZ 85745

8. Zemam's Too

119 E Speedway Blvd, Tucson, AZ 85705

Zemam’s began as a five-seat restaurant almost 30 years ago. While the original Broadway location is temporarily closed, the secondary Speedway location still offers the icon’s Ethiopian cuisine with dishes such as beef simmered in spicy berbere sauce and spiced cauliflower roasted with peppers and garbanzo flour.

119 E Speedway Blvd
Tucson, AZ 85705

9. Tumerico

2526 E 6th St, Tucson, AZ 85716

Vegetables steal the show at chef Wendy Garcia’s restaurant. Although cheese and eggs are offered, most of the restaurant’s ever-changing menu is vegan with options such as jackfruit carnitas and cochinita pibil. Garcia isn’t scared of spice, so adventurous palates will never be bored.

2526 E 6th St
Tucson, AZ 85716

10. BOCA Tacos Y Tequila

533 N 4th Ave, Tucson, AZ 85705

A James Beard Award semifinalist and recent contestant on Top Chef, Maria Mazon has earned an honorary title as Tucson’s salsa queen. Diners receive a variety of creative, rotating daily salsas, which can include unconventional ingredients such as raspberries and bananas. Mazon is also working on opening a tortilleria next door.

533 N 4th Ave
Tucson, AZ 85705

11. Anello

222 E 6th St, Tucson, AZ 85705

Savor the Neapolitan-style pizza with a side of vegetables kissed with char from the wood-fired pizza oven at Anello. Pizzeria Bianco alumnus Scott Girod showcases seasonal, local ingredients beautifully in a minimalist fashion, matching the minimalist interior. The building doesn’t have any sign or window decal, but keep an eye out for the red bar of light above the window.

222 E 6th St
Tucson, AZ 85705

12. Reilly Craft Pizza and Drink

101 E Pennington St, Tucson, AZ 85701

A downtown staple, Reilly serves Italian favorites in a laid-back yet elegant environment suitable for both business lunches and romantic dates. Share some of the fresh pasta and Brussels sprouts with pecan brittle crumbs. Downtown parking is easily available in the garage across the street.

101 E Pennington St
Tucson, AZ 85701

13. Charro Steak & Del Rey

188 E Broadway Blvd, Tucson, AZ 85701

Although the Flores family is best known for the chimichanga at their iconic El Charro Cafe, their downtown restaurant steps it up with premium steaks and seafood. The restaurant’s signature lobster tamalada features a split lobster stuffed with masa and green and red salsas.

188 E Broadway Blvd
Tucson, AZ 85701

14. Kukai

267 South Avenida del Convento #11, Tucson, AZ 85701

Kukai serves its Japanese comfort classics out of a modified shipping container kitchen. While onigiri was originally the focal point, the menu has since evolved to offer a selection of rice bowls, ramen, and sushi rolls. Diners can enjoy their meal in the courtyard with libations from Westbound next door.

267 South Avenida del Convento #11
Tucson, AZ 85701

15. Five Points Market & Restaurant

756 S Stone Ave, Tucson, AZ 85701

American and Mexican breakfast and lunch shine in this neighborhood eatery. Dishes such as the smoked salmon Benedict gracefully juggle elements of comfort food with conscious eating, utilizing stellar produce from the restaurant’s own local micro-farm.

756 S Stone Ave
Tucson, AZ 85701

Related Maps

16. Ruiz Hot Dogs Los Chipilones

1140 S 6th Ave, Tucson, AZ 85701

In a town specializing in Sonoran hot dogs, Ruiz stands out with its toasted bun and optimal topping ratio. The slightly sweet bun cradles the toppings for a less messy bite, while the savory and tangy grilled pepper on the side provides a fiery contrast.

1140 S 6th Ave
Tucson, AZ 85701

17. PY Steakhouse

5655 W Valencia Rd, Tucson, AZ 85757

One of Tucson’s lesser-known treasures, PY Steakhouse is located the southwestern edge of town at Casino Del Sol. While steak is in the name, the restaurant truly stands out with its sophisticated use of seasonal local ingredients with dishes such as the confit Red Wattle pork shoulder.

5655 W Valencia Rd
Tucson, AZ 85757

Related Maps