10 Tucson restaurants and cafes to try this fall | Phoenix New Times

10 Tucson restaurants and cafes to try this fall

Whether you're visiting Tucson or heading to the University of Arizona, try these can't-miss eateries in the Old Pueblo.
El Charro's original location is listed in the National Register of Historic Places.
El Charro's original location is listed in the National Register of Historic Places. El Charro Cafe
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It's back-to-school season and for University of Arizona students, classes start on August 21. For those new to Tucson and those returning for another semester as a Wildcat, the restaurants, bars, and cafes of the Old Pueblo are ready and eager to serve. 

The food scene in Tucson is rooted in a deep agricultural history that dates back 4,000 years, and the Old Pueblo is recognized by the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) as a City of Gastronomy. That history is celebrated at some of the classic restaurants in town. Other, newer spots are spicing things up with flavors from all over the world.

Whether you're heading to class or just visiting for a weekend, here are 10 must-try restaurants in Tucson.

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Tacos al pastor are a favorite at BK Carne Asada & Hot Dogs.
Tirion Boan

BK Carne Asada & Hot Dogs

2680 N. First Ave. Tucson
5118 S. 12th Ave. Tucson
When you hear, “hey, let’s go to BKs!” in Tucson, those hungry folks are not talking about Burger King. In the Old Pueblo, BKs stands for BK Carne Asada & Hot Dogs, a favorite of students and locals alike. The restaurant, which has two locations in town, serves two Tucson staples; the Sonoran Hot Dog — a hot dog wrapped in bacon, topped with pinto beans, onions, tomato, mayo, mustard and jalapeno sauce, and caramelos, a type of small quesadilla made with flour tortillas, cheese and meat that have absolutely nothing to do with caramel, as the name suggests. The restaurant also serves a selection of tacos and tortas that can be topped with an array of salsas from the self-serve counter. Cold beer and over-the-top cocktails wash it all down.


3502 E. Grant Road, Tucson
Some of the best gems in Tucson are found in unassuming strip malls, and Noodleholics is no different. This spot is a favorite of many international students missing a taste of home. It specializes in Guilin-style rice noodles and freshly hand-made wheat noodles which fold into soups and plates mixed with barbecue pork, beef shank, minced pork or other toppings. Start with a plate of pan-fried dumplings and a Hong Kong milk tea to kick off your meal.

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Head to the back bar at El Charro and order a margarita while you wait to be seated.
El Charro Cafe

El Charro Cafe

311 N Court Ave., Tucson
The original El Charro Cafe is one of the most famous restaurants in Tucson, and certainly one of the oldest. This classic spot has been serving delicious Mexican food in the downtown area for decades. It’s often busy, so while you wait for a table, make your way through the courtyard to the back bar where you can order a prickly pear margarita and snack on free chips and salsa. The restaurant is comprised of a series of rooms, so each visit has a different feel. The front covered porch is the perfect place for a hearty lunch, and some of the colorful, cozy back rooms are perfect destinations for a group meal or birthday celebration. Make sure to leave room at the end of your meal for the outstanding, immensely creamy flan. There are other outposts of this restaurant in Tucson, but the Court Avenue restaurant is the one to visit.

Ghini's French Caffe

1803 E. Prince Road, Tucson
A great way to start your day is with breakfast at Ghini's French Caffe. Coralie Satta, also known as Chef Ghini, had a love for the culinary arts at a young age. She worked in many restaurants before moving to Tucson to create Ghini's French Caffe, serving classic French dishes such as the Croque Madame, Croque Monsieur and a variety of crepes. Try one of Ghini’s signature dishes, the Eggs Provençal made with local tomatoes sauteed with garlic, herbs and farm eggs with a choice of toast made from La Baguette Bakery, just next door. 

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HeeMee Coffee + Bakery's strawberry and pistachio cookie, a slice of strawberry cream cake and a berry tart.
Tiffany Acosta

HeeMee Coffee + Bakery

20 E. Congress St. #110, Tucson
Need a coffee break? Check out HeeMee Coffee + Bakery right in the heart of downtown Tucson. This cute, tiny, minimalistic cafe explores Korean heritage by making traditional cakes and sweet and savory treats.  Some of the specialty drinks are the Yuja Ade, a fizzy sip sweetened with honey and Yuja and the Ocean Latte with blue Curaçao and fresh cream. Don't forget about pastries like fluffy cream cakes, strawberry pistachio cookies, egg tarts and red bean and custard donuts. HeeMee also offers classic Korean dishes such as Korean corn dogs, bulgogi sandwiches and sweet garlic fried chicken.

Mercado San Agustin

100 S. Avenida del Convento, Tucson
There are a multitude of reasons to visit Mercado San Agustin, a collection of businesses near downtown Tucson. Here’s our recommended game plan: First, grab a smooth and rich coffee drink at Presta Coffee Roasters. Then, pick up a menu and stand in line at Seis Kitchen. There, order the El Jefe Burrito stuffed with chorizo, green chiles, eggs, guacamole, potatoes and cheese or the Mojo de Ajo Shrimp Tacos with mushrooms. Pick out a table in the sunshine to eat and after you’re full, head to La Estrella Bakery to pick out some freshly baked Mexican pastries to take home for later.

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Grab this fresh burrata with tomatoes at Locale
Tiffany Acosta

Locale Neighborhood Italian Restaurant

60 N. Alvernon Way, Tucson
Locale Neighborhood Italian Restaurant is a Tucson destination. The bustling venue feels like an Italian villa with spacious outdoor and indoor seating, Tuscan-style interior design, modern wooden tables and wine shelves along the walls. Everything is made from scratch including the pasta, pizzas and bread from the Locale Bakery. To start, get the creamy burrata with sweet tomatoes and extra virgin olive oil. As your main entrée try the handmade Sfoglia, topped with braised pork, mushrooms, saba dandelion greens and a sprinkle of parmesan. Perfect for any graduation ceremonies, first dates, or birthday celebrations, Locale is a special treat.

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Try the Goat Cheese Relleno for an explosion of flavor at The Parish.
Tiffany Acosta

The Parish

6453 N. Oracle Road, Tucson
Get a taste of New Orleans at Tucson's Southern gastropub. The Parish draws inspiration from "Southern comfort, hospitality, and community," according to its website. Its three owners, who hail from Louisiana, Texas and Arizona, work to create the perfect blend and atmosphere. Make sure to try the Goat Cheese Relleno made with balsamic reduction, pico de gallo, bacon and fresh cilantro, and the Drunken Angel, a dish of burgundy angel hair pasta, shrimp, crawfish, lobster broth, saffron red pepper cream sauce and fresh parmesan. Among many local awards, The Parish has been named by the Tucson Weekly as the Best Northwest Restaurant.

Barista del Barrio

1002 N. Grande Ave., Tucson
Visiting Barista del Barrio is a great way to spend a weekend morning in Tucson. While this place is popular, its west side location and homey feel make it feel like a true locals spot. Coffee drinks, as the name suggests, are on the menu. But the real attraction here is the burritos. Pliable Sonoran-style flour tortillas are filled with potato, eggs, cheese and beans and can be topped with chorizo, bacon, ham, sausage or dried beef called machaca. The burritos are served piping hot and come with spicy red salsa. Take them to go or grab one of the few patio tables to chow down.

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Doughnuts at Amy's are fresh and fluffy.
Tiffany Acosta

Amy's Donuts

101 E. Fort Lowell Road, Tucson
Move over, glazed and jelly-filled donuts. Amy’s Donuts is baking out-of-the-box, unconventional treats. This colorful location is a must-visit in Tucson. Try the Bananas Foster, Butterfinger Glaze, Chunky Monkey, the Elvis Donut, inspired by the singer's favorite peanut butter, banana, and bacon sandwich, Mocha Coffee, Nutter butter, Strawberry Shortcake and many more.
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