Eating your way through Tucson is one of the great pleasures of visiting this southwestern city. Year after year, new restaurants push the bar even higher for dedicated foodies. Like a small Los Angeles, the city is spread out and many of its best restaurants are found in different parts of the city.
Here are three of my favorites:
EL CHARRO CAFÃ?Â?’ traditional Mexican cuisine in historic setting.
Downtown Historic District: 311 N. Court Avenue, Tucson.
This is the oldest Mexican restaurant in Tucson – a colorful local institution in the heart of an historic barrio just minutes from the Tucson Museum of Art. In 1922 Monica Flin, a young widow from Mexico opened the first El Charro CafÃ?Â© in her home and since then it has been a perennial favorite. USA Today calls it “One of the Top 50 Plates in the Country.” Due to the variety of its menu, I suggest ordering several smaller side dishes: Here are my top picks:
Chef Carlota Flores’ home made chorizos (sausage) tamales……………………..$3.25 each
or $ 7.25 for a platter.
My Mexicans friends prefer: Pozole stew in a blend of hominy, pork and picante.
Ã¢Â?Â¦ spicesÃ¢Â?Â¦$6.50 bowl
For desert try “Tamales de Dulce” (desert tamales) sweet temptations of Dulce de Leche
(Carmel sauce), pumpkin with brown sugar or Mexican chocolate served with vanilla ice cream
Ã¢Â?Â¦Ã¢Â?Â¦Ã¢Â?Â¦Ã¢Â?Â¦Ã¢Â?Â¦Ã¢Â?Â¦Ã¢Â?Â¦Ã¢Â?Â¦Ã¢Â?Â¦Ã¢Â?Â¦ $5.25 each.
New locations at: 6310 E. Broadway, 100 W. Orange Grove and 4699 E. Speedway. Tel: (520) 622-1922.
Visit website: www.elcharrocafe.com
VIVACE RESTAURANT, Northern Italian Cuisine in St Philip’s Plaza, The Foothills
4310 N. Campbell Ave. Tucson. 11:30 TO 9 pm. daily. Closed Sunday.
Reservations recommended: (520) 795-7221.
Even Napa Valley food snobs light up when you mention Vivace, a Tuscan-inspired classic in a chic plaza at the base of the Catalina Foothills. Vivace’sstaff and clientele sparkles with enthusiasm and the creative entrÃ?Â©es are reasonably priced by metropolitan standards. The small bar is populated with attractive people and excellent wines by the glass.). This seem to be a place where successful locals check each other out.
Frommer’s Guide raves about the crab-filled chicken breast; and oso buco is a house Specialty, but my tastes are more rustic. I always order pasta. (all entrÃ?Â©es are large and served excellent fresh bread and olive oil).
Here’s my favorite: Cavatappi (cork screw pasta) with goat cheese, mushrooms, pinole (pine nuts) and cheese. The nouvelle Italian menu changes often and it’s hard to get a bad meal. Weather permitting; ask for a table outside by the splashy fountain. Average entrÃ?Â©e costs about $18.
Additional info: http://www.openlist.com/restaurants-view-vivaci5.htm
TERRA COTTA NOUVELLE French inspired regional specialties.
3500 E. Sunrise Drive, Tucson. (520) 577-8100
I consider myself well-traveled and I can safely say that Terra Cotta isone of the most creative and original Southwestern style restaurants In the country. From its spectacular location at the base of the jagged Catalina mountains to the refined modern architecture and innovative regional flavors, there is nothing to match it in the state of Arizona. Neither Tex-Mex nor traditional Mexican, the award-winning chefs create original specialties of the fresh ingredients native to the Southwest: chilies,corn, squash and beans, combined with sauces inspired by Oaxaca, Yucatanand ancient Mayan flavors. However, the piece de resistance is the way the chefs employ contemporary French nouvelle techniquesin the preparation and presentation of these dishes. The proprietors have studiedat Le Cordon Blue in Paris and are continuously traveling the world to keep abreast of the latest food trends.
Be prepared to experience new tastes that you will never forget. When it’s not hot, ask for a view table outside.
Here are a couple of favorite dishes:
Soups: Southwestern Gazpacho, served with grilled Guaymas shrimp
and a vegetable tower -portions are modest, the flavor is extremeÃ¢Â?Â¦.Ã¢Â?Â¦$8
Small plates: Tequila marinated shrimp in penne pasta with roasted corn,
sweet potatoes in a chipotle cream sauceÃ¢Â?Â¦Ã¢Â?Â¦Ã¢Â?Â¦Ã¢Â?Â¦Ã¢Â?Â¦Ã¢Â?Â¦Ã¢Â?Â¦Ã¢Â?Â¦Ã¢Â?Â¦Ã¢Â?Â¦Ã¢Â?Â¦Ã¢Â?Â¦Ã¢Â?Â¦Ã¢Â?Â¦ $14
Signature plates: Chipolte-molasses glazed half chicken with roasted
local poblano chilies, potatoes gratin and au jusÃ¢Â?Â¦Ã¢Â?Â¦Ã¢Â?Â¦Ã¢Â?Â¦Ã¢Â?Â¦Ã¢Â?Â¦.Ã¢Â?Â¦Ã¢Â?Â¦..$17
Don’t miss the She Wolf propped up on the the bar. She’s a local on the prowl.