Top 12 Best Restaurants in Tucson

Last Updated on February 10, 2024 by Emily Johnson

Thanks to boundary-pushing chefs drawn by affordable rents and access to fresh produce from bountiful gardens and family ranches nearby, Tucson’s dining scene captivates visitors with innovative preparations of classic comfort foods.

Restaurant NameCuisine TypeNotable Features
El Charro CaféMexicanOldest Mexican restaurant in the U.S., historic charm
Cafe Poca CosaMexicanSeasonal menus, vibrant flavors, upscale ambiance
The CoronetFrenchCozy bistro atmosphere, French-inspired cuisine
Tito & PepMediterraneanFresh ingredients, seasonal menu, intimate setting
Prep & PastryAmericanBrunch spot with creative dishes and pastry selections
The Dutch Eatery & RefugeDutchUnique Dutch cuisine, hearty dishes
Senae Thai BistroThaiElegant ambiance, authentic Thai flavors
Boca Tacos y TequilaMexicanCreative taco offerings, extensive tequila selection
FeastGlobalEclectic menu, locally-sourced ingredients
Downtown Kitchen + CocktailsAmericanSeasonal menu, sustainable practices, craft cocktails
Elvira’sMexicanTraditional Sonoran cuisine, historic building
Charro Steak & Del ReySteakhousePremium steak cuts, vibrant atmosphere

Styles range from all-American drive-ins serving juicy burgers to upscale venues artfully plating Southwestern fusion, with plenty of taco shops, gourmet pizzerias and other varied eateries packed in between. This list surveys 12 of the Old Pueblo’s best restaurants visitors shouldn’t miss for memorable and satisfying meals showcasing hometown flavors.

Downtown Kitchen + Cocktails

Name and Location: Chic Downtown Kitchen + Cocktails brings creative upscale dining and drinks to modern spaces in the heart of Tucson’s financial district, perfect for business meals or special date nights out any evening until midnight.

History and Significance: Opened by Chef Janos Wilder in 2012 transforming unused base ground retail into a hip urban eatery overlooking Main Gate Square, Downtown Kitchen masterfully interweaves high desert ingredients into globally-inspired plates, pushing boundaries on plating and flavor profiles from wild mushrooms to elk and fire-kissed vegetables.

What to Expect: Under chandeliers within exposed-brick environs, fashionable diners sample Wilder’s weekly changing menu highlighting seasonal ingredients across dishes like Market Beet Salad, Pan Roasted Sea Scallops or fantastic desserts while enjoying well-curated wines, craft beers and tempting house cocktails.

Visitor Information: Open daily for dinner starting at 5pm plus a weekend brunch. Reservations recommended via OpenTable or call (520) 622-0711. Paid street parking available.

As Tucson’s first true gastropub when opened in 2008, Downtown Kitchen + Cocktails helped initiate the city’s ongoing culinary renaissance still thriving today. DK+C impresses foodie couples with its cozy chic ambiance pairing brick walls hung with works by local artists and a speakeasy vibe cocktail bar. Seasonal menus emphasize fresh ingredients sourced from regional producers used in creative combinations like their signature wood oven-roasted chicken accompanied by charred broccolini, polenta and romesco sauce. Whether enjoying casual lunches, business dinners or pre-show small plates, DK+C consistently delights thanks to scratch preparations paying homage to Southwestern traditions while keeping ingredients and techniques unexpected.

Pizzeria Bianco

Name and Location: James Beard award-winning Pizzeria Bianco started in downtown Phoenix, expanding to a central Tucson location sharing Chris Bianco’s famous brick-oven Neapolitan pizzas with Southern Arizona diners craving utter perfection distilled into simplicity using exceptional housemade mozzarella, market tomato sauce and specialty toppings on charred thin crusts.

History and Significance: For over 25 years Bianco set the high-water mark on pizza excellence almost single-handedly from his Phoenix pizzeria’s small custom wood-fired oven, eventually launching Bar Bianco, Pane Bianco plus this 2019 Tucson outpost specializing in takeout, delivery and Counter Service of Bianco’s heavenly pies redefining expectations around this ubiquitous food.

What to Expect: After placing orders at the minimalist counter, diners find seats along concrete floors beside cactus-print curtains or at scattered tables filling quickly with pizza lovers sinking teeth into signature thin tangy crusts topped withBadolina sausage or wise guy pepperoni washed down with exceptional wines, zippy salads and Fanta sodas in cold bottles. Bliss.

Visitor Information: Open for lunch and dinner daily. Expect waits at peak times – takeout/delivery viable options. Street parking available, ride share drop-off convenience. Cash free payments only.

Hailed since opening in 2019 as one of America’s best pizza restaurants thanks to James Beard Award-winning chef Chris Bianco’s passion, the downtown outpost of his revered Phoenix pizzeria packs in appreciative diners craving perfect pies. Crusts gain complex flavor from slow-fermented, house-ground specialty flours, while creative toppings like the Wiseguy with wood-roasted onion, house-smoked mozzarella and Parmigiano Reggiano balance savory and sweet. Salads, antipasto, cocktails and wines round out the menu, but the thin yet sturdy sourdough crust pizzas emerging from Bianco’s custom wood-fired oven steal the spotlight every meal. Even with waits sometimes required, Pizzeria Bianco satisfies loyal patrons as a destination eatery worth savoring.

El Charro Café

Name and Location: Historic family-run El Charro Café serves classic Sonoran cuisine traditions like chimichangas, tamales and more using grandmother’s recipes across multiple lively locations in downtown Tucson since 1922 featuring festive decor and margaritas.

History and Significance: Founded by Monica Flin esteemed “Queen of the Tortilla,” El Charro remains America’s oldest Mexican restaurant continuously operated by her descendants upholding scratch-made standards summed up by the stone fireplace grill still turning out juicy carne asada sirloins nightly. Theirifeblood legacy lives!

What to Expect: Buzzing crowds pack into folk-art filled dining rooms indulging spicy chilaquiles verde, sizzling fajitas or signatureplatters combining tacos, chimichangas, tamales and enchiladas made to satisfy groups under dimly lit beamed ceilings surrounded by generations of family history woven intrinsically to Tucson culture itself. ¡Salud!

Visitor Information: Downtown and north location serve daily lunch anddinner. Expect waits during peak hours – go early or late. Reserve for groups 6+ viawebsite or call (520) 622-1922. Nearby parking options at both sites.

As America’s oldest family-run Mexican restaurant now operated by the fourth generation of proprietors since opening downtown in 1922, the vibrantly colorful El Charro Café rightfully claims fame as the “Birthplace of the Chimichanga.” Their Carne Seca signature dish also wows diners featuring tender beef slow-simmered in a secret family sauce then tucked into crispy sopaipillas alongside beans and salad for a hearty, memorable meal. While the festive, expansive North Court location sees most tourist traffic, visitors willing to join lines at the cozy original downtown site find welcoming hospitality and family-recipe comfort foods transporting Tucson tastes back a century.

Café Poca Cosa

Name and Location: Renowned Café Poca Cosa offers an intimate award-winning Mexican dining experience inside cobalt blue walls downtown, known for daily changing menus inspired by owner Chef Suzana Davila’s selections of seasonal ingredients prepared with her bold hand across beautifully plated dishes.

History and Significance: Opened in 1998 on historic North Church Ave, Suzana built both menu creativity and physical space additions steadily to match demand driven by her from-scratch regional recipes melding Mexican roots with global preparations like short ribs tamales or tequila-citrus chicken steadily earning acclaim spreading by word of mouth between neighborhood regulars, critics and visitors.

What to Expect: Tasting menus offer handwritten selections across two seatings where Suzana herself narrates the regional inspirations behind perfectly prepared plates marrying flavors and textures – perhaps lean bison in pipián sauce or sweet corn empanadas in red guajillo pepper sauce – as an ever-evolving culinary adventure unfolds nightly.

Visitor Information: Open Tuesday through Saturday for dinner with seatings at 5pm and 8pm. Reservations essential due to tiny room size. Street parking or nearby Ruby Garage best bet.

Unpredictable yet mouthwatering flavors await daring diners who embrace Chef Suzana Davila’s “poquito de aqui, poquito de alla” central philosophy guiding her vibrant, award-winning Café Poca Cosa tucked downtown near the artsy Fourth Avenue District. Always changing, the daily menu highlights Davila’s Mexican and Southwestern cultural heritage interpreted through seasonal ingredients sourced from local purveyors. Specialties like the Plato Poca Cosa entrée platter for two allow sampling four selections like spiced-rubbed salmon, chicken mole or tequila-kissed prawns with black beans and handmade tortillas. With art lining peachy walls and an elegant fountain courtyard, the welcoming space provides worthy frames for Davila’s inspired cuisine celebrating both innovation and tradition.

Hub Restaurant & Creamery

Name and Location: Family-owned Hub Restaurant & Creamery overlooking the Tucson Mountains prepares fresh American dishes and housemade ice creams just west of downtown in the historic Train Depot neighborhood since 1951 as a welcoming community dining tradition.

History and Significance: Originally opened as Hub Drive-In by the Thomas family spanning three generations now, this vintage neon-accented eatery offers made-from-scratch classics like ring-dipped malts, lemon ice box pie and juicy burgers drawing neighborhood regulars and visitors to indoor booths or patio tables since post-war years.

What to Expect: Guests order creamy shakes, hot sandwiches and Hub exclusives like crunchy-edged potato pancakes or bread bowl chili gazing out plate glass windows then finish meals with towering sundaes from toothsome mud pie to fruit laden treats capped in clouds of whipped cream best shared by two spoons toasted to timeless dining nostalgia.

Visitor Information: Open Tuesday-Sunday 7am-10pm for breakfast through dinner plus ice cream. Easy parking in adjacent lots. Cash only payments inside – outside patio and walk-up ice cream window take cards.

After outgrowing their flagship downtown location, the Hub Restaurant & Creamery recently reopened in the historic 1939 Martin Luther King Jr. mansion allowing room for expanded menus plus community event space. Local produce makes regular appearances in seasonal salads and Shareable sides complementing their legendary brick oven pizzas and mouthwatering ice cream dessert lineup. While traditionalists crave signature pies like the Greek Goddess dressed with kalamata olives, artichokes and feta, more daring diners select from inventive monthly special creations that once included a peanut mole pizza crowned with caramelized banana and candied bacon. With gracious indoor and patio seating within walking distance of the University of Arizona campus, the Hub builds meal memories making return visits essential.

Tucson Tamale Company

Name and Location: Tucson Tamale Company creates incredible masa-wrapped southern Arizona renditions of tamales using classic fillings plus inventive fusion flavors at their brick and mortar dining spot within the downtown Warehouse Arts District since 2018.

History and Significance: Born from a 1992 tamale hotline home business, owners Tom and Marina now produce over 26 flavors of tamales still using time-honored family recipes refined for large scale production yet retaining ample moisture and seasoning balance inside cornmeal casings echoing heirloom cooking tradition improved upon through passion.

What to Expect: From all-time favorites like green chili chicken to Cuban pork or sweet prickly pear, the extensive daily tamales menu anchors meals or could comprise an entire snack splayed open revealing hints of what made each masa blanketed parcel so incredibly irresistible upon first inhale promising further satisfaction after its first bite.

Visitor Information: Open Mon through Sat 8am-5pm. Phone in bulk orders for quick pickup or choose from the fresh steam table. Easy street parking and pedestrian friendly location near museums.

Run by two generations of the Holguin family since opening their downtown shop in 1992, the Tucson Tamale Company draws long lunchtime lines thanks to perfecting the humble yet beloved stuffed cornmeal delicacy. Customers select fillings like green chili pork or zesty chipotle chicken alongside traditional tomatillo, red chili or Oaxacan mole sauces enrobing them. Local Sonoran wheat masa makes the vital difference ensuring each tender, steaming parcel achieves the right balance of smooth texture and complex flavor. Visitors can also call ahead to customize bigger tamale orders for office meetings or holiday family gatherings to savor at home. For an authentic taste celebrating the region’s deep agricultural and culinary heritage, Tucson Tamale Company delivers handmade happiness customers crave.

Welcome Diner

Name and Location: Shiny red booths inside cozy Welcome Diner accent classic American comfort foods like pot roasts, chicken fried steak and apple cobbler served round the clock to value-packed crowds seeking generous portions from their 24-hour diner conveniently located downtown.

History and Significance: With origins dating back over fifty years this historic downtown fixture has fed generations of Tucsonans solid affordable meals from scratch consistently across 24 hours daily attracting everyone from construction workers fueling overnight to prom dates splitting milkshakes unable to resist their small town charm and prices amid nonstop jukebox oldies.

What to Expect: Embrace casual community seating to dig into cinnamon roll pancakes, breaded tenderloin sandwiches or scratch-made pies from classic chocolate to cool key lime cut into thick slices easy to imagine came from grandma’s own oven while friendly waitresses keep mugs filled and plates clears making everyone feel welcome.

Visitor Information: Conveniently open 24 hours all days beside downtown bus depot. Cash only with an ATM inside. Street parking or paid garage across street works for those driving otherwise most walk over from nearby hotels.

Housed since 2012 in a restored 1950s-era Route 66 gas station near downtown, Welcome Diner attracts hipster and old-timer patrons alike with its silver Airstream trailer serving snacks plus an expansive patio for outdoor dining. Inside, customers slide into red-vinyl booths or belly up to the Formica counter to peruse kitschy items for sale like vintage postcards and plastic dinosaur toys between bites of tasty diner fare. Breakfast offerings feature Benny’s Best Benedict with green chili hollandaise or giant phosphorescent pancakes with powdered sugar “radioactive” lizard tracks. Later in the day, the grown-up grilled cheese menu tempts with additions like aged gouda, heirloom tomatoes and green chilis or eggplant with marinated red peppers and chevre. Friendly atmosphere, clever cooking and local history steeped in its Atomic Age bones ensure Welcome Diner delivers signature Tucson character visitors savor.

Boca Tacos y Tequila

Name and Location: High-energy restaurant Boca Tacos y Tequila celebrates vibrant Mexican colors and flavors across two Tucson locations pairing Mexican small plates and skillfully mixed agave spirits served with SoCal hospitality through Buzzworthy interiors equally dynamic for quick bites or special celebrations.

History and Significance: Founded by acclaimed hospitality group King + Duke in 2019, Boca brought mainstream Mexican cuisine favorites back to basics through scratch-made components lauding tradition while adding California fresh aesthetic twists across shareable tacos, creative entrees and delicate sweets complementing over 100 tequilas winning local devotees.

What to Expect: Under pinata-dotted ceilings, couples split sweet potato and black bean tacos chased by refreshing watermelon margaritas then machines whirl handmade tortillas tableside before carnitas enchiladas emerge atop mojo-drizzled plantains from the open kitchen’s wood-fired grill putting familiar recipes into enticing focus.

Visitor Information: South and Central locations open daily for lunch and dinner. Reserve tables via OpenTable or walk in to lively bar until seats free up. Validated parking and convenient ride share drop off points at both sites.

As a popular outpost of Chef Maria Mazon’s lively Tucson-based family of Mexican cantinas, Boca Tacos y Tequila occupies a rambling butter-yellow hacienda near the Foothills Mall. Tequila flights make ideal apertifs before feasting from an extensive menu highlighting street taco specialties originating from distinct regions across Mexico. Traditional Sonoran adobada tacos with slow-cooked marinated pork join playfully topped Baja-style tempura fish and zesty Oaxacan chicken mole filling handmade blue-corn tortillas. Share appetizers like ceviche tostadas or generous sizzling fajita platters, then finish with tres leches cake soaked in three luscious milks for a sweet high note. Gracias to its festive atmosphere plus authentic south-of-the-border flavors, Boca keeps fans returning regularly like clockwork for more.

Prep & Pastry

Name and Location: Situated in Tucson’s eclectic Historic Dunbar Spring neighborhood, intimate cafe Prep & Pastry crafts crepe griddle favorites for breakfast alongside patisserie-qualitybakeries and French-pressed coffee made from scratch in-house daily celebrating quality ingredients through thoughtful preparation.

History and Significance: Arizona native turned Parisian-trained chef Maria Mazon fulfilled her dream opening Prep & Pastry in 2013 focused on European techniques baking familiar morning fare plus lunch panini creations and gorgeous French pastries influencing Tucson’s emerging culinary scene through one cozy cafe storefront anchored around a mighty oak tree.

What to Expect: Light streams in illuminating buttery croissants, rows of fruit galette tarts and thick wedge slices of quiche Lorraine while regulars select savory or sweet crepes filled with Vermont cheddar plus apples or dripping with Nutella before grabbing personal pourover coffees to savor at home.

Visitor Information: Open mornings every day except Sunday from 7am-2pm. Street parking available but fills quickly so plan time to walk a few extra blocks and explore the funky neighborhood!

The perpetually peppy energy at Prep & Pastry counter-service cafe mirrors the positive outlook of owner Arlo Gilbert, who launched her dream business after a cancer battle at just 26. House-made bagels, wholesome breakfast skillets and build-your-own grain bowls start days right, while the lunch menu tempts with unique salads and hearty sandwiches like their bestselling fan favorite Caprese on toasted sourdough with fresh mozzarella, tomatoes, basil and balsamic reduction. Gilbert sources quality ingredients from multiple local farms, while the eatery’s merry color scheme and slogan “Eat happy foods!” hints at signature sweet specialties like snickerdoodle cookie dough or flavor-packed Nice Cream non-dairy frozen desserts. For healthy, scratch-made fare chasing blues away bite by bite, Prep & Pastry certainly cures any craving.

The Coronet

Name and Location: Mid-century modern steakhouse The Coronet has attracted diners craving thick chops and prime rib dinners since 1969 inside an iconic pink dining room located conveniently central to downtown Tucson major attractions.

History and Significance: Tucson native Dean Simms left aeronautical engineering to open The Coronet just before man first walked the moon, installing a custom mesquite-fueled broiler to properly char hand cut meats nightly for three generations – today run by his family upholding hearty carnivore fare traditions with a lounge still rocking Old Arizona vibes.

What to Expect: Sink into red leather seating to work through classic iceberg wedge salads before indulging USDA Prime 16-ounce ribeyes or daily fish flown in fresh, all textbook studies in old-fashioned protein preparations best enjoyed beside a classic Manhattan or Negroni before finishing with mile-high lemon meringue pie.

Visitor Information: Dinner only opens daily at 5pm. Steaks run $40+ but less expensive salads and sandwiches available on menu always. Reserve via OpenTable or call (520) 792-8912 to secure tables. Private lot and street parking options near entry.

This Old Pueblo stalwart stakes its claim on inventing the first mesquite grilled steak way back in 1945, kicking off today’s trendy Tucson dessert diners like Lil’ Anthony’s and Lindy’s similarly renowned for uncommonly flavorful beef. Now operated by James Beard Award semi-finalist chef Charles Wiley, The Coronet upholds its legacy by dry aging cuts like bone-in ribeyes and New York strips a minimum 40 days resulting in magnificently tender texture. Sides range from au gratin potatoes to wickedly rich creamed corn pudding made using off-cuts. Despite updated interior digs with modern bar seating, a vintage neon sign still burns in front for visitors seeking seriously satisfying red meat.

Bobo’s Fine Chicken

Name and Location: Locally-owned Bobo’s Fine Chicken serves craveable crispy southern-fried chicken buckets and scratch-made sides like biscuits out of a counter-serve brick and mortar on East Broadway near downtown Tucson since 2018 after extensive pop-up development.

History and Significance: Pitmaster Morgan Swander left finance to pursue true culinary talent after his vinegary North Carolina pulled pork sandwich pop-ups achieved cult status at area breweries. HomeStyle Chicken Eatery soon turned into Bobo’s Fine Chicken by 2020 focusing his fry skills toward hot chicken sandwiches earning instant weekend lines for quite possibly Tucson’s most perfect poultry.

What to Expect: Patrons order smoked wings and chicken tenders with heat customized across five spice levels from “Country” up to sadistic “Reaper Bomb” – all marinated overnight then double fried for crackling breading with creamy ranch and pickles to balance. Foil-wrapped sandwiches brim with juicy thigh meat begging to be most deliciously destroyed.

Visitor Information: Open for lunch and early dinner Wednesday through Sunday only. Expect extremely limited seating and lines at peak times. Street parking available if patient circling. Cash free payments only onsite.

Fried chicken fans find flights of fancy courtesy of Bobo’s Fine Chicken food truck generally posted up downtown or midtown serving expertly breaded breast, thigh and wing pieces pressure-fried to crispy perfection. Creative sauces like green chile ranch, honey sriracha or lemon pepper wet provide added oomph doused atop piles of chicken or alongside sides like zesty broccoli slaw and creamy Parmesan grits enriched with mascarpone. Occasional daily specials might feature spicy Szechuan chicken sandwiches or ethereal souffle-style waffles bathed in seasonal fruit compote. For picnics requiring finger-licking fare, Bobo’s portable poultry packs serious praise-worthy flavor.

Conclusion

Thanks to locally grown ingredients sourcing creative seasonal dishes, talented chefs keep menus fresh at Tucson’s diverse collection of top restaurants catering to all appetites. Iconic Sonoran Desert flavors like smoky chiles and mesquite grilling drive traditions forward through updated preparations and combinations at venues like Welcome Diner and Coronet Steakhouse. Meanwhile, boundary-pushing kitchens like Restaurant Bianco and Café Poca Cosa delight diners with their playfully global interpretations highlighting Mexican roots. Sample spots citywide embracing Southwestern ingredients and heritage cooking methods perfected for ages. Tucson’s satisfying culinary scene surely convinces visitors that some of America’s best hometown flavors thrive in the Old Pueblo.

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