Garden Bistro at Tohono Chul Park: A Review

Spring Patio Dining At Tohono Chul

Spring Patio Dining At Tohono Chul

September 2012 – Many months ago I dined at Tohono Chul Park’s Tea Room for lunch and chronicled my experience in a fairly negative review. I’m pleased to tell you that things have changed there and entirely for the better.

Tohono Chul Park, near Ina & Oracle, is one of our family’s favorite Tucson places. We are members and regularly take our guests there. One of the delights at TCP has been dining amongst the lush vegetation, blooming flowers, and various species of hummingbirds. This is one of the 3 best outdoor settings in Southern Arizona for dining.

Besides dining and the beautiful gardens, Tohono Chul has so much to offer: the greenhouse, museum shop, galleries, performances, and outreach programs.

Jo Falls, the Park’s Education Director, was kind enough to do an on-camera interview with me when we started SouthernArizonaGuide.com. If you’d like to learn more about this special place, click HERE to watch her video
On this warm September afternoon, I was there to write a re-review, something I always offer any establishment that receives less than a 3-Saguaro rating from me.

Recently they changed the name to Garden Bistro and changed the chef to Patrick Fahey, who also has the new Flight Grill at Pima Air & Space Museum.

My dining companion for this late lunch was Kathy Goodwill, who owns TucsonWelcome.com. Her company mails out all kinds of special offers to newcomers to introduce them to our community.

Typically, I would opt for the garden patio seating, but we elected to dine indoors. Of the dozen or so tables on the patio, all were empty but one and that couple looked uncomfortably hot.

Server Jim
Our server introduced himself as Jim. Off and on during our meal, we had a chance to chat with him. Seems Server Jim has been around the Tucson restaurant scene for many years. He is a consummate professional; efficient and fun to talk with.

We looked over the menu, then asked Jim for his lunch recommendations.

Gluten-Free
At Jim’s suggestion for a gluten-free lunch, Kathy ordered the grilled chicken wrap with tarragon agave aioli, sun dried tart cherries, celery, toasted Picacho Peak pecans, smoked bacon, tomato & fresh local greens in a gluten-free rice wrap. It came with sweet potato fries.

I inquired as to the Tres Locos Tacos –  3 soft corn tortillas stuffed with (1) grilled achiote chicken with avacado pico de gallo, (2) Dos XX carne asada with chipotle drizzle, and (3) crispy whitefish with ginger aioli; all served with sun dried sweet corn, lettuce, jicama slaw, and charro black beans.

Tohono Chul Greenhouse

Tohono Chul Greenhouse

My Tres Locos Tacos were delicious. Were they as good as the buffalo tacos Neighbor Roy & I had at the Ritz Carlton bar at Dove Mountain? In their own unique way, yes. If one was better than the other, I’d hate to have to live on the difference.

Not that these tacos needed any help, but when Jim asked if I would like a little Cholula, I said, “Sure.” With just a touch of Cholula sauce, my 3 tacos were now outa-this-world rich in complex flavors. I will be back for more.

We both declared Kathy’s sweet potato fries amazing, and she said that her wrap was excellent too. But it was so large that she gave me half, which I took home to Ms. Karen. Ms. Karen commented that it was quite tasty, except she didn’t care for the gluten-free wrap itself.

Since dining at the Garden Bistro, I have sampled the gluten-free bread at Gourmet Girls Gluten-Free Bakery & Bistro on Oracle at Rudasill. I know the Gourmet Girls, Mary & Susan, supply several of Tucson’s best restaurants with their gluten-free bakery products. Perhaps the new Garden Bistro chef would like to give the Gourmet Girls a call. Their number is 520-408-9000.

I do have a couple of quibbles with the new menu, which I understand is a work-in-progress. First, the wine list is very limited. Had they offered a Sauvingon Blanc, say one from New Zealand such as Kim Crawford, I would have ordered a glass with my Three Crazy Tacos.

With no dry white wine, I looked for a local craft beer. I have reviewed most of the local breweries and found a lot to like. (Click HERE for Brewery Reviews) Unfortunately, there were no local brews available at the Garden Bistro. Had they offered Nimbus Brewing Company’s Old Monkeyshine or Barrio Brewing Company’s IPA, I would have ordered a fresh craft beer.

Quibbles aside, I will add the Garden Bistro at Tohono Chul Park to our List of the Best Southern Arizona Restaurants. Weather permitting, enjoy their patio dining for breakfast, brunch, or lunch.
Garden Bistro at Tohono Chul Park
7366 Paseo del Norte, Tucson


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