About the List
Dining In Tucson is our list of the best Tucson restaurants. By the Best Tucson restaurants we must include Southern Arizona, including Bisbee, Tombstone, and Tubac.
There are well over 1,000 restaurants in Southern Arizona, and we have not come close to dining at all of them. We will surely add others to this list over time. Feel free to send us your suggestions here.
Of those we have reviewed since Fall 2011, all on this list received a 4-Saguaro rating or higher. Meaning, if you go, you are likely to have a very good dining experience. So far, there are only 9 that we rated 5-Saguaro, the best of the best.
Best of the Best Restaurants
You can find the 5-Saguaro list by clicking here. Not surprisingly, they’re not the cheapest. With very few exceptions, exceptional quality is exceptionally expensive. Such is life.
We have enjoyed dining at many on this list more than once. And we have included just a few that we want to visit and review because they are so highly recommended by friends we know to have discriminating tastes.
If you go to one of these establishments, we have every reason to believe that you will have the same delightful experience that we, along with our friends and family, enjoyed. But your experience could be different based on many factors we cannot control.
Expect A Delightful Dining Experience
Over the years, we have recommended most of these establishments to our friends & family and, with the rarest exception, they have come back and told us that our appraisal was accurate.
The list is by category in alphabetical order. It will be updated periodically.
Most recent update: July 2013.
American / Eclectic / Comfort Food
Agave Restaurant: Sahuarita at Desert Diamond Casino
Cup Café: Tucson Downtown in the Hotel Congress
Dakota Cafe: Tucson in Trail Dust Town
Delectables on 4th Avenue; Tucson
Downtown Kitchen + Cocktails: Tucson Downtown
Maynard’s Market & Kitchen: Tucson Downtown at the Depot
Metropolitan Grill: Tucson on N. Oracle next to one of my favorite stores, Trader Joe’s. Best fish & chips I’ve had outside of the UK (May 2012). Love the art … and Jennifer is server-extraordinaire.
Wildflower: Tucson on N. Oracle
Cafe’ a la C’Art: Tucson at the Tucson Museum of Art
Caffe’ Milano: Tucson Downtown next to Fox Theater (think dinner & a performance)
Shelby’s Bistro: Tubac
Sweet Peas Cafe’:Arivaca
Gourmet Girls Gluten-Free Bakery & BistroTucson on Oracle south of Rudisill
Arizona Inn: (on the patio) Tucson on Elm near University Medical Center
Grill at Hacienda del Sol: Tucson on Hacienda del Sol Rd. in the Catalina Foothills
Liv Café & Bistro: Tucson at St. Philip’s Plaza on N. Campbell. Best turkey sandwich we have ever had … anywhere.
Gourmet Girls Gluten-Free Bakery & BistroTucson on Oracle south of Rudisill. If you think gluten-free means bland, go introduce yourself to the Gourmet Girls. You can thank us later.
Cayton’s Burger Bistro:Dove Mountain
Zinburger Wine & Burger Bar: Tucson on E. River Road and also on E. Grant Road
The Lodge Sasquatch Kitchen: Tucson at Foothills Mall across from Barnes & Noble Booksellers. Huge portions, quirky, but delicious options, such as the pretzel burger.
La Cocina Cantina: Tucson Downtown Historic Block across from El Presidio de Tucson and adjacent to Old Town Artisans. This is a cross between a Mexican cantina and an Arizona roadhouse. Decades ago, what is now a bar was a downtown Tucson gas station. Live music. Good food. Great fun!
La Gitana Cantina: Arivaca. According to Esquire Magazine, one of the 100 Best Bars In America. So there!
Fine Dining (relatively expensive but worth it.)
Arizona Inn: Tucson on Elm near University Medical Center
Cafe’ Roka: Bisbee on Main Street
Fleming’s Prime Steakhouse: Tucson on N. Campbell
Grill at Hacienda del Sol: Tucson in the Catalina Foothills. Best dining experience I’ve ever had in The States was Christmas (2011) with my family (13 of us) at the Grill. Superb in every way!!!
Vivace Italian Restaurant: Tucson, St. Philip’s Plaza on N. Campbell
Opa! Greek Cuisine & Fun: Tucson on Campbell
High Altitude Dining
Sawmill Run Restaurant: Summerhaven on Mt. Lemmon. Elevation: 8,200 feet.
Hub Restaurant & Creamery: Tucson Downtown. Hub is not just for ice cream. They serve good ol’ American comfort food in an historic old building delightfully under-restored.
The only Indian restaurants I’ve been to where in London. However, I hear Saffron Indian Bistro is one of the better ones locally: Tucson on N. Oracle.
Caffe’ Milano: Tucson Downtown next to Fox Theater
North Modern Italian: Tucson at La Encantada
Pizzeria Vivace: Tucson, St. Philip’s Plaza; River & Campbell
Trattoria Pena: Tucson on N. Swan
Vivace Italian Restaurant: Tucson, St. Philip’s Plaza; River & Campbell
Zona 78: Tucson on E. River Rd. and also E. Tanque Verde Rd.
Good But …
Those of you who read my reviews know that I particularly do not enjoy dining where the ambient music and/or patron chatter is so loud that I and my companions have to shout across the table in order to have a conversation.
I also understand that many people don’t mind shouting at each other over a meal. For that reason, the following is a short list of dining establishments that offer very high quality food and service to match their very high decibel levels.
At regular mealtimes, these places are crowded, which speaks to their quality, but also adds A LOT OF NOISE.
My advise: dine here at off-hours. But do go!
Downtown Kitchen + Cocktails. As a chef, Janos Wilder is a Tucson treasure. Original dishes + delightful presentation + excellent cocktails + knowledgeable and attentive staff + charming restored old downtown building.
Downtown Kitchen has an added attraction: Terry Etherton’s Gallery is just upstairs and should not be missed. And if you’re going to a performance at the Temple of Music & Art, it’s just a short walk down the street. Great dinner + great performance = great evening!
So, what’s not to like?
When I took my in-laws there for lunch (2011), I had to ask the hostess three times (3 TIMES) to please turn down the music so we could hear each other. Finally, the “background” music was in the background. And then it got crowded.
Contigo Cocina Latina: Tucson on E. River Road next to OM and Sullivan’s Steakhouse. Contigo is small (they say intimate) and when it gets crowded (such as any Saturday night), it’s extremely noisy. Nevertheless, their Latin cuisine is quite good.
Union Public House: Campbell & River in St. Philip’s Plaza. I had lunch here and it was very good: Fettuccini w/ roasted chicken, bacon, charred grape tomatoes, spinach, fresh herb, & goat cheese. The tomatoes were the best I have ever had; so good in fact that I asked my waitress to ask the chef where he got them. Turns out they came from Willcox and 2012 is a particularly good year for Willcox tomatoes. But the “ambient” music wasn’t ambient; it was overpowering even though it was mid-afternoon and there were hardly any patrons. As I was dining alone and had a book to read, I didn’t much care, but I would never go to Union with a dining companion. The waitress said she gets that complaint a lot.
Lunch / Sandwiches / Salads
Arizona Inn (at the bar by the pool): Tucson on Elm near University Medical Center
Baggin’s Gourmet Sandwiches: Tucson, several locations
Beyond Bread: Tucson, 3 locations
Gourmet Girls Gluten-Free Bakery & BistroTucson on Oracle south of Rudisill
Santiago’s Mexican Restaurant, Bisbee
Theresa’s Mosaic Cafe’: Tucson on W. Grant well-hidden behind the McDonalds at Silverbell & Grant
Wisdom’s Cafe’: Tumaca’cori. I, along with friends & family, have dined at Wisdom’s almost every time we have visited the old mission. If you’re looking for seriously good Mexican food, dine at Wisdom’s – either before or after you visit Mission Tumaca’cori just down the road.
Brooklyn Pizza Company: Tucson on 4th Avenue
Magpies Gourmet Pizza: Tucson on 4th Avenue
Scordato’s Pizzeria (formerly Vivace Pizzeria): Tucson at St. Philip’s Plaza, River & Campbell
Velvet Elvis: Patagonia. Governor Janet declared Velvet Elvis an Arizona Treasure. And so it is.
Private Dining In Bisbee
Table 10: Caribbean/Latin Fusion. Table seats 10 for dinner. Be prepared for a fine dining experience and the likelihood that you will end the evening with several new friends. Call Hazel for reservations: 520-366-1921. I have dined here several times. Each was a somewhat different experience because my dining companions were not the same. And the menu changes just about every night. The one constant is Hazel, a fine hostess and chef.
Daisy Mae’s Steakhouse: Tucson on W. Anklam Road west of I-10. Also Sierra Vista
Fleming’s Prime Steakhouse & Wine Bar: Tucson on N. Swan
Lil’ Abner’s Steakhouse: Marana on N. Silverbell Road
Tucson Tamale Company: Tucson on E. Broadway
Where To Take Out-Of-Town Visitors
El Charro: the original on Court Street in the Historic District
Ocotillo Cafe’: fine dining at our wonderful Desert Museum
Pinnacle Peak: in Trail Dust Town on Tanque Verde Road just for the Wild West fun of it.
Grill at Hacienda del Sol: Tucson on Hacienda del Sol Road in the Catalina Foothills