- About the List
- Best of the Best Restaurants
- Expect A Delightful Dining Experience
- American / Eclectic / Comfort Food
- Cantinas and Old Time Bars
- Cowboy BBQ Dinner Around A Campfire
- Fine Dining (relatively expensive but worth it.)
- High Altitude Dining
- Ice Cream
- Good But ...
- Lunch / Sandwiches / Salads
- Private Dining In Bisbee
- Where To Take Out-Of-Town Visitors
- Wine List
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. If you wish to view the criteria by which we select our favorites, see the Dining Review Criteria.
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 2016.
American / Eclectic / Comfort Food
Agave Restaurant: Sahuarita at Desert Diamond Casino
Agustin Kitchen: West of I-10 on Congress at the Mercado
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 historic Train Depot
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
Gourmet Girls Gluten-Free Bakery & Bistro: Tucson on Oracle south of Rudisill
Tohono Chul's Garden Bistro is a favorite with the locals.
Cafe Botanica at the Tucson Botanical Gardens. Fresh, eclectic fare.
B-Line: Tucson on 4th Avenue
Blue Willow: Tucson on Campbell
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
Gourmet Girls Gluten-Free Bakery & Bistro. Tucson on Oracle south of Rudisill. If you think gluten-free means bland, go introduce yourself to the Gourmet Girls. You can thank us later.
High Desert Market in Bisbee.
See our post on the Best Burgers in Tucson.
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.
New Downtown 2016, Charro Steak. They also make a great burger.
The Garden Bistro at Tohono Chul makes a great burger too.
Cantinas and Old Time Bars
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. We have to admit, besides being 100 years old, it's pretty cool.
Cowboy BBQ Dinner Around A Campfire
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: 6440 N. Campbell; Tucson.
Bob's Steak and Chop House at the Tucson National
Opa! Greek Cuisine & Fun: Tucson on Campbell
High Altitude Dining
Sawmill Run Restaurant: Summerhaven on Mt. Lemmon. Elevation: 8,200 feet.
The Iron Door at the Ski Lift. Historic Lodge. Good Chili. Great Pies.
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: 7301 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 advice: 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.
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 & Bistro, Tucson on Oracle south of Rudisill
See our article on the Best Mexican Restaurants
Blanco Tacos + Tequila: Tucson at La Encantada Mall
Café Poca Cosa: Tucson Downtown
El Charro Café: Tucson Downtown
Elvira’s: Tubac and soon to be Tucson.
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.
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.
Pizzeria Bianco, DowntownTucson, opens at 4pm
Reilly Craft Pizza, Downtown Tucson, Open Sunday
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.
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. It's an institution.
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. or Dakota Bar and Grill for a more refined meal.
Grill at Hacienda del Sol: Tucson on Hacienda del Sol Road in the Catalina Foothills.