Vivace Bread Pudding

Vivace Bread Pudding


By Jim Gressinger
Things to do Tucson Contributor


About the List

Updated 12/20/2023. 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.
The pandemic has hit the restaurant industry hard. Some of the restaurants suffer from a lack of service personnel. Please be patient.

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. Here are our favorites. You know, the ones you go back to.

The List

American / Eclectic / Comfort Food

Agave Restaurant at Desert Diamond Casino

Agave @ Desert Diamond

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
Maynard’s Market & Kitchen: Tucson Downtown at the historic Train Depot
Wildflower: Tucson on N. Oracle – Arguably the Best in Tucson
Café Roka Bisbee: Five Star Dining Open Friday and Saturday for Dinner. Make reservations well in advance.
The Copper PIg, Bisbee. Our latest find. Casual Elegance.


Kazoku Sashimi

Kazoku Sashimi

Kazoku Sushi & Japanese Cuisine: Tucson on E. Speedway
Miss Saigon, A popular place. Three locations.
Com Tam Thuan Kieu, Orange Grove and La Cholla


Caffe' Milano Tucson Arizona

Caffe’ Milano Next To Fox Theater Downtown Tucson

Cafe’ a la C’Art
: Tucson at the Tucson Museum of Art
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.
Edna’s Eatery at the Tucson Botanical Gardens. Fresh, eclectic fare.


Arizona Inn

Arizona Inn

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.
Prep and Pastry, 2 locations. Campbell and East Grant.


See our post on the Best Burgers in Tucson.
Cayton’s Burger Bistro. Ritz Carlton, Dove Mountain .
Zinburger Wine & Burger Bar: Tucson on E. River Road and also on E. Grant Road
Downtown, Charro Steak. They also make a great burger.
The Garden Bistro at Tohono Chul makes a great burger too.
Harvest on La Canada is the only one left after the one on River closed. Nonetheless, the food is the same, just not the view.

Cantinas and Old Time Bars

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.
Wisdom’s Cafe in Tumacacori-Camen near the Tumacacori National Historic Monument.
Tubac Jack’s in Tubac. West end of the Plaza

Cowboy BBQ Dinner Around A Campfire

Tanque Verde Campfire Dining

Outdoor Dining At Tanque Verde Ranch

Tanque Verde Guest Ranch: Tucson at the far east end of Speedway.

Fine Dining (kind of expensive but worth it)

Vivace Italian Restaurant

Vivace Italian Restaurant

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; in the old Anthony’s building near La Encantada, Tucson. 6440 N Campbell Ave,
Bob’s Steak and Chop House at the Tucson National Golf Club
Cielos at Lodge on the Desert: 306 N. Alvernon Way, Tucson


Opa! Greek Cuisine & Fun: Tucson on Campbell
Mt. Athos in Florence on Main St. is well worth the drive.

High Altitude Dining

Sawmill Run Restaurant: Summerhaven on Mt. Lemmon. Elevation: 8,200 feet. Closed Monday and Tuesday.
The Iron Door at the Ski Lift. Historic Lodge. Good Chili. Great Pies.

Ice Cream

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 were in London. However, I hear Saffron Indian Bistro is one of the better ones locally: Tucson on N. Oracle.


North. A Modern Italian Restaurant.

North. A Modern Italian Restaurant.

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: 6440 N. Campbell; Tucson.
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 shortlist 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.

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

El Charro Cafe' on Court Street In Historic Downtown Tucson

El Charro Cafe’ on Court Street


See our article on the Best Mexican Restaurants
Blanco Tacos + Tequila: Tucson at La Encantada Mall
El Charro Café: Tucson Downtown
Elvira’s: Tubac.
Theresa’s Mosaic Cafe’: Tucson on W. Grant well-hidden behind the McDonalds at Silverbell & Grant
Wisdom’s Cafe’: Tumacácori. 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 or margaritas, dine at Wisdom’s – either before or after you visit Mission Tumaca’cori just down the road. Their burros are signature. Be sure to order in advance.


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.
Reilly Craft Pizza, Downtown Tucson, Open Sunday
Reneé’s Organic Kitchen, Great Pizza and they offer a Gluten Free Crust.


Kingfisher: Tucson on E. Grant. The go-to restaurant for fresh fish.


Lil Abners Steakhouse

Lil Abner’s Steakhouse


See our story about the Best Steakhouses in Tucson.
Fleming’s Prime Steakhouse & Wine Bar: Tucson on N. Swan
Lil’ Abner’s Steakhouse: Marana on N. Silverbell Road
Silver Saddle: Off I-10 Freeway and Benson Rd.
El Corral is a popular place with the old timers. Its history alone gives it clout. El Corral is over 75 years old. They tout their mesquite-grilled steaks and prime rib. We prefer the Silver Saddle.
Bob’s Steak and Chop House, at Tucson National.


Tucson Tamale Company: Tucson on E. Broadway

Pinnicle Peak Steakhouse In Trail Dust Town

Pinnacle Peak Steakhouse In Trail Dust Town

Historic Places 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.
El Corral: A local favorite.
Cushing St. Bar, now The Coronet. 100-year-old building. Great patio, eclectic food.

Wine List

Grill at Hacienda del Sol: Tucson on Hacienda del Sol Road in the Catalina Foothills.
Maynards Market and Kitchen: In the Tucson Train Depot.
Vivace Italian Restaurant


Things to do in Tucson contributor Jim Gressinger (1944 to 2023) served as publisher to (link) from 2011 to 2023. Jim was a fantastic expert Tucson/Southern Arizona tours, ghost towns, cycling, where to go, Tucson attractions and more.