It may not be well known by the rest of America, but Tucson is home to some incredible restaurants, with a variety of cuisines from all over the world. For centuries, food has brought communities together, and the unique mix of restaurant options provide plenty of culinary treasures for Tucson residents and tourists to explore.
Whether you have just moved to Tucson, are planning to move to Tucson, or if you’re just not too familiar with the Tucson restaurant scene, this blog post will serve as a simple guide to enjoying a delicious meal with friends or family.
Rather than rank each restaurant 1-10, we will choose the best options based on cuisine.
Best Central Tucson Mexican Restaurant: Frank’s and Francisco’s
Frank and Francisco’s Denoche Restaurant, located at 3843 E Pima Street, on the corner of Pima and Alvernon, has been a staple restaurant of Tucson since 2002. When dining at Frank’s and Francisco’s, patrons have a choice of two menus. On Frank’s menu, there are many classic Mexican-American dishes, such as huevos rancheros, quesadillas and taquitos. On Francisco’s menu, guests can choose from an array of tasty Michoacan-style dishes. Michoacan food comes from the Michoacan region, often referred to as the soul of Mexico, located in the south-east mountain ranges of Mexico.
Traditional Michoacan food is heavy with spices, rice and pork. Staples of the Michoacan diet are avocados, peruano beans and mushrooms. On Francisco’s menu, there are dishes like pork chops, Michoacan-style enchiladas, tacos Dorados ( soft corn tortillas that are filled, folded in half and deep fried) and Birria (a spicy stew). For authentic Mexican food, Frank’s and Francisco’s will fill your belly up with delicious dishes for under $10.
Best Central Tucson Italian Restaurant: Caffe Milano
If you’re looking for authentic cuisine with unbelievable service, look no further than Caffe Milano, located in downtown Tucson at 46 W. Congress. This rustic bistro has a warm and inviting atmosphere. Caffe Milanno is led by the reputable Chef Fulvia (La Fufi) Steffenone who serves up delectable Italian dishes from her hometown in Italy. Their generous menu offers favorite dishes like gnocchi and mushroom ravioli in walnut cream sauce and Caprese salad. The extensive wine list includes red, white, rose and dessert wines. Make sure you save room for the melting chocolate cake after dinner. This little gem hosts a beautiful ambiance and top-notch food.
Best Central Tucson Fast Food Restaurant: Pat’s Chili Dogs
If you are looking for a fancy, gourmet chili dog, you won’t find that at Pat’s Chili Dogs, located in the heart of Barrio Hollywood Tucson. Since 1961, Tucsonians have been visiting Pat’s, a classic drive-in-style restaurant, and getting a tasty chili dog, chicken sandwich, chili cheese fries or fish and chips. Open from 11a.m to 9 p.m, Pat’s serves up the best fast food in town. Pat’s chili dogs are topped with a chili-stew consisting of beef, beans and chili peppers. This local landmark will leave your taste buds satisfied and your wallet almost as heavy as it was when you got there.
Best Central Tucson French Restaurant: Le Rendez-Vous
A dining experience at Le Rendez-Vous is one you will remember. Open for lunch and dinner, this fine-dining establishment is located at 3844 Fort Lowell Road. Chef Jean-Claude Berger founded Le Rendez-Vous, an award-winning restaurant, in 1980. Start out with their appetizing escargot. For your main dish try Le Rendez-Vous’ Beef Wellington, which is virtually impossible to find on a menu in Tucson, and served to tantalizing perfection. Perfectly prepared with a cut of tender beef, buttery foie gras, truffle demi-glace, mushroom duxelle and light, flakiness on the pastry is a treat for any steak-lover. If you aren a steak fan, try the Cabrilla Grenoblois, which is egg battered sea bass with croutons, capers, lemon and brown butter, Indulge for desert; sample their light, fluffy Grand Marnier souffle. Not only is the food to die for, the service is friendly and helpful.
Best Central Tucson Chinese Restaurant: China Pasta House
Tucson’s China Pasta House is famous for its modern interpretation of classic Chinese dishes, using fresh ingredients at reasonable prices. China Pasta House is located at 430 N Park Avenue, near The University of Arizona campus. This mom-and-pop style restaurant offers yummy dishes such as shrimp dumplings, braised beef noodle soup and xiao long bao. Around town the China Pasta House is best known for their $2 pork buns.The filling is made up of tender pieces of pork, marinated in various Chinese spices and sauces, giving a burst of flavor in every bite. The menu is large, offering a variety of dishes and the prices are unbelievable.
Best Central Tucson Japanese Restaurant: Yoshimatsu
If you love sushi, but would rather use your hands than look inept, as you try to seem sophisticated using chopsticks, then get down to Yoshimatsu and grab one of their mouthwatering sushi burritos. Choose from tuna, salmon, yellowtail, shrimp,scallops, octopus, squid or albacore for a tasty fish burrito. You can also include cucumber, avocado, yamagobo, masago, crab sticks, lettuce, egg omelet, lettuce and spicy mayo. Their extensive menu includes salads, soups, an unbelievable list of sushi rolls and a kids menu. Yoshimatsu has a great happy hour Monday through Saturday with items on the menu such as spicy tuna roll, fried squid leg and seaweed salad. The atmosphere is inviting and friendly, with contemporary Japanese and antique decor. This Japanese eatery is located at 2741 N Campbell Avenue, between Glenn and Grant.
Best Central Tucson Sushi Restaurant: Kazoku
Driving down Speedway, it is easy to miss Tucson’s premiere sushi joint, Kazoku, located at 4210 East Speedway, just east of Columbus Boulevard. This quaint restaurant has a family-friendly vibe and is warm and inviting. If you are craving sushi, this is your spot. The rolls are high quality, fresh fish and come in generous portions. Try their many specialty rolls, such as Tootsie Roll, Las Vegas Roll and Mt. Halla Roll. Of course they also have the more traditional rolls like spicy tuna or yellowtail. Have a seaweed salad and some sake, along with complimentary miso soup, while you wait for the chef to prepare your rolls. The baked scallops and blue crab maki are wonderful choices for appetizers. It’s a pleasant surprise to see Korean dishes on the menu, as well. Korean kalbi and spicy squid are served on sizzling platters. Whether it’s date night or a family dinner, Kazoku will not disappoint.
Best Central Tucson Thai Restaurant: Bai Thong
Bai Thong serves up authentic, savory Thai food. Thai cuisine can run a little spicy, sometimes too spicy to handle. No worries, at Bai Thong, diners are specifically asked, “how spicy do you want your dish?” Try their Kangped Phade Yang, which is roasted duck, coconut milk, bell peppers, tomatoes and pineapple with red curry. This spicy dish will keep you warm and satisfied. Another popular item from the menu is Bai Thong’s Pad Thai rice noodles stir fried with eggs, bean sprouts and green onions and topped with peanut sauce and chicken. The menu is vast and the service is great. If you are looking for a great Thai restaurant, check out Bai Thong at 4852 East Speedway Boulevard.
Best Central Tucson Vietnamese Restaurant: Miss Saigon
Pho for dinner! With three locations (two of them in Central Tucson), Miss Saigon is one of the most popular Vietnamese restaurants in the Old Pueblo, and for good reason.
With traditional dishes, such as shrimp and squid soup, rice noodle soup and vermicelli with everything from grilled shrimp paste to grilled catfish, diners feel as though they have been whisked away to Vietnam. Their specials, like orange chicken and chicken lo mein will have you salivating.
Miss Saigon has been awarded Best Vietnamese Cuisine by The Tucson Weekly for 11 years in a row. Miss Saigon’s Central Tucson locations are at 1072 N Campbell Avenue and their downtown location is at 47 N 6th Avenue.
Best Central Tucson Indian Restaurant: Indian Twist
With a comfortable and relaxed vibe, Indian Twist serves up delicious Indian cuisine with dishes such as Shrimp Biryani and Tandoori Chicken. The menu does not offer Chicken Curry, somehow it was left off when the menus were printed. However, Chicken Curry is offered. Indian favorites, such as Butter Chicken, Chicken Tikka Masala and Mango Chicken keep Indian Twist the most popular Indian spot in town. General manager, Jimmy Aujla grew up in India and worked, as a child, in the kitchen of a Sikh Temple.
Moving to the United States at age 16, his family began opening restaurants in Washington, Oregon and California. Today, Jimmy runs Indian Twist, located on the corner of Swan and Camp Lowell, at 4660 E Camp Lowell Drive. Chef Jesse Singh serves up tasty, traditional Indian cuisine from 11 a.m to 9 p.m daily. Big bonus: Indian Twist has an amazing lunch buffet from 11-2:30 daily.
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