The Best Food You’ll Ever Eat in Tucson

 You know you are in for a tasty treat when the city you are visiting considers itself a food capital of the world, whether you are visiting to indulge in culinary tours or samples of quick street foods while seeing the sights. Tucson is no exception to this, the southwestern popular city claiming to be the 'Mexican food capital of the United States'. 

Tucson, located within the mountain ranges of the sultry Sonoran desert, takes advantage of local culture and local ingredients to make a truly extraordinary culinary scene. You will find all the best regional southwest flavors here, most cooking Sonoran-style featuring many kinds of cheese, mild peppers, pinto beans, and corn tortillas. It is even believed that the Chimichanga was invented here in this Arizona mountain city in the early 1920s! Talk about authentic!

Here are all the finest of the flavors you will find in Tucson, each eatery listed going above and beyond the normal 'burger and fries' Americana classics.

  • Mexican-

    You should already know just from what you've read that the best foods you'll find throughout all of Tucson are either Mexican or regionally Southwestern, meaning there are probably greater Mexican restaurants lining the streets than you can handle! Here are our top three choices:

    -Cafe Poca Cosa - Susana Davila has really created one of the city's best with this choice, the group-friendly, date-friendly, anything-friendly eatery serving up the best spicy mole in town! For a taste of everything here try the Plato Poca Cosa, but beware, the menu changes daily here on the big rustic chalkboard.
    -Tucson Tamale Company -
    The name sort of says it all here, this Tucson tradition the #1 spot to 'unwrap the happiness' as they like to say, with over 30 different types of tamales representing the wide range of flavors within the Old Pueblo culture. 
    - El Charro - 
    This is a must stop in Tucson, El Charro considered to not only be the oldest Mexican restaurant in Tucson, but the oldest continuously operating Mexican eatery run by the same family in the entire country. This place has been serving up the most delicious and authentic Sonoran and Tucson style Mexican foods since 1922, even credited for inventing the Chimichanga. Enjoy the inviting outdoor cantina as you sip one of the country's finest margaritas and taste the flavors of the house famous carne asada.

    #Repost @minglefield with @repostapp ・・・ #ohyhea #mexicanfood at #elcharro in #tucson

    A photo posted by PHOENIX Magazine (@phxmagazine) on

  • Dessert & Ice Cream -

    Most U.S major cities have some seriously iconic ice cream or dessert stops, but for some reason, Tucson in particular really impresses us with its quality pastry and dessert options! 

    - HUB Restaurant and Creamery - This is another one of those must-stops while in the city, the HUB Restaurant and Creamery serving up the absolute best and most inventive ice creams (try the Honey and Cornbread or Drunken Brunch) and most delicious lunch and dinner specials as well.
    - Blue Willow -
    Blue Willow is a well-known downtown Tucson bakery that serves up always-fresh cakes, pies, muffins, and cookies, not to mention seriously delicious breakfast options like huevos rancheros or the most 'delicious and delicate crepes' in Arizona (Southern Arizona Guide).


  • Tucson Brunch -

    This Southwestern city is oddly great at breakfast and brunch specialties, we think it's because they have all those uniquely spicy and sweet Sonoran ingredients to add to their morning-time dishes. Not convinced? Try any of these and you'll change your mind!

    -Cup Cafe - If you know Tucson at all then you know that the Hotel Congress is one of the most iconic and most classy spots in town. Cup Cafe only adds to that with the 'best breakfast around', offering uniquely delicious classics such as the Eggs and Gunpowder or Boom Boom Breakfast. 
    - B-Line - 
    4th Avenue holds it's own in this city as far as culinary wonders go, especially when it comes to B-Line. Try the unforgettably tasty homemade biscuit breakfast sandwiches with coffee for breakfast, or for more of a brunch-feel try the quiche and apple salad!
    - Prep + Pastry - Local ingredients are king at Prep + Pastry, this popular AM food stops presenting its hungry guests with the best 'handmade pastries, elevated breakfast dishes, and delicious sandwiches'.


  • BBQ Cowboy Style -

    Of course, Tucson is known for authentic Mexican cuisine and regional southwestern flavors, but they are also known for a more traditional type of flavor: BBQ. Think wild west shootouts, hungry sheriffs, and campfire-cooking cowboys for these next options.

    -Tanque Verde Guest Ranch - This option is different than any other on the list, Tanque Verde technically being a guest ranch/overnight lodging option. However, the three meals provided here daily are absolutely worth mentioning, simple yet elegant and local tastes of cowboy and ranching life in the modern age. Try to get here for the Mexican Fiesta Night or Cottonwood Grove Ranch BBQ nights!
    - Charro Steak - The same family that began El Charro, the Flores Family, created this new Mexican steakhouse delight, the menu inside featuring such juicy delights as albondigas, Pollo Asado, and equities! This is Vaquero-style dining at it's best!


  • Cantina -

    Going right along with the Mexican culture tradition, an evening dinner at a local Cantina is a must. Enjoy the sunset, enjoy some drinks, and enjoy the rich and highly enjoyable flavors of Tucson.

    - Gringo Grill and Cantina - Local ingredients, laid back happy hours, and a skilled staff all combine to make this cantina option really excellent. Enjoy Tex-Mex favorites with spicy chipotle flavors, not to mention over 100 different types of tequila to please every palate!
    - La Cocina Cantina -The historic Presidio district offers a lot more than just authentic city history, as you will see and smell as you walk past La Cocina. This alfresco dining option offers live music, outdoor seating, and eclectic Mexican favorites.  Remember this is a cantina, so be sure to try any of the classic cocktails with creative local twists and ingredients.

    Perfect #Tucson setting for a Saturday afternoon with @maxwell_judy

    A photo posted by Pam Scott (@pamoscott) on


  • Popular in Tucson-

    These last few options don't particularly fit into any specific culinary category, but they are highly popular in town for one reason or another and we feel they are necessary to mention. Enjoy!

    -47 Scott - 47 Scott is a downtown Tucson classic that changes it's menu seasonally, offering standard American dishes with extremely creative twists. The eatery itself is modern urban, offering guests an inviting brick patio to enjoy their brunch, dinner, or cocktail favorites on. 
    - Beyond Bread -
    This option is technically considered to be a bakery, but we consider it to be arguably the best place for lunch in town. Find hearty sandwiches, fresh baked goods, and high quality (plus really creative) bread within this popular local eatery.
    - Downtown Kitchen + Cocktails - This spot is a southern Arizona favorite, offering everything from lamb shank to local honey puree, the farm-fresh eatery considered to be a 'confluence of cultural tradition' within the city (USA Today).
    - Vivace - You may need reservations for this last must-mention option, but you really won't regret it. This is possibly the most elegant Tucson eating option, the extremely delicious Italian restaurant offering all the best pasta and wines!