In Tucson for a Week
I'm from the north east and I haven't been to Tucson since I was born and left when I was 4. I want to eat at some cheap taquerias or authentic mexican / southwest foodie joints. Any suggestions? I made reservations at Janos, but beyond that I want to keep it "cheap eats".
Have breakfast and/or lunch at Little Cafe Poca Cosa. Wonderful Mexican at the small, inexpensive sister to Cafe Poca Cosa. We always go for the eggs with machaca (a dried shredded beef similar to carne seca). For $6 you get your choice of entree with beans, rice, tortillas, salad and a bit of fruit, plus chips and salsa. At lunch, they do an exemplary chicken mole and the barbacoa is excellent as well. Also love the house-made fruit drinks which are more creative than most -- fresh lime with strawberry and basil, for example.
We also found El Guero Canelo, a very good taqueria on N. Oracle just past Grant. In addition to good carne asada or grilled chicken tacos (which is what we had) they seem to specialize in sonoran hot dogs which come wrapped in bacon and have lots of other condiments. For the tacos and such there is a HUGE condiment bar of not only different salsas, but other toppings including freshly grilled onions.
Cup Cafe at the Hotel Congress is also recommended.
i just got back from a week there myself (with my 14 yr old son). we're from new york.
my experiences (not exactly what you were focusing on) :
i thought poca cosa was only ok - and i know i'm in the minority here. the food was certainly flavorful but so piled with "ruffage" that it was almost impossible to eat.
el charro is a chain of sorts and i found it to be average. the signature chimichanga (sp?) was so huge that i could eat about a third of it. and it wasn't particularly good anyway. i have a major problem with over abundance of food in general but this was particularly severe.
we tried red star, which was pretty good - more new american than anything. good variety.
we also tried two of the fox restaurants, sauce (which actually has a selection of simple, good and light pizzas... but be prepared for a very casual place -- great for kids) and montana cafe, which i also liked a lot. light, not too pretentious, nice wine, etc.
we also ate at two hotels: the arizona inn, which has a terrific breakfast, though dinner was slightly better than average and INCREDIBLY slow (almost 3 hours). if i had to pick one place i liked best, it was the most unexpected: the flying v at the loews ventana. we ate at the bar and i had an unusually good piece of fish plus an interesting "line" of tequila to ease myself into dream time.
i consistently heard dish was supposed to be good, but its very small. also, the day i left, arizona magazine had an article about the 25 best in the state and the only one in tucson listed was a place called feast (on speedway) that also serves as a catering company. i drove by it but never had time to go in. also heard cup was interesting as well. good luck.
All of the above are great there's no denying. In fact, you MUST get a hot dog at El Guero Canelo. You won't be disappointed. However, if you really want to go to a great cheap taqueria, try Birria Guadalajara on 22nd st and 4th ave s.