Psst... We're working on the next generation of Chowhound! View >
HOME > Chowhound > Southwest >
Apr 18, 2009 09:53 AM

Searching for "grown up" food in Tucson

Since living in Tucson haven't had the chance to venture out much for places where they don't neccessarily have a kids menu (if you know what I mean) Our anniversary is coming up and would like to have a nice dinner somewhere. Have seen many comments about Cafe Poca Cosa, is that where we want to start our food venture?

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. Two restaurants that have impressed me are:
    Ventana Room @ Lowe's Ventana Canyon Resort
    Janos @ La Paloma Resort

    Both would easily qualify (in my book) for an anniversary meal. Both are fine-dining, and are not inexpensive, but have always been worth the $'s for us.

    Sorry, do not know Cafe Poca Cosa.


    J Bar
    3770 E Sunrise Dr, Tucson, AZ 85718

    Ventana Room
    7000 N Resort Dr, Tucson, AZ 85750

    2 Replies
    1. re: Bill Hunt

      Thanks for the info...I wondered about the resorts, that's great will try.

      1. re: Juliet McElwey

        Cafe Poca Cosa is fantastic, so I would absolutely head there. However, depending on what you're looking for, it's probably not be the best for an anniversary (Atmosphere and service don't really create the most romantic or "formal" experience). I think Hunt probably has a good start for you for your an anniversary, but do check out Poca Cosa when you get a chance.

    2. Acacia is very nice. Menu, decor and good wine list.

      We aren't fans of hotel restaurants and thus would avoid the Ventana Room and Janos.

      J Bar
      3770 E Sunrise Dr, Tucson, AZ 85718

      Ventana Room
      7000 N Resort Dr, Tucson, AZ 85750

      Cafe Poca Cosa
      110 E Pennington St, Tucson, AZ 85701

      Acacia At St Philips
      4340 N Campbell Ave, Tucson, AZ

      19 Replies
      1. re: DriverPhil

        I understand your trepidation, regarding any "resort restaurant." Until we moved to AZ, we felt the same way. When we traveled, we always headed away from any resort, because of decades of mediocre, expensive food. Phoenix changed our minds and in a good way. Going back a bit, the resorts were the only places with the $'s to attract top chefs in the area. Many stayed in the area, and opened their own, free-standing restaurants, which we enjoy. Still, the resorts continued to spend the money to get top chefs, and still do.

        Also, Janos is a free-standing restaurant, that happens to be located in a resort. They are not under the gaze of the corporate "bean-counters" of Starwood. While I have not looked at Chef Janos' books, I would imagine that he pays his lease for the space, and as long as he does, there is no pressure from anything corporate. I cannot say the same for the Ventana Room, as I would *guess* that Lowe's has much more control over the operation of that restaurant. Still, I do not know that for a fact, but have dined there enough to appreciate the food, the food service and the wine service. The ambiance of either is also more than accommodating to the "special occasion" dining experience.

        Unfortunately, we are usually in the Tucson Area for meetings, and always seem to have an event prior to, and immediately after these, so we do not get to dine around town, as much as we'd like to. However, we have dined at each of these locations on many occasions and have been impressed on each visit. I also grade very hard, though do not deduct for location, whether a starred resort, or a strip shopping center. It’s about the various restaurants, and not any affiliation, or their lease agreements. Matter of fact, our favorite restaurant in the Phoenix Area is NOCA, which IS in a strip-mall.

        I’d urge one to not think too much about any corporate affiliation, or about the location, and only consider the full dining experience. As we have learned, there is more to a restaurant, than the resort that they happen to be located within. It’s about the chef, the staff, the menu and the wine list. A restaurant can be heavily chef-driven, even if it’s in a Four Seasons, or a Ritz Carlton.


        1. re: Bill Hunt

          I agree with Bill. My favorite Tucson resto, Melissa Kelly's Primo restaurant in the StarrPass Marriott Resort, is not a typical hotel resto. She's a James Beard Award winner, and the menu and atmosphere is not kid-oriented, even though my teenager likes it.

          I love Janos and Ventana Room, and if you like steak try Fleming's and Sullivan's (much better atmosphere than McMahon's). The Arizona Inn has wonderful atmosphere but terrible food (my last dinner there was inedible).

          Poca Cosa is also a grownup resto, but not terribly romantic - go there for any occation for the Chef's plato and margaritas - delicious, unique Mexican food.

          Also very stylish though not "romantic": NoRTH and Jax Kitchen.

          North Restaurant
          2995 E Skyline Dr, Tucson, AZ 85718

          Sullivan's Steakhouse
          1785 East River Road, Tucson, AZ 85718

          Jax Kitchen
          7286 N Oracle Rd, Tucson, AZ 85704

          Fleming's Prime Steakhouse & Wine Bar
          6360 N Campbell Ave, Tucson, AZ 85718

          JW Marriott Starr Pass Resort & Spa
          3800 W Starr Pass Boulevard, Tucson, AZ

          1. re: Claudette

            Wow, great input, nice to see all the variety it looks like Tucson has. I know it is more rustic, but any input on El Corral, they always look packed when we go by there . They were listed on the Top Ten in this accurate?

            1. re: Juliet McElwey

              I haven't been in a few years, but I've never had a meal worth eating there. The food is inexpensive, which--I think--explains the lines.

              1. re: Juliet McElwey

                El Corral is a fine restaurant, and has a long history in Tucson. It's one of the old Agro Land & Cattle restaurants. It's best known for Prime Rib, and it is a family style steakhouse, without a doubt. I have friends who have been going there twice a month for their red meat fix for about twenty years. That said, it is not what I would call inspired food. Just good, solid beef dishes, a variety of less good non-beef dishes, and some unassuming sides. It's the kind of place a 15 year old wants to go for his birthday (I speak from experience), but probably not a place to go on your one night out without the kids.

                1. re: Booklegger451

                  Awesome, thanks, now I know of a good place to take the fam for the red meat fix. We rarely eat red meat so when we do go out as a family, it is often in search of a good steak. Much appreciated.

                  1. re: Juliet McElwey

                    Hifalutin' is another steak place that is not too expensive. It may be a few dollars per entree more than El Corral, but the meals I've had there have been always been very good. Certainly, El Corral is an institution and I'd try it if I were you (for the experience and, who knows, maybe the food is better than it was); for a good, dependable meal when Flemings pricing is not an option, Hifalutin' is a good choice.

                    1. re: lawyerbriefs

                      Hifalutin's a good steak place, for sure. If you're looking for steak, rather than prime rib, and you don't mind spending a few bucks more per diner, it's a great option. If you're on the east side, you might also look at OK Corral, which is another good, solid, family steak house. Again, not a place that's trying to win the "best steak in town" contest, but a place that has clients who've been going for decades.'

                      I understand that L'il Abners and Daisy Mae's on the west side are much the same, but that isn't my side of town, so maybe a west-sider can chime in there.

                        1. re: desertsun

                          I think it did close. Owner said he'd be reopening soon, but there seemed to be financial issues that made that statement sound "iffy."

                          1. re: lawyerbriefs

                            Oh, that's a shame. Must be in the last few months... I'll be sad if they're gone for good, it's one of the places I've been eating since I was a kid.

              2. re: Claudette


                One question, please. I have not seen Anthony's at the Catalinas mentioned. We've not dined there, but good, heavily food-oriented friends rave. You seem to know your Tucson fine-dining restaurants, and I'm curious.



                1. re: Bill Hunt

                  I've never been to Anthony's, but it's gotten mixed reviews on this board. We only own a vacation home in Tucson, so I don't do as much fine dining there as I'd like, and since we have so many favorite spots already, it's hard to fit it in. If I do get there, I'll definitely post a report. Maybe lawyer_briefs and Butcher_bloc can detail their experiences for you.

                  Old link:

                  Don't forget to put the Chef's Plato at Poca Cosa on your list, Bill - of all the places I've been, this stands out as truly unique.

                  1. re: Claudette

                    Thank you. I will do just that. Since we're only down for business, and always on too short a string, we don't get to try as much, as we'd like. I'm trying to put together a long weekend of golf and fine-dining, and it will be with the Anthony's fans. They have never done Janos, or Ventana Room. If I get there before you do, I'll report.



                    1. re: Claudette

                      I'm 51, and I celebrated my 40th birthday--surprise party--in the wine cellar at Anthony's. Great night, with great food and wine. I haven't been back since. For reasons I don't readily grasp, we just never think about Anthony's. I don't know people who go there, but it stays open, the parking lot is often full and its wine list still wins lots of awards. We'll have to go back!

                      P.S. Feast catered my 50th birthday party! A wonderful night, with great food, wine and fun!!!

                      1. re: lawyerbriefs

                        Thanks for the details on Anthony's - Bill and I will have to race each other over there for a report.

                        I love Feast! It's on my regular circuit whenever I'm in town, which is why we never have a free night for Anthony's.

                        1. re: Claudette

                          Bill - we finally got to Anthony's for dinner tonight, and the review is mixed. The restaurant setting, patio, and city/mt views are wonderful, but the service, menu, and china are a bit dated. The seafood in my cioppino was perfectly cooked (not a single bite over-cooked) and my husband's crab cakes were almost pure crab, but the rest of the meal was merely okay. The wine list wasn't nearly as extensive, interesting, nor tasty as the one at the Ventana Room. You might want to go experience it once to compare, but don't expect too much. I'd be interested in your report.

                          BTW: the Ventana Room is currently featuring Native American foodstuffs (saguaro seeds, tepary beans, cactus, etc.) in its tasting menu, and while each element is not particularly noticeable, it does make for an interesting menu. And the Krug champagne they're offering by the glass ($30) is unbelieveably creamy and rich.

                          Anthony's In the Catalinas
                          6440 N Campbell Ave, Tucson, AZ 85718

                2. re: Bill Hunt

                  We have dined at Primo three times - with only one of those three being a memorable occasion. The other times we went away wondering why we went. My suspicion is that when Melissa is on site, Primo is fine. But that is just a guess.

                  We have only dined once at Janos. So that is not a fair sample, but that one time was very poor. Overcooked food and inept service.

                  1. re: DriverPhil

                    That's too bad - I've had great service there, and some very memorable lamb's tongue tacos on the tasting menu.

              3. I have to throw in my two cents in favor of Cafe Poca Cosa. Chef Suzana's mole is life changing. True, the atmosphere is more hip than romantic, but still very "grown up." Terra Cotta might also be a nice addition to this list; it's a long-standing favorite.

                Cafe Terra Cotta (CLOSED)
                3500 E Sunrise Dr, Tucson, AZ 85718

                1 Reply
                1. re: epicurina

                  Have not done the original Terra Cotta, but do miss the Scottsdale restaurant. We were so sorry to see them close down. Reports are that the Tucson location was always better yet.


                2. Cafe Terra Cotta is no longer in business.