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May 6, 2010 12:24 PM

Dinner for graduation (Tucson)

I'll be in town next week (Friday and Saturday nights), and am looking for a good place to take my cousin to dinner. Will already be doing Poca Cosa one night, but I'm still in search of some good options for the other. Doesn't have to be a typical "special occasion" place (though it can be), just great food. Price isn't an option, and we're willing to drive, but would like to try to keep it ~20 min. from campus or less. Open to all types of food.

Have thought about Janos/JBar, Primo, but both seem to have some pretty wildly diverging opinions of their quality.

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  1. For a special occasion I highly recommend Janos and The Grill at Hacienda del Sol. Both have a wonderful food, great service and beautiful rooms--the overall setting at HDS is nicer, especially with the new entrance--and both really "do it up right" for special occasions, with extra gifts from the chef, etc. Graduation is probably a busy night or nights, so I'd get a reservation. (We went to Flemings last fall on a Friday night that happened to be Parents' Weekend at the U of A and, with a reservation, our seating was delayed for about 90 minutes.)

    1 Reply
    1. re: lawyerbriefs

      I second the recs for Jano and HDS, but I think Jano's menu is more innovative.

      The Grill at Hacienda del Sol
      5601 N. Hacienda del Sol Rd., Tucson, AZ 85718

    2. Thanks for the thoughts so far. What about suggestions for more casual options (maybe middle-of-the-road, like Maynard's or the like)?

      4 Replies
      1. re: crsin

        Have you checked out the older threads? They can give you all the details for good casual options such as Maynard's, JAX kitchen, Feast, Tavolino, NoRTH, etc:

        4122 E Speedway Blvd, Tucson, AZ 85712

        Jax Kitchen
        7286 N Oracle Rd, Tucson, AZ 85704

        Maynard's Market
        400 N Toole Ave, Tucson, AZ

        NoRTH - Tucson
        2995 E. Skyline Drive, Tucson, AZ 85718

        Tavolino Ristorante
        2890 E Skyline Dr, Catalina Foothills, AZ 85718

        1. re: Claudette

          I would recommend VIVACE'S corner of River and Cambell at the St Phillips Plaza. The food here is in my opinion amoung the best in Tucson. It's Nothern Italian cuisine done consistently well. The only problem is getting a reservation, especially on weekends.

          1. re: Claudette

            I had dinner last week at Jax Kitchen, NoRTH and Tavolino. While the food was very good at all three, they were also painfully loud. They share a similar design concept: hardwood floors, no draperies, lots of glass. In other words, nothing to absorb kitchen clatter and the conversations of others. Enjoying conversations along with my dinner is part of the dining-out experience. These three fail miserably and by intent

            Jax Kitchen
            7286 N Oracle Rd, Tucson, AZ 85704

            7090 N Oracle Rd, Tucson, AZ 85704

            1. re: daveinABQ

              Yeah, I hear you. That's a pet peeve of mine, and I read that it's the biggest complaint of most patrons. I also read that it's very expensive to mitigate noise, and that most restaurants do well anyway. Maybe they should put earplugs on the menu!

        2. Okay, I'm leaning toward the options that are a notch or two more casual than Janos, HDS, etc.

          What are some thoughts on Feast vs. Vivace? Honestly, the menu at Vivace doesn't excite me too much, but if the execution is great, and it's better than what one can get at most other higher-end Italian restaurants, I'm all for it. Feast seems to get some mixed reviews, but I suppose that's just a product of the hit-or-miss nature of the chef's more experimental dishes, which I appreciate.

          Any other places that anyone feels I'm overlooking would be appreciated.


          3 Replies
          1. re: crsin

            I love Vivace, but not because of the food. It's always very good, but the sum of parts at Vivace make it special. The maitre d' has been there forever and greets everyone--regular and newbie--as if he's delighted they're there, and even when he's turning someone away he's totally gracious. Terrific, friendly but not "too much" service, a beautiful room, the best bread in town and a great vibe also make it wonderful. For me, just being there always makes me feel special, as if I've scored just by getting a table. That all said, I do recommend the penne with sausage (best there is, and you can get a half order, but that probably means no cold pasta for Sunday morning snacking), and I like the fish soup, although I get it without the pasta, as fettucine is not my favorite, it tends to be a little too al dente for me and I find it a bit watery. I also order the fish, but with dressing and sauce on the side, as one of my food complaints at Vivace is that the dishes tend to be overdressed and sauced.

            Feast has very good food and an interesting menu. (They also now have a full bar, which is important to me, as I like my Martini before dinner.) The room is just so-so, though, and the service is nothing special. If you want to feel like you've found a hole-in-the-wall, Feast is great, but, for me, it doesn't deliver the punch you get at Vivace.

            1. re: lawyerbriefs

              I think Lawyerbriefs is right about Vivace having a great ambiance and a neighborhood feel regardless if you are a first timer or a regular customer. I always have the soup of the day which is spectacular. Some of the great entres I enjoy are the pork chops stuffed with spinach and cheese and the crab stuffed chicken breast.
              A great dessert there is the molten lava chocolate cake which needs to be ordered ahead of time.

              1. re: lawyerbriefs

                I"ve been to Vivace twice, and no one has ever greeted me nor has the service ever been more than perfunctory. Next time, I'm going with you so I can get some attention! ;-) The food's okay, but kind of old-fashioned.

                Feast is more hit-and-miss, but with a more interesting, less expensive menu. Plus, Doug always greets me when I get up to peruse the wine wall or the condiment shelves.

            2. JBar is always a winner, Janos as well.