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May 26, 2010 02:11 PM

Tucson--good, inexpensive local places to eat

We will be visiting Tucson in early and late June for about 6 days and are looking for good inexpensive local restaurants where you get a good bang for the buck--ethnic, diners, hole in the wall, etc. We were last in Tucson about 5 years ago and ate at Maya Quetzal, Ghandi for lunch buffet and had prickly pear lemonade at the tearoom at Tohono Chul and a snack at Cafe Paraiso and Epic Cafe while doing a few 10 kilometer walks around town.

Thanks for your help.

Maya Quetzal
429 N 4th Ave Apt 5, Tucson, AZ 85705

Cafe Paraiso
820 E University Blvd, Tucson, AZ 85719

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  1. This topic has been covered a lot in previous threads, so you might want to start there:

    My favorite hole-in-the-wall is El Guero Canelo on Oracle x Grant. Have fun visiting Tucson!

    El Guero Canelo
    5201 S 12th Ave, Tucson, AZ 85706

    5 Replies
    1. re: Claudette

      Thanks for the tips and the thread. Tucson has so many great places we will do the best we can in 6 days--El Guero was on our list and we heard of El Toreno which was listed in the thread, but not the other spots. We always have a great time in your wonderful city.

      Pnemiller, Kutztown, PA

      1. re: Pnemiller

        BK Carne Asada is really good. I like it better than El Guero. Another good hole in the wall is Lucky Wishbone. Everything is deep fried so hope youre not on a diet. Pat's Drive In puts a nice southwestern influence on a classic chili dog. El Charro (Downtown location only!), Micha's, El Indio, El Minuto, Mi Nidito, and for a good lunch try Eegee's. Good subs and great frozen slushy-type drinks. Have fun and wear sunscreen.

        Pat's Drive In
        1202 W Niagara St, Tucson, AZ 85745

        El Minuto Cafe
        354 S Main Ave, Tucson, AZ 85701

        Mi Nidito Cafe
        1813 S 4th Ave, Tucson, AZ 85713

        1. re: minermanvsfood

          Lucky Wishbone chicken is worth eating, and I don't eat chicken. (The shrimp are really good, and not an easy find at a fast food place.) Skip the fries and bread, but eat the cole slaw.

          1. re: lawyerbriefs

            You are right on. I love the steak fingers and gizzards, too. And I love that they serve everything (not the fried chicken) with cocktail sauce.

            It's a gut bomb, but it's local, open for like fifty years, and it's a wonderful guilty pleasure- really wonderful and really guilty. And their fried chicken can definitely hold its own with anybody's.

            Their fries are terrible, unfortunately, but dipping them in the cocktail sauce almost makes up for the fact.

            Last but not least, their t-shirt have their logo on it, which I think is one of the coolest bits of retro art going. Check out their site, I'm pretty sure it's

            1. re: EWSflash

              We served Lucky Wishbone last night for 35 or so for a 4th of July party. Just the chicken from LW, along with my pork, tilapia and salads. My food got the raves, but it was the chicken that got eaten, and my stuff which is left over. (Must be the guilty pleasure thing, as everyone loves the chicken and the whole crowd--many of them here for decades--all claim they haven't been in years.) And what is up with the fries, which are as awful as everything else is good? For a really guilty pleasure--maybe my last day--I'd have Lucky Wishbone shrimp and chicken and the fries from Luke's. I think they're frozen crinkle cuts, but there are none better!

    2. For my money, The Little Cafe Poca Cosa in downtown is absolutely fantastic for breakfast and lunch. It's the little sister to the more expensive Cafe Poca Cosa, and big flavors run in the family. Portions are enormous, atmosphere is super-casual, prices are very reasonable ($8-12 for entrees, I believe), and the chicken mole is outrageously good. One important note: The little place deals in cash only.

      Little Poca Cosa
      Stone and Alameda, Tucson, AZ

      1 Reply
      1. re: epicurina

        In addition to cash only, The Little one features no phone, loud music and mandatory hugs. The food is great and it's a fun place. It's only open 7:30 AM to 2:30 PM, Monday-Friday.

        We also really like Taqueria Pico de Gallo at 6th. Ave. & 36th. Street in South Tucson. It's just off the 6th Ave. exit on I-10. Great taco's-no atmosphere.

      2. If you want Mexican-style seafood, I highly recommend one of the Mariscos Chihuahua restaurants in town. Note- they're a cash-only business! It's all seafood, all wonderful. Not really really cheap, but then you are eating seafood in the desert. It's so good!
        For Vietnamese, Dao on Wilmot or Miss Saigon on Campbell.

        It makes me really sad to say this, because I've really loved the place since the early '70s, but Mi Nidito is not as good as it once was. I got a chile relleno last time that oozed what looked frighteningly like Velveeta- it wasn't proper yellow or white cheese.

        Mi Nidito Cafe
        1813 S 4th Ave, Tucson, AZ 85713

        Miss Saigon
        1072 N Campbell Ave, Tucson, AZ 85719

        1. There is a chinese "super buffet" on river rd. east of oracle rd. $7.50 for lunch, pretty good as far as buffets go. They have a cold marinated babby octopus on the buffet that is outstanding, almost worth the price by itself. That time of the year the best restaurants in the old pueblo are the ones with the best air conditioning.

          1 Reply
          1. re: mrbigshotno.1

            There's a buffet at Grant and Swan that had baby octopus- I was amazed. I liked the rest of the food, too- really well for one of those places.

            FWIW the atmosphere is crap, but the food is really good, I think. I'm not a connoisseur but I know what I like. }:-)

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