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New Orleans Hounds Need Recs for Tucson This Weekend

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We're heading to Phoenix and then Tucson this weekend from New Orleans. I'm originally from Albuquerque, but this will be a first-time trip to this area for me (other than just driving through or sitting in the airport). We are staying with friends in Phoenix, so probably don't need dining recs in Phoenix. Then we are heading to Tucson where my parents have a vacation house in the Oro Valley area. We would love some recs for breakfast, lunch and dinner since we don't plan on doing a ton of cooking at the house. We have a rental car and are willing to drive, so the area of town isn't that important. Where are the best places to eat in Tucson? Also, are there any good places in the Oro Valley area that will be close by for breakfast and/or dinner? Thanks in advance!

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  1. Hi - I've lived in Tucson less than a year, but I'll list a few of my favorites so far (and if you do a quick search for Tucson recs, the same restaurants tend to come up). Up towards Oro Valley, Jax Kitchen is great (www.jaxkitchen.com), and Wildflower is popular (haven't tried it yet). For Mexican, we like Guadalajara Grill (www.ggrill.com - try the halibut in chipotle cream sauce or tilapia in poblano sauce) and Cafe Poca Cosa (www.cafepocacosatucson.com - closed Sun. and Mon.). For breakfast, I highly recommend Ghini's (www.ghiniscafe.com) - they also have a nice lunch menu and a bakery. If you're here on a Friday, try the walnut fig bread.

    Perhaps some others can be more helpful about places in Oro Valley. Have a good trip!

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

    Jax Kitchen
    7286 N Oracle Rd, Tucson, AZ 85704

    Ghini's
    1803 E Prince Rd, Tucson, AZ 85719

    1. My 18 year-old lives in Tucson and we visit fairly often from the San Francisco area. We love Beyond Bread for breakfast pastries. It is a very comfortable, clean and well priced. There are dozens of pastries and breads to choose from (fig and pistachio - yum) including more sourdough choices than in my native San Francisco. The lunchtime salads and sandwiches are also good. The only weakness is the coffee which is not up to my snobby Peet's standard.
      Next door is a Bookman's - Tucson's wonderful used book, record, video and more store.

      -----
      Beyond Bread
      Tucson, AZ, Tucson, AZ

      Beyond Bread
      6260 E Speedway Blvd, Tucson, AZ 85712

      1. Thanks for the recommendations!! I have heard that El Charro is good for Mexican, but it seems to get some mixed reviews. Any thoughts? Wild Onion - I take it you prefer Guadalajara Grill?

        2 Replies
        1. re: latasche

          El Charro is an institution, known especially for their carne seca. We were there a couple of weeks ago with an out-of-town guest - my husband's carne asada burro was pretty good, and I like their red salsa, but the place isn't on our regular rotation. If you can only try one or two Mexican places while you're here, I'd recommend Poca Cosa and Guadalajara Grill. If you try the latter for dinner rather than lunch, I might suggest that you ask for their regular (lunchtime) salsa, rather than get the table-side salsa (which tastes a little too much like canned tomatoes for my taste), or ask for both, so you can get the experience.

          I forgot to mention in my other post that you might try Harvest, which is up near where you're staying. It's a little out of the way for us, but has been well-received.

          1. re: wild onion

            I agree with wild onion's recs, and want to add that I like Harvest and Wildflower as much as I do Jax Kitchen.

            Near you, towards Dove Mountain, is McClintock's - the food is not bad, but the landscape and views are incomparable. Go for drinks at sunset if you don't want to eat there.

            Regarding Ola's coffee comment - the only coffee in Tucson that matches Peet's are at Raging Sage, Crave Espresso (if they're still in biz); the coffee at B Line and Blue Willow are pretty good, too.

            Read the older thread about the El Conquistador posting, which is near Oro Valley. http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/7072...

            There's a lot of info in other older threads. Have fun!

            -----
            Blue Willow Restaurant
            2616 N Campbell Ave, Tucson, AZ 85719

            Crave Espresso Bar
            4530 E Broadway Blvd, Tucson, AZ 85711

            Raging Sage
            Tucson, AZ, Tucson, AZ

            Jax Kitchen
            7286 N Oracle Rd, Tucson, AZ 85704

            McClintock's
            3755 W. Conrad's Way, Tuscon, AZ 85742

        2. These places all look great. I think this will give us plenty of options for our short stay. Thanks again!

          1. Just got back from our trip to Tucson. It was a nice escape. We ended up eating out less than expected. I have grown used to being able to drive 20 minutes from one end of the city to the next. Tucson is so huge and sprawling, we got a little lazy about driving all over to eat. Anyway, here's what we hit.

            El Charro Cafe - went to the location on N. Oracle for lunch, which was fairly close by. We had just driven in and were starving. I would say average Mexican food. Nothing spectacular, but good, satisfying food. I had chicken enchiladas with a creamy green chile sauce. This is a change from the green chile I'm used to in New Mexico, but it was very good. Boyfriend had the signature carne seca - very interesting. It wasn't my taste, but unbelievably light texture and rich, smoky flavor. The homemade tortilla chips were very good - not used to getting homemade versions in New Orleans.

            AJs Fine Foods - we googled this place on our friends' recommendations in Phoenix and found a location nearby in the La Encantada shopping center/mall. We loved AJs. We have pretty awful grocery stores in New Orleans and Whole Foods is our only large scale organic/gourmet/high end place. Love Whole Foods, but we get sick of it, and the fact that you can't just get plain old Coke there. AJs was great. We purchased some of the pastries for our breakfasts, snacks and halibut and king crab to cook for sunday's dinner.

            Beyond Bread - went for lunch on Monday and enjoyed it very much. Fresh, inexpensive, great bread and enormous portions. I wish I had more time to try out the different breads and pastries.

            Wildflower Grill - Monday dinner. Beautiful space. We sat outside, which was unbelievable considering the high on Monday was somewhere in the 105 range. Amazingly, it cools off without humidity (unlike New Orleans), so we took advantage of the lovely covered patio. Had a "black and blue" mojito and the sangria - both very good. Calamari appetizer was ok. They use a wet batter which is a little unexpected. I think the dish could have used some more seasoning and a bigger crunch. Entrees - seared ahi tuna with fried rice and lamb, both were very good. We couldn't fit in dessert even though the caramel pot du creme looked fantastic. The service was excellent and the prices were reasonable. Overall a very good experience.

            Tuesday morning we stopped by AJs again on the way out of town for a quick, late breakfast of bagels and pastries.

            Thanks to all the recommendations! We're looking forward to going back and trying out some of the places we missed this time around.

            -----
            Wildflower Grill
            7037 N. Oracle Road, Tucson, AZ 85704

            Beyond Bread
            6260 E Speedway Blvd, Tucson, AZ 85712

            2 Replies
            1. re: latasche

              Gosh, I'm sorry that El Charro was the only Mexican restaurant you got to go to, they used to be pretty good in the little old house downtown, but have since expanded and "sold out". Last two times I went to one I was disappointed-to-disgusted at the substitutions they made for authentic ingredients, like we were in southeastern Illinois instead of Tucson.

              Otherwise, you ate at some good places (my beloved son works at Beyond Bread)- great call about AJ's, I keep forgetting about them as a place to go eat. If you ever get to Scottsdale, try an AJ's there- they're even more spectacular.

              -----
              Beyond Bread
              6260 E Speedway Blvd, Tucson, AZ 85712

              1. re: EWSflash

                El Charro was mostly out of convenience and hunger at the time and partly out of the fact that it's a Tucson institution. That said, I have no need to go back. We will definitely try Guadalajara Grill and Cafe Poca Cosa next time around.

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