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Tucson Qs

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DC Chowhounds here. We've been going to Scottsdale for the last few spring breaks. We're mixing it up a bit this year and giving Tucson a look.

Landing on a Saturday in March at 12 Noon. Need a great place for our first taste of mexican/tex-mex/sonoran on our way to the Marriott Starr Pass west of I-10. Must offer sit-down tables and beer. Any suggestions?

Also, would be very interested in a local farmers market that would still be active into the afternoon if there is such a thing.

I will need lunch everyday around this Marriott. Mexican/tex-mex/sonoran all welcomed (which of Mariscos, El Guero, BK Carne, Taqueria Pico de Gallo is nearby?). Great burgers, pizza, etc also welcome (is Zinburger far?).

For dinners, I've planned/reserved the following as what appearrs to be a good representation of Tucson. I also hope none is more than 20 - 25 minutes from Marriott. Let me know if I left out any must-eats. Sat = Cup Cafe, Sun = Feast, Mon = Maynard's Market, Tues = Silver Saddle (I wonder about this one), and Weds = Cafe Poca Cosa.

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  1. Be sure to check Yahoo maps to get more accurate details and locations: Zinburger is about 15 miles from the hotel, and can take 20-30 minutes, depending on traffic (tip: don't take Campbell there - take Stone or 1st Ave instead).They are my 4th favorite burger place; #1 is the burger at Monterey Court Cafe, #2 is the Big Boy at Pasco Kitchen, #3 is Maynard's burger.

    Cup Cafe, Maynard's, Hub, El Guero, and a Mariscos are all within about 6 miles of the hotel. Daisy Mae's and Cafe a la Cart (at the Tucson Musem) are all close, too.

    Check the older threads for the complete lowdown and controversy regarding Mexican/Sonoran in Tucson. I don't think there's any Tex-Mex here. Have fun!

    1. In place of Silver Saddle, consider one of these three - 1. The HUB, 2. Reilly Craft Pizza, 3. Teresa's Mosaic Cafe

      1 Reply
      1. re: DriverPhil

        I'll second Teresa's Mosaic... it's become the place I crave when I come home to Tucson.

      2. For dinners, I've planned/reserved the following as what appears to be a good representation of Tucson. I also hope none is more than 20 - 25 minutes from Marriott. Let me know if I left out any must-eats. Sat = Cup Cafe, Sun = Feast, Mon = Maynard's Market, Tues = Silver Saddle (I wonder about this one), and Weds = Cafe Poca Cosa.

        The Cup Cafe is downtown and gets pretty high marks all around. I've never been there myself. The construction downtown should be done by the time you get there but, ~25 minutes is probably a bit optimistic.

        I went to Feast once and was unimpressed and have never been back. Maynard's Market, I need to try this one sometime.

        The Silver Saddle is really nice for a good steak at a moderate price (~$35 range plus drinks). The mesquite imparts a nice flavor to a great cut of meat. The sides are good but average.

        Cafe Poca Cosa is well regarded but, I haven't been there in a long time.

        The $5 lunch Torta special at BK's is really good.

        1. For everyday lunch 'around this Mariott', you will need to drive at least 12-20 minutes to get to the places listed, Zinburger is more like 30. The Mariott is kind of in the middle of nowhere.

          As Claudette said, we don't really do tex-mex here. We do Sonoran.

          Your best best for your first lunch (within the parameters you set) is the Mariscos Chihuahua on Grande. Kind of on the way to your place, sit-down, serves beer. The camarones culichi and al mojo de ajo are both fantastic.

          I would highly recommend making a lunch or snack stop at Aqui Con El Nene for one of their Sonoran hot dogs - it's a truck, no beer, but very, very good. Also about 11 miles/20+ minutes from the Mariott.

          That said, I would not limit myself to only sit-down places that serve beer. Some of our best, hidden gems are tiny places or food trucks run by folks who barely speak English.

          Had my anniversary dinner at Maynard's back in April - we liked it a lot. Upscale French bistro fare, a little expensive for Tucson, but tasty.

          If you want a great place for breakfast that is a bit out of your driving range (13 miles, 30+ minutes), Poco and Mom's is delicious - New Mexican-style breakfasts, excellent green chile and sour cream green chile sauces. Some of the most flavorful machaca I've found in town.

          The Sunny Daze Cafe on the south side (just under 9 miles, about 20 minutes from the Mariott) makes a great, inexpensive breakfast.

          The Farmer's Market at St. Phillip's Plaza (River/Campbell, caddy-corner to Zinburger) is most active on Sundays.

          1. Thought I'd report back on what we ate and what we liked:

            Mariscos Chihuahua on Grande was our first day lunch, and probably the best meal we had in Tucson. Thank you Missvenuz. The camarones culichi and al mojo de ajo were both fantastic, along with raw oysters and marlin tacos. Served with a smile and cheap to boot!

            Cup Cafe was our first dinner. Cute place in a hopping little re-done hotel. Entrees included a vegetarian platter that was much appreciated, a pasta dish and tasty, crisp skinned porchetta. All very good. We liked the homemade ranch salad dressing too. A cheap AZ red wine at $37 could have been tamer on the tasebuds, but certainly was tame on the wallet.

            Sunday afternoon we went to the street festival. My wife somehow bought a huge piece or art that we are still trying to ship home. The longest line was for Santa Maria Tri-Tip, so that's where we stood. Good eats and lots of cold beer.

            Hit Feast for dinner that night. A little bit of a mixed bag. Navigating the menu took some work, and navigating the wine list was cumbersome. I enjoyed some of the combinations, but thought the execution was jumbled. For example, when I ordered Grilled Leeks, I guess I expected the leeks whole and poached and then grilled and dressed, not finely shredded and deep fried. Still, a good meal, and again very reasonable.

            Next lunch at the Marriott Golf Club after 18 holes. They claimed they were known for their bar-b-q. Don't believe it. While the pulled pork was okay, the beef brisket most definitely was not.

            Then dinner at Maynards Market Kitchen. Loved the setting and the service. Mussels and Steak Tartar apps were well done. Bouillabaisse needed a further reduced broth and a hint of Pernod. The cheese plate to close was outstanding, and an absolute steal at $13.

            Tuesday's lunch was a Guarros(sp?) and BK dogs showdown. We had sonoran dogs, carne asada tacos, and carmellas at both. All delicious. Seems to me knowing your way around the "fixins bar" is pretty important, and I was getting the hang of it as we left BK's, so my non-experienced vote goes to them.

            Dinner that night was at Daisey Mae's. We thought it would be kitchy and fun, and it was right next door to the Marriott. Well...certainly wouldn't drive out of the way for it, but it was a pleasant experience, and the whole bill barely broke $100 with a pitcher of Cadillac margaritas and a couple 16oz (?!) t-bone steaks.

            Bluefin Cafe was a stop uptown for lunch while shopping. Very pleasant little outside patio seating. Lunch included west coast oysters, some salads, a shrimp enchilada (spices still a bit raw tasting) and nice cold reisling. A wonderful 90 minute break in the day.

            Our final night was Cafe Poca Cosa. This seems to be a great con perpetrated on the people of Tucson. We enjoyed neither the setting, nor the service, nor the selection, and certainly not the one-dimensional food. We left mostly uneaten plates, that no one noticed nor cared. Churn 'em and burn 'em. Oh well.

            Thank everyone for all your help. We enjoyed our stay in your beautiful city. Lots to like.

            3 Replies
            1. re: Pappy

              We loved and were surprised by Marisco's also.
              But I did like Poca Cosa and our service was wonderful.

              1. re: Pappy

                Glad you enjoyed Mariscos Chihuahua. I always send guests to one of their locations.

                I've lived in Tucson for over a decade, and I've never been to/never recommended Poca Cosa for that reason. It can't be that great, especially when there are so many amazing Mexican restaurants in town.

                If you come back for another visit, try staying a bit closer to town. The Lodge on the Desert is an awesome boutique hotel with one of Tucson's best upcoming chefs at the helm, and it's right in the heart of the city.

                1. re: Pappy

                  Thanks for the follow up Pappy!

                  It's nice to know what the "out of town'ers" liked or disliked for future recommendations. Some of what Tucson offers is a local acquired taste thing so, sometimes it's hit or miss for guests.

                  For Guerro Cannelo vs. BK showdown (aka Bobby Flay style) I'm a BK fan but, Guerro Cannelo was still pretty darn good when I was there.

                  It sounds like I need to give Maynards Market Kitchen a try. That one is a little out of the way for me but, it sounds like it may be worth the effort along with Mariscos Chihuahua on Grande.