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Aug 18, 2014 12:43 PM

The Wedding Won't Go On Without Your Help!!!! [Tucson]

My son is getting married in Tucson in April 2015. We are hosting the rehearsal dinner for 80. I'm looking for an authentic, beautiful, and affordable (preferably food that reflects the people of Tucson, Southwestern?) in the middle of town. The wedding is at the Stillhouse. Any ideas? We have never been to Tucson and need help!!!

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        1. re: KateBChi

          I had no idea. Sorry to steer you wrong, Lisa.

          1. re: bharbeke

            I just called, I know. No problem bharbeke. I appreciate the try. Back to the drawing board. No ideas where to go from here.

    1. I've never been to Tucson, but could this be a place to start?
      (thanks to Google!)

      1 Reply
      1. re: truman

        Thanks truman! This is a good place to start. I got a few ideas!!

      2. Well, seeing as I'm the only person who has posted on this board who actually lives here, I've got a few ideas for you.

        Old Pueblo Grille might not be a bad choice, they have a nice outdoor space and all right food (most of which reflects the Southwest).

        El Charro downtown can probably do that. Not a lot of locals hit up El Charro, but the out-of-town crowd seems to like it a lot.

        El Minuto (also downtown) is probably better than El Charro, but it's not exactly a beautiful restaurant.

        Honestly, you will not find beautiful, affordable AND reflects Southern Arizona anywhere in Tucson. We like our food here to taste good and be reasonable - and our best restaurants reflect that. Ambiance is simply not a priority. Old Pueblo Grille is likely your best bet.

        12 Replies
        1. re: missvenuz

          Missvenuz, you may have saved a marriage before it even started! Thank you for the suggestions, especially the insight! I'm really struggling here to find an appropriate place that's "pretty enough". Am I missing the right restaurant by focusing on regional cuisine? I would appreciate any advise you could give me. The wedding's in April and we're traveling to Tucson in October to make a decision. I'm picky and want good food above all else.

          1. re: LisaMH

            No, I think you're missing the right restaurant by trying to find "pretty enough" and "middle of town" and "affordable". As I said, Tucsonans only care if the food is GOOD and REASONABLE. "Pretty" does not add to the equation.

            There are plenty of gorgeous restaurants with fantastic views in the Foothills part of town, but after living here for nearly 15 years, I have not found them to be worth the money or the drive.

            A few other options come to mind, however - Penca does Mexico City food, and has floor to ceiling windows that look onto downtown. The Cup Cafe inside of Hotel Congress is lovely and historic, but might be too pricey for what you are looking for.

            Also in a completely different direction, legendary pizzaolo Chris Bianco (of Pizzeria Bianco in Phoenix, multiple James Beard awards, etc.) has opened his first outpost of Pizzeria Bianco in downtown Tucson. You could opt to rent out the restaurant for the evening, though I do not know if that is possible. But once again, it is pizza and salads, parking will be a nightmare, and it could be over your budget.

            Basically, central/downtown rents are high, especially with the Rio Nuevo development and new streetcar, and the prices of the food reflects that.

            Also, Tucson is kind of an odd place to get married for out-of-towners - do your son and future daughter-in-law live down here? Also, what is your budget? I'm racking my brain trying to give you ideas here, and I'm more than happy to do so.

            1. re: missvenuz

              Thank you first! Second, Tucson is the destination for the wedding because it is my son's fiancé's happy place. Her paternal grandparents live there 1/2 of the year and she has good memories of time spent there.

              How much do I have to spend? We don't want to "outshine" the wedding buffet at the Stillwell House, and I am trying to decide if we invite all who are attending the wedding to the rehearsal dinner. 120 are invited and we believe about 80 will attend. We are staying at a resort, so will get to see the views and scenery. Food is so important and I wanted to stay close to the Stillwell House for convenience. I would like to keep this tab under $6,000. That includes booze.

              That said, if most people are coming from The Westin La Paloma, are there any restaurants close to there you would recommend? I absolutely refuse to do a buffet there that tastes like typical hotel food. I've spent a great deal of time looking at their catering menus and I'm not impressed.

              I am so grateful for your input. I wouldn't of thought of parking and wouldn't have known about most of these restaurants if not for you. One last thought, any opinions on La Cocina? It looks fun and reasonable.

              1. re: LisaMH

                Okay, I now see why you are having a hard time here, with no real contacts/connections to anyone who lives here in town. We call older folks that live here half the year "snowbirds", definitely not real residents.

                $75/head with alcohol will get you quite far here, so that should work.

                La Cocina, although I have not been to it personally, has somewhat mixed reviews, and since it is in a courtyard in downtown, makes me think that there may not be enough space for your party. Also, same problem with the parking.

                A Friday night in April downtown is probably going to be an issue parking-wise any way you look at it.

                On the other side of I-10 from downtown (and on a streetcar stop) is Augustin Kitchen, in the revamped Mercado San Augustin. CIA graduate Ryan Clark heads the kitchen, and they have fun cocktails, locally minded food. A nice space as well.

                Further away from downtown is Union Public House. It is a gastro-pub with great food, good alcohol selection, a nice atmosphere, and they do private events. And it is on the way back to La Paloma from downtown, has plenty of parking, and will have enough room. It is not Southwestern, but it should fit the bill. I would also check out Old Pueblo Grille anyway, since they do Southwestern fusion.

                I hope for your sake that the wedding is in the beginning of April and not the end of April - the difference in temperature is stark.

                Will still check this thread daily to answer any other questions.

                1. re: missvenuz

                  Absolutely great ideas! I will look into all 3 of these places today. I think I can rule out La Cocina. I didn't know it was just a patio. They also haven't returned any of my emails.

                  Augustin Kitchen and Union Public House along with Old Pueblo Grille could all 3 work.

                  I feel my anxiety quieting down. Thank you for these great recommendations. I'll look at their websites and see if I can set up a tasting with them in October when we visit. The wedding is thankfully 4/4/15. At the beginning of April but it's also Easter weekend which could present a whole new set of challenges.

                  So many thanks! If anything else comes to mind, please let me know! I'm grateful for your guidance!!

                1. re: magiesmom

                  Thank you Magiesmom! That's going on my list to look at.

                  1. re: LisaMH

                    Since you have not yet decided, I just thought I would put in my two cents for a more traditional rehearsal dinner invite list, ie people who were involved in the rehearsal.

                    1. re: magiesmom

                      Well, that's nice and all, but OP is having around 80 people...that's not a 'traditional rehearsal invite list'. Does Penca even hold 80 people? They surely don't have a private room for a party that large. Also, parking near Penca should be a mess as well, no?

                      1. re: missvenuz

                        Her post above indicates she has not decided about numbers yet. If she does not like my suggestion she won't use it, I expect.

                      2. re: magiesmom

                        As a matter of fact, I learned just last week that is exactly what the bride and groom have decided. It makes it so much easier for me. We're looking at 30-40 guests instead of 90 or so. Opinions always welcome. This is my first time to be a mother-of-the groom.

            2. I second the rec for Agustin Kitchen, even though the food can be uneven. The courtyard is REALLY pretty, and some friends of mine had their wedding reception there (they rented out the courtyard for the evening). Another pretty venue with garden space and seating inside as well as outside is Cafe a la C'art, next to the Tucson Museum, and the food is wonderful.
              Maynard's also has a lovely patio setting a very good food, although it might be over your budget:
              Good luck, and have fun!

              2 Replies
              1. re: Claudette


                I have written down what you said and am looking at the possibilities. Thank you! I love the idea of courtyards and gardens in early April.

                1. re: Claudette

                  Thank you so much Claudette. Notes taken!!

                2. I'm not from Tucson but did quick search for rehearsal dinners in Tucson and found some info that might help.




                  1 Reply
                  1. re: Jpan99

                    Jpan99, thank you. I have looked these over. OPG and Cushing Street were both on my short list. I'm looking into them. I sure appreciate your time!!