“Street food” is all the rage right now, but in this food-obsessed city we’ve always embraced our curbside cuisine. And since Tucson stakes it's claim as the home of America's Best Mexican Food, we proudly boast a wide variety of south-of-the-border-style street food that will more than satisfy any adventurous foodie. Trying any of these local favorites won't include white linen tablecloths, but we certainly suggest plenty of napkins.
The best way to introduce yourself to Tucson's unique street food scene is by trying the hometown favorite Sonoran Dog. We don't have an official count, but there are probably close to a hundred different places around the city where you can get one – from brick-and-mortars to trucks, stands, and carts. Regardless of which one you encounter, you can be sure that this iconic take on the hot dog packs a ton of flavor into every bite.
The classic Sonoran dog starts with an all-beef hot dog wrapped in bacon and grilled to perfection, topped with pinto beans, tomato, onions, mustard, mayo, salsa, and stuffed into a fluffy Mexican-style roll known as a Bolillo. The bun is often steamed but can sometimes be found toasted with melted cheese for some extra decadence. Ask anyone from Tucson and they will tell you that this local legend is the pound-for-pound world champion of hot dogs.
To cool down on a hot summer day, a frosty Raspado will surely satisfy. These shaved ice treats are soaked in fruit syrup and topped with fresh fruit, nuts, or just about anything imaginable. Sometimes a scoop of ice cream is tucked into the bottom of the cup with sweetened condensed milk or whipped cream on top. Try one of the sweet-salty-spicy combinations for something truly indicative of the Sonoran style.
To go with your raspado, ask for some Tostilocos. The person behind the counter will slice open a bag of chips (typically salsa verde Tostitos, opened along the side) and then pour on a variety of toppings like cueritos aka pork rinds, cucumber, jicama, and Japanese peanuts with a squeeze of lime juice, chamoy and/or hot sauce, with a sprinkle of chili powder. Each place tends have their own signature combo of toppings, but the final result is always delicious.
If you're looking for something a bit more more light and refreshing, a cup of Pico de Gallo is the way to go. We’re not talking about the diced tomato salsa here. Pico de gallo, in this case, is a fresh fruit salad consisting of mango, watermelon, and coconut chunks, doused with lime juice, salt, and chili powder.
Another choice is a cup of Elote, roasted corn nibs covered in butter, mayo, crumbled Mexican cheese, and the customary sprinkle of chili powder or dash of hot sauce for some added kick. Get it in a cup or on the cob depending on where you go.
To finish it all off, try an array of Mexican-style pastries, like Churros, Empanadas, or Conchas for the ideal dessert.