Downtown has the buzz, the Southside has the wide variety of Mexican restaurants and the Foothills has some fancier spots for the well-heeled crowd, but don’t overlook the center of the city, which has a great selection of approachable choices reflecting a wide variety of cuisines and flavors. There are far more options than we can cover here, but this should give you a head start on finding a great place to eat.
3719 E Speedway Blvd
Doug Levy changes the menu of his midtown restaurant on the first Tuesday of the month, so don’t get too attached to any particular dish, but the transitory nature of this restaurant’s offerings isn’t a negative. Levy puts together a series of dishes that manages to be seasonal, innovative and comforting.
2825 N Country Club Rd
While probably a little vexing for the gluten-free set, the fresh-baked breads - pita, zamoon, barbari and others - are incredible here, pulled from the oven in the back of this former taco shop. Thankfully, everything at this Middle-Eastern restaurant is equally delicious - or close enough, at least. The hummus here is magical, the meats are tender and flavorful. This place is an unassuming and delicious treat.
3843 E Pima Rd
By day, it’s a diner, turning out breakfast food the way you’d hope, as long as that hope doesn’t include anything fancy or pretentious - in fact, the sign out front reads “Elegant dining elsewhere.” By night, the same place flips concepts to a Mexican restaurant, equally delicious and still absent of elegance. Sometimes this is exactly what you want and here’s where you can find it.
Rocco’s Little Chicago Pizza
2707 E Broadway Blvd
First of all, if you’re stopping by on a Wednesday, you should know that it’ll be Wing Wednesday, a celebration of the art of the chicken wing, served at 50 cents a pop and prompting a line out the door until the last wing is served. Well worth the mild inconvenience, but worth noting. The rest of the week, the wings are still on the menu albeit a bit pricer, plus Rocco’s also serves great Chicago-style pizza, whether you prefer square-sliced thin crust or massive stuffed pies.
3000 E Broadway Blvd
Falora’s super cool, although it’s not like they have a doorman to keep out the less-than-hip. Pick a record from their collection to put on the turntable (or bring your own and get some free wine). Ride up on a bike and get a secret discount. But also, they just have great artisan pizza made in a super-hot stone oven. For extra cool points, stop by Falora’s sister establishment, the bar Sidecar, a few doors down and serving splendid cocktails.
2731 E Broadway Blvd
You might not expect Tucson to have an Ethiopian restaurant - or possibly even get your head around the idea that there are Ethiopian restaurants outside of Ethiopia - but, in fact, our city has three, one of which is Zemam’s. If you want to have a fun night with some friends, bring your own beer or wine (there’s a reasonable corkage fee), order a bunch of dishes, try to remember what’s what when the staff brings out the giant plate of food served atop a layer of injera (a sourdough-ish spongy flatbread that serves as an edible utensil), enjoy the delicious, bright flavors while eating with your hands, and leave having a communal experience you might not have expected.
Sentinel Peak Brewing
4746 E Grant Rd
Somehow, the owners of Sentinel Peak still manage to serve the community as active-duty firefighters while owning a brewery at Grant and Swan that has solid food, a comfortable feel, and, yes, a great beer that’s super-approachable. Want to drink local beer at a place where - pardon the cliche - it feels like everyone knows your name? Sentinel Peak’s perfect.
2900 E Broadway Blvd
The best part of any Korean meal is the banchan - tiny plates of kimchi, salads, noodles and more - served as an appetizer. At Kimchi Time, these previews of what’s to come are excellent and so is what follows, whether you get the mixed rice bowl called bibimbap or one of the superb grilled-meat dishes. Korean cuisine has surged into the American mainstream and for good reason, the flavors pop in your mouth. Thankfully, we have an opportunity to explore those flavors showcased exceptionally at Kimchi Time.