If you’re a foodie like me and finding unique and cuisine local to the places you visit, Tucson is the city for you! In 2015, Tucson became a United Nations Education, Science and Culture Organization (UNESCO) City of Gastronomy and the first city in the United States with that designation. UNESCO selected them because of the “region’s rich agricultural heritage, thriving food traditions, and culinary distinctiveness.”
You’ll find a huge variety of cuisines in Tucson, but they have some of the best Sonoran style Mexican food, including their own hot dog!
I tried to eat as much as I could in the three days I was there, only visiting one chain (In-N-Out) because I forgot my mask that afternoon and needed to go through the drive-thru. Here are the places I ate along with a quick review of each one.
This started as a hot dog stand in 1993 and is arguably the best Sonoran style hot dog in Tucson. They now have several locations in Tucson and a meat market.
What makes this hot dog so unique? It’s wrapped in bacon, topped with beans, jalapeno sauce, chopped tomatoes, mustard, onions and mayo. I had them leave the last two off because I just don’t like either of those things and I didn’t want it to ruin my hot dog experience.
The verdict? You should try this! Only if you’re a meat eater though. There was no vegan option on the menu. It was not the best hot dog in the world, but I really liked the jalapeno sauce and the beans. The bacon wasn’t crispy, so that took a bit away from it. I think if it had been crispy bacon, I would have loved it!
I discovered this specialty drink shop from a local Tucson blogger and decided to try out their unique spins on bubble tea. It was definitely a go-to spot that afternoon!
Not only do they have boba, but there’s a wide variety of coffee, tea and snacks. My drink of choice was the Euphoria, which is part of the K-Pop series of drinks. It’s basically a strawberry lemonade citrus refresher and I added yogurt boba. It was really good and perfect for the hot day!
This thai restaurant kept popping up on the best of lists for Tucson and after eating there, I can see why! There’s a wide variety of dishes to choose from, but I got the drunken noodles.
They’re smothered in a light sauce, wok fried and tossed with green beans, beef and red peppers. You can also get chicken, shrimp or tofu.
I didn’t know this at the time, but they had just hired all new staff and the owner came out to make sure my meal went well and I had good service.
Many of the ingredients are locally grown and sourced, including a partnership with the University of Arizona Community and School Garden Program to grow the vegetables and herbs used in the kitchen.
Great concept and excellent food!
The oldest Mexican restaurant in the United States continuously owned by the same family, El Charro Cafe claims to have created the chimichanga.
However, I decided to eat something I’d never had before: tamales. And I wasn’t prepared for just how delicious they were. I got two: red chili beef and chicken tomatillo. I wish I’d gotten all four options on the menu to try! They were just that good.
At first, I was like “do I eat the husk??” So I Googled it and learned that’s just how they’re prepared and I shouldn’t eat that part of the tamale.
You must eat here if you only eat at one place in Tucson. And I just read they ship tamales. So now I’m going to have to order some straight to my door…
I was still kind of full from my lunch at El Charro, but really wanted to try Hub Ice Cream and it was extremely warm outside, so it seemed like the perfect treat.
With lots of unique flavors, ice cream tacos and sandwiches, this is a cute spot downtown that seems to be a newer addition to the Hub restaurant across the street.
I enjoyed my waffle cone and mint chip ice cream even if it did start melting out the bottom after a few minutes!
The motto on Boca’s web site is “come for the tacos, stay for the salsas” and that’s pretty accurate.
This place was a miss for me. The salsas were great – lots of different types than I’m used to like a black bean and a mango habanero, but the tacos were mediocre.
I found the flavors to be lacking in the tacos, especially the cauliflower taco that I wanted to try. The chicken was better, but nothing to rave about. My advice is to find a different place to eat tacos despite the hype surrounding this place.
This place came recommended to me by another librarian friend who lives in Tucson. It wasn’t far from my hotel and is extremely popular! Since I was a party of one, I got seated right away but everyone waiting had at least an hour or more before a table was available.
I tried their chimichanga and the shell was super flakey and really good. It had a chili Colorado filling which was ok, but I think I like ground beef better. That wasn’t an option and I’m also not used to that kind of cheese on it.
Serving size was huge! I couldn’t finish it all and since I was flying home the next day, couldn’t take it with me.
I really enjoyed their margarita and salsa and would also recommend this place to anyone visiting Tucson.
For more in depth food thoughts on the places I tried in Tucson, watch my YouTube video and be sure to subscribe for more travel content!