I’m a Tucson native and local foodie, and in this guide, I share the best Tucson restaurants for every budget and craving. Over the past 24 years, I’ve spent countless dollars trying new cuisines throughout my hometown and am thrilled to share this list of my top places to eat.
Tucson is one of two U.S. cities recognized as a UNESCO city of gastronomy, so you can bet you’re going to have some great food in the Old Pueblo.
Put on your stretchy pants because we’re about to explore 31 of the best Tucson restaurants — several of which are hole-in-the-wall eateries you’d never expect.
Table of Contents
- 31 Best Tucson Restaurants
- 4th Avenue Delicatessen
- Rollies Mexican Patio
- Chef Alisah’s Restaurant
- Li’l Abner’s Steakhouse
- Cafe Desta
- Roma Imports
- El Taco Rustico
- Selena’s Salvadorian Restaurant
- C.I. Chu’s Mongolian BBQ
- Empire Pizza & Pub
- Fatman Kitchen
- Seis Kitchen
- Drunken Chicken
- El Charro Café
- Reilly Craft Pizza
- Ermanos Bar
- Baja Cafe
- HUB Restaurant & Ice Creamery
- Flora’s Market Run
- Tito & Pep
- El Güero Canelo
- Smokey Mo
- 4 Seasons Restaurant
- FAQs About Tucson Restaurants
Disclosure: Travel Lemming is an independent reader-supported blog. You can support us by purchasing via the affiliate links on this page, which may earn us commissions. Thank you!
31 Best Tucson Restaurants
First and foremost, Indian food is my favorite cuisine in the world. Period. It is always my greatest mission to find the best Indian food everywhere I travel. In my hometown, this mission is accomplished at Sher-e-Punjab.
Every dish at this homestyle restaurant is delicious and authentic. The chicken tikka masala is second-to-none. I have had this meal a thousand times (even in India), and my taste buds have never been happier anywhere else.
Other notable entrees include the chana masala, aloo gobi, and dal makhani. Make sure to start with a round of vegetable samosas and pakora before you dig into the main course!
4th Avenue Delicatessen
The best sandwiches in Tucson are made at 4th Avenue Delicatessen. The extensive menu features sandwiches all named after famous outlaws. The T-Town on a toasted hoagie and the Chin Gigante meatball sub are my favorite creations on the list.
You won’t find better bread in all of Tucson, and you can’t go wrong with any of these handmade delicacies. Order a side of homemade pasta salad and a fresh cannoli to go along with your hoagie!
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Rollies Mexican Patio
Located in South Tucson, this small Mexican restaurant is unassuming on the outside. But what they cook up inside will leave you dreaming about birria and fresh tortillas long after you clean the plate.
South Tucson is locally renowned as the #1 area of town to get killer Mexican food. According to Yelp, some of the best restaurants in this neighborhood are highly esteemed, but I think the magic happens in the holes in the wall. Rollies is nothing fancy, but it is undoubtedly authentic, and the flavors are out of this world. Do not miss this outstanding local favorite.
👉 Pro Tip: Birria ramen is served on Thursdays and Saturdays. I highly recommend trying this glorious creation. You may never have anything better!
Chef Alisah’s Restaurant
Featured on Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives in 2018, this Bosnian/European restaurant has blown up the Tucson foodie scene. From the moment you walk through the front door and see Guy Fieri’s photos all over the walls, you’ll know you’ve reached Flavor Town.
Chef Alisah, the titular owner, honed his culinary skills in Bosnia from a young age and took his craft to Tucson in 1998. He’s been gracing the old Pueblo with delectable European recipes for over 20 years and has even made it on several top restaurants in America lists. The quality of this food is unrivaled, and the family-owned vibe is truly special.
I recommend ordering a heaping pile of cevapi – Bosnian-style sausages – along with paprika chicken and mushroom beef. Dip the dense table bread in the sauces… It’s perfect! Each dish is fairly large, so you can easily share it all with another worthy contender.
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Li’l Abner’s Steakhouse
What used to be a stagecoach stop is now one of Tucson’s most beloved steakhouses. My parents had their rehearsal dinner here, and the names and notes from their wedding party are still scribbled on the walls of the main dining room. This is one of those places where you walk in and instantly feel at home.
Li’l Abner’s is not only a fantastic spot to enjoy old-west vibes in a family-friendly setting. It also serves the best mesquite grill steaks I have ever tried. I ordered filet mignon on my last visit, and the memory of the flavor remains stark in my mind. Unreal delicious. With live music playing in the background, it’s impossible to have a bad time here. Don’t pass this place up!
👉 Pro Tip: Make a reservation ahead of time. It gets packed on the weekends!
Bobo’s is the best breakfast dive in all of Tucson. Their pancakes are so giant that they overlap the plates! My go-to is a banana with brown sugar pancake, plus a side of home fries, biscuits, and gravy. Sounds like too much food? It is. But you’ll be beyond satisfied when you leave with a full belly and happy memories of this greasy spoon. Make sure to wear your stretchy pants!
Lemongrass is one of the best restaurants in Tucson, in my opinion. Each plate is homemade by Dr. Tank himself, the humble owner who still works part-time as a geologist in Nepal. He told me the story of how he took the culinary journey to create Nepalese recipes with gut-friendly ingredients that sacrifice no flavor. He achieved this goal, and it comes to light at Lemongrass.
The chicken curry is one of my favorite dishes I have ever had in my entire life. The meal bursts with flavor from the owners’ organic vegetable and herb garden. Dr. Tank sure knows how to cook a mean curry! Make sure to dip a chunk of healthy naan bread in the creamy goodness.
👉 Pro Tip: Order a combo platter so you can try a little bit of everything, including the vegan rice pudding!
The flavors at Cafe Desta will blow your mind. The menu offers traditional vegan and vegetarian dishes along with juicy beef, chicken, lamb, and fish. Every combination meal is served on injera bread, the spongy Ethiopian staple.
Ditch your utensils and eat with your hands when you order family-style, the perfect way to share a mountain of good food with your friends. And if you’re in the mood for gourmet coffee, the Ethio latte earns five stars in my book!
👉 Pro Tip: Try a little of everything by ordering family-style.
LaCo has the best outdoor ambiance in downtown Tucson, hands down. The gorgeous patio is festively lit with twinkling lights and colorful tree ornaments. Comfy tables circle a fountain in the center of the courtyard. Live musicians play under a sparkling gazebo. Located in the Historic Presidio District of downtown, this artisanal restaurant is the embodiment of Tucson culture.
Aside from its charming looks, LaCo’s menu is impressive. The nacho appetizer with pulled pork is sinfully good. Try the elote pasta as your main course accompanied by a Desert Rose hibiscus margarita. I truly have enjoyed every meal and drink I’ve tried at LaCo, so you’ll fare well no matter what you order.
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This hidden gem is one of the most authentic restaurants in Tucson. Owned and operated by an Italian family since 1999, this deli and market offer the best homemade pasta, sausages, bread, and more. My family cooks up their take-home lasagna and eggplant parmesan every year for Christmas, so I have a very nostalgic love for this place.
Roma Imports is located in an obscure spot off the freeway. The flourishing business’ popularity is a testament to how quality products and friendly service surpass all obstacles.
👉 Pro Tip: Grab a frozen take-home meal if you want to enjoy a dinner party at home.
El Taco Rustico
Claiming to serve the best tacos in town, El Taco Rustico is one of the most popular restaurants in Tucson. With a wide variety of Mexican meats such as Pollo Asado, chile con carne, and slow-grilled costillas, renowned Chef Juan Almanza delivers a true Sonoran dining experience. El Taco Rustico is a bit on the pricier side for so-called fast food, but the friendly service and fantastic flavors make it worth it.
Selena’s Salvadorian Restaurant
Selena’s is a humble restaurant in a low-key setting with high-key delicious food. They serve a variety of pupusas, the national dish of El Salvador. These cornmeal cakes are typically stuffed with cheese, meats, vegetables, you name it.
Selena’s cooks up the best in Tucson, along with delectable chicken dishes and homemade soups. Save room for their luscious desserts to put the cherry on top of a fantastic Salvadorian meal.
Zinburger is one of the most well-known restaurants in Tucson. It’s part of Fox Restaurants Concepts, a creative culinary community in Southern Arizona. This popular hotspot serves juicy burgers, gourmet fries, and rich milkshakes. Comfort food is an understatement!
Zinburger has great vibes, a great menu, and great service. This is my favorite restaurant to go to for birthday dinners and girls’ nights.
C.I. Chu’s Mongolian BBQ
If you’re a fan of piling a bowl sky-high with hand-picked toppings and fresh ingredients, C.I. Chu’s is the place to chow down. Home to a build-your-own-bowl concept, this Mongolian restaurant offers a unique dining experience. Grab a bowl, stack up everything that makes your mouth water, then watch it cook on a flattop before your very eyes.
Each bowl is served with tear-apart sesame bread, white or brown rice, and a savory cup of soup. With such a simple-yet-delectable concept, Chu’s is one of the most enjoyable restaurants in Tucson.
Empire Pizza & Pub
There’s no better way to end an evening of bar-hopping on Congress St. than with a piping hot slice from Empire Pizza. This is my typical last hurrah after a night out downtown. Enjoy a cheap slice of pizza with a nightcap in the cozy, brick-walled pub before heading home.
The elote pizza is unlike anything I’ve ever had and is a local foodie favorite. I recommend getting a basket of wings to boost the meal. If you order a full pie, the Astoria – or Verde pizza – is pesto perfection.
If you’re craving Chinese, Fatman Kitchen serves some of the best food in Tucson, in my opinion. I am a huge fan of Mongolian beef, Kung Pao chicken, and sweet and sour soup. Fatman Kitchen serves the highest quality of each, along with tons of other classic Chinese options. You can order a massive amount of food here for very cheap. The friendly staff makes the visit even more worthwhile.
👉 Pro Tip: Enjoy a lunch special for under $10 if you order before 3 p.m.
Seis Kitchen is a go-to for me when I’m craving tacos. The contemporary menu offers Mexican classics like Al Pastor, chicken tinga, and Puerco Verde. Mix and match a taco platter, and make sure to get a side of Seis sauce. There are several vegetarian and vegan options that are super delicious, too!
You can’t go wrong with any of the tacos at Seis. While there are multiple locations throughout Tucson, the one in the Mercado San Agustin is the most special by far.
👉 Don’t Miss: Check out the MSA Annex, just a stone’s throw from Seis, for local shopping in a collection of shipping containers!
If you’re a fan of fried chicken and waffles, this is the place to eat. Drunken Chicken is located on Fourth Avenue, right in the heart of some of the best shopping in Tucson. It’s my favorite place to unwind after a day of perusing the eclectic stores along the avenue. With counter-seating and an open garage with views of the street, it’s the perfect place to people-watch.
Chicken and waffles always hit the spot for me, so I may be a little biased with this one. The Classic is my go-to, but you should order the Heart Attack if you’re feeling bold (and hungry). It’s a glorious stack of chicken strips atop a golden waffle, topped with mashed potatoes, gravy, bacon, and a fried egg. The name is fitting!
El Charro Café
El Charro Cafe is one of the most well-known restaurants in all of Tucson. It’s the oldest Mexican restaurant in continuous operation by the same family in the country. The family claims to have invented the chimichanga when a worker tripped and accidentally dropped a burrito in the fryer. That should give you some idea of how famous the name is in Tucson!
Enjoy a vibrant atmosphere and a tasty dinner menu of authentic Mexican cuisine, complete with fresh tamales, chicken tacos, charro steak, homemade desserts, and more. My favorite meal is the birria cheese crisp. There’s nothing like a crunchy crust covered in melted cheese and marinated pork!
Reilly Craft Pizza
What used to be Reilly Mortuary has transformed into one of downtown’s most popular hang-out spots. Craft beer and wood-fired pizza is the name of the game at Reilly. This Italian eatery resides in a historic building built in 1906. The atmosphere is unparalleled, a picture-perfect spot for romantic dates, business lunches, or celebratory feasts.
Reilly offers two unique spaces to grab a drink. The beer garden is a private outdoor patio perfect for enjoying a brew on a beautiful, sunny day. And when the sun sets, head downstairs to Tough Luck Club (my favorite Tucson bar), an underground speakeasy serving craft cocktails in a cozy setting.
👉 Don’t Miss: The Rialto and 191 Toole are within walking distance from Reilly. Grab dinner before seeing a show!
Ermanos is the most aesthetic restaurant in the downtown area. Dimly lit booths and vintage brick walls make it a great date spot. Ermanos offers delicious salads, burgers, and sandwiches. Though they serve only a handful of fancier entrees on their contemporary menu, the options will appeal to any palette.
The best thing about Ermanos is Portal, a neon-lit speakeasy serving craft cocktails in the back of the restaurant. Though the drinks are pricey, the atmosphere is unparalleled by any other bar in town. You can also order these drinks while dining in the main restaurant.
👉 Pro Tip: Make a reservation at Portal before you sit down for dinner to ensure you get a seat after your meal.
When it’s dark and chilly in the winter, KUKAI is my favorite restaurant in Tucson. Order from a window in a shipping container that composes this Japanese gem. So much more than a sushi restaurant, this place serves the best ramen and onigiri in town.
KUKAI is located in the MSA Annex, my favorite Tucson shopping center filled with great local stores, restaurants, and a coffee shop. Each shop is built inside a restored shipping container, which gives this whole area a chic look and unique personality. Take a look around after having your fill of ramen and sushi!
This is Sonoran food with a twist. Tumerico serves only vegan and vegetarian plates, one of the first restaurants to do so in Tucson. The establishment, which has several locations around town, has been featured on several shows on Food Network.
Chef Wendy Garcia has earned awards for her Mexican staples and has mastered the recipes on her menu. Don’t miss this Tucson favorite!
Baja Cafe and Bobo’s are neck-and-neck for the top spot on my list of breakfast restaurants in Tucson. What sets Baja Cafe apart is its benedicts. From the spicy Coyote Benedict to the homemade corned beef hash, you can’t leave this place without trying one of these incredible culinary creations.
This brunch joint is featured on a 2019 episode of Man v. Food, along with local taco restaurant Boca Tacos y Tequila. Baja’s celebrity is well-deserved for its top-notch southwestern cuisine, homestyle breakfast, and welcoming atmosphere.
👉 Pro Tip: Make sure to tell your server if it’s your first time at Baja Cafe so you can get a free snickerdoodle pancake!
HUB Restaurant & Ice Creamery
HUB is one of my favorite restaurants in Tucson. Located in the heart of downtown, it’s a great dinner spot if you plan to see a concert or show on Congress St. after your meal. The food is delightful, especially the lobster mac n’ cheese. You simply can’t say no to a scoop of homemade ice cream to complete your meal.
The shotgun layout of this historic brick building is charming and cozy, the perfect setting for a first date. Grab dinner with someone special, then take your ice cream to go for a romantic walk around the twinkly lights of downtown Tucson.
Flora’s Market Run
If you’re looking to get dressed up for brunch with friends to celebrate a special occasion, Flora’s Market Run is a great candidate for your festivities. This cozy space is part-restaurant, part-local market.
Sit back and relax with a cup of gourmet coffee and a sweet pastry, or go all-out with a breakfast feast. On a cool day, enjoy your meal beneath hanging flower pots on the outdoor patio. Don’t leave without perusing the aisles of the attached market. You’ll be sure to find a variety of local goodies here!
Tito & Pep
Tito & Pep captures the spirit of Tucson, both in atmosphere and flavor. Chef John Martinez created a menu of mesquite-fired cuisine and original cocktails, inspired by his southwestern travels spanning two decades.
The result is a lively restaurant with a variety of options, from grilled NY strip to sea bass Crudo. I recommend visiting Tito & Pep to celebrate a special occasion with your favorite people.
El Güero Canelo
If you’re on the hunt for cheap Mexican classics, look no further than El Güero Canelo. This iconic Tucson restaurant is famous for its massive burritos and Sonoran hot dogs.
The menu items are limited and uncomplicated, which is just fine if good Mexican food is what you seek. Whatever you order is guaranteed to be delicious. Make sure to come hungry. This place does not mess around with portion sizes!
Enjoy an evening of fine dining by the train tracks in a historic Tucson building. Maynard’s offers an extensive wine list and classy meals, cooked to perfection by high-class chefs. I recommend booking a reservation for a special night like Valentine’s Day if you’re trying to impress that special someone.
Maynard’s truly is one of the best restaurants in Tucson. Take home some treats from the gourmet shop before signing the check!
Smokey Mo is one of the only restaurants in Tucson that you can truly smell from a mile away. I know this because I used to open my front door to the scent of ribs and baked beans at my old house. I instantly knew the culprit was Smokey Mo…
This is the best of the Tucson barbecue joints. It’s an especially wonderful option if you’re trying to feed the whole family. Smokey Mo serves large portions, so you’ll be sure to leave your whole party satisfied with a belly full of pulled pork, mac n’ cheese, hot rolls, and more.
4 Seasons Restaurant
If you’re craving curry or Asian noodles, 4 Seasons is one of the best restaurants in Tucson. Located in an obscure building on Miracle Mile, you’d never recognize this incredible Thai restaurant from the outside. But what occurs on the inside? Thai magic!
I have never had better drunken noodles in my life. And every curry I’ve tried here is astonishing, especially the chicken Panang. Don’t skip this hidden gem when the Thai cravings hit.
FAQs About Tucson Restaurants
Is Tucson a foodie city?
Tucson is 100% a foodie city. As one of two UNESCO gastronomy cities in the United States, it’s home to some of the country’s best restaurants. If you’re on the hunt for incredible food, come to Tucson.
What are the most popular restaurants in Tucson?
What food is Tucson famous for?
Tucson is famous for Sonoran Mexican food, which earned the city its UNESCO title. Make sure to get authentic Mexican food during your visit; there’s nothing like it anywhere else in the states!
What food originated in Tucson Arizona?
Chimichangas originated in Tucson, according to local foodie legend. El Charro Cafe claims to have invented the recipe when a worker accidentally dropped a burrito in the fryer. Thus, the chimichanga was born!
Your Tucson foodie feast awaits! I hope you now have a variety of ideas on what dishes and Tucson restaurants you’ll enjoy during your time here. For more must-eats, check out my article on the best restaurants in Phoenix next!
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