10 Best Breakfast and Brunch Restaurants in Tucson
By Patricia Escarcega
Phoenix, Scottsdale, and Tucson Local Expert
We've all heard that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. Let's hope that's true, because Tucson boasts an impressive list of great breakfast and brunch spots.
Tucson's best breakfast and brunch spots specialize in fresh ingredients, made from scratch recipes, and inviting early-morning ambiance. Case in point: Frank's Restaurant, a cafe well known around town for its unpretentious atmosphere and great value. Food is served fast, hot and with a friendly smile. And if you get there before 9 am, you can order the popular Early Bird Special, two eggs, your choice of home fries or hash browns, with a side of toast, tortilla or muffin, all for less than two dollars.
If you want to start your day off on a charming note, head to Tucson's Fourth Avenue for breakfast at Blue Willow. The lovely patio at Blue Willow is the perfect place to enjoy a plate of sumptuous French toast with a side of fresh fruit.
For a shot of espresso and a big plate of the city's best crepes, head to Cafe Marcel, a charming cafe with a comfy outdoor patio and free Wi-Fi. If you decide to sleep in, worry not: The Bread and Butter Cafe is a neighborhood cafe that serves an unfailingly good breakfast all day.
For a quick bite on your way to work or a day of sightseeing, bypass all those fast food chains and stop at Beyond Bread. The cinnamon raisin French toast is unbeatable, but if you like protein in the morning, try a made-to-order omelette, stuffed full of your choice of meats, cheese and veggies. Lighter appetites might prefer a simple croissant, muffin or scone. Later in the day, opt for a cleverly named sandwich or salad, a slice of dark chocolate cake or a massive cookie. Breads range from specials like Ancho-Chipotle-White Cheddar and Brie-Scallion-Chive to more traditional varieties such as challah and baguettes � there are more than 30 breads in the regular schedule, about half of which are available on any given day. (520-322-9965)
Sunny Daze Cafe
This beach-inspired neighborhood cafe brings the spirit and attitude of the beach to the sunny deserts of Tucson. Sunny Daze Cafe dishes out a great breakfast, with a huge selection of classics including hotcakes, french toast, waffles, omelettes, egg dishes, and hot and cold cereals. Try one of the house specialties, such as the popular Mark's Big Daddy Breakfast, which comes with three eggs, two strips of bacon, two sausage links, three hotcakes, toast and your choice of regular or loaded hash browns. The Huevos Rancheros are quite good too. There is also a build your own omelette option for a custom breakfast specialty. ((520) 295-0300)
Cinnamon buns, sweet rolls -- whatever you prefer to call them, Gus Balons makes the best in Tucson, if not the state (some people claim the best in the country, and they just may be right...). This baby is huge, really huge. It's got just the right amount of cinnamon, for a spicy but not overwhelming flavor. And it's also slathered with enough frosting so that every bite has that punch of sweet gooeyness. It's perfect. The no-frills diner/café also serves up buttery fried eggs, French toast made from homemade rustic white bread, and good hot coffee. Other times of the day, you may want to sample a slice of pie, but choosing which one may be daunting. There's usually about 20 different varieties baked every day, from chocolate peanut butter banana to fresh peach to crumb-topped pumpkin. (520-748-9731)
Corned beef hash and eggs is the favorite at Robert's, with good reason. It's the real thing! Of course there are other options, including just about every conceivable combination of eggs and breakfast meats is on the menu, along with plenty of freshly-baked bread and pastry. Lunch is hearty comfort food: meatloaf, chicken fried steak or pork chops, all with mashed potatoes, a roll and vegetable of the day. There are a few sandwiches too, of the egg salad-grilled ham and cheese variety, and homemade pies and cakes for dessert. Make sure to try the homemade cinnamon rolls too, a restaurant staple. (520-795-1436)
Bobo's Restaurant in Tucson offers home style and country breakfasts in a friendly neighborhood dining environment. This local greasy spoon is a favorite with breakfast-lovers looking for hot, tasty breakfast platters. You'll find the usual suspects of pancakes, omelets and sides, as well as an assortment of house specialties. Sweet tooths will want to try the banana pancakes, french toast or chocolate chip pancakes, enormous, fluffy and sweet. For an out-of-this-world breakfast plate, try the Flying Saucer pancake. Of course, no matter what you order, you'll want to try Bobo's famous fresh-baked buttermilk biscuits. A great place to rub elbows with locals. (520-326-6163)
Tucked away in an old house, Blue Willow is renowned for its comfortable, home-style cooking and its charming patio. Shaded in the summer and heated in the winter, it's the perfect spot for a fun weekday lunch with friends or a relaxing weekend breakfast. The menu is chock full of omelettes and other filling morning meal favorites, all accompanied by fresh fruit and potatoes or rice. Lunch and dinner options range from soups and salads to delicate crepes and vegetarian dishes. The place is equally famous for its desserts, particularly the chocolate confection of the day, which never fails to impress and satisfy. (520-327-7577)
Bread and Butter Cafe
Fresh baked pies, hot cakes, waffles and chicken fried steak with eggs are just some of the down-home specialties you'll find at the Bread and Butter Cafe in Tucson. This charming cafe serves breakfast all day, and with a long breakfast menu there is no shortage of delicious options. Specialty omelettes are served with your choice of homefries, hashbrowns, grits, sliced tomatoes, cottage cheese, fresh fruit, refried beans or spanish rice and your choice of bread. Mexican breakfast plates include Huevos Rancheros, breakfast burritos, and chorizo with eggs. There are also seasonal fruit plates for those looking for lighter fare. ((520) 327-0004)
The trendy Hotel Congress has a happening little cafe that serves what many consider to be the best breakfast around. All the familiar favorites are offered, along with some more creative options such as the Boom Boom (scrambled eggs, cheese and roasted red potatoes piled on a toasted baguette), Eggs and Gunpowder (a bowl of roasted red potatoes topped with eggs, turkey chorizo and jack cheese), and Bennie's Burrito (a tortilla stuffed with scrambled eggs, spicy black beans, sprouts, jack cheese, diced green chiles, black olives, sour cream and fresh salsa). Lunch and dinner tend to be more international in scope, but the food is equally wonderful. (520-798-1618, 800-722-8848)
You won't find elegant dining rooms at Frank's, but that alone is part of this mid-century diner's charm. A long-time Tucson staple and one of the oldest diners in town, Frank's Restaurant is famous for its fast, friendly take on breakfast and lunch. The French toast, eggs, bacon and coffee are consistently good. Even better, Frank's is proof that the early bird really does get the worm: if you arrive before 9 am on a weekday morning, you can order The Early Bird Special, two eggs prepared in any style, served with home fries or hash browns and your choice of biscuit, toast or tortilla--all for less than two dollars. Not a bad way to get the day started. (520-881-2710)
Formerly known as Cafe Zope, this excellent creperie and espresso bar serves Tucson's bustling university neighborhoods. The cafe is one of the best places in Tucson to enjoy traditional crepes. These scrumptious European-style pancakes are stuffed with your choice of sweet or savory fillings. All sweet crepes are topped with fresh berries, powdered sugar and whipped cream. The menu is always changing, with new fillings introduced all the time. However, you can always count on great ambiance. Cafe Marcel has a peaceful patio, free Wi-Fi and a great espresso bar. ((520) 623-3700)
About Patricia Escarcega
Patricia Escarcega has lived in the Arizona desert since she was a teenager. She works as a writer and editor in Phoenix with her four dogs and two cats. She received her MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Arizona and is working on a novel about growing up in the 1990s.
Read more about Patricia Escarcega here.