10 Best Lunch Spots in Tucson: Midday Meals to Savor
By Patricia Escarcega
Phoenix, Scottsdale, and Tucson Local Expert
Looking to grab lunch in Tucson? Whether you need to get a quick bite before going back to work, or would like to enjoy a long, leisurely lunch, Tucson's favorite lunch spots aim to please. Stop by Cafe Poca Cosa for a gourmet yet unpretentious lunch at one of the city's best and most beloved Mexican food restaurants. The menu changes twice daily and relies on the best seasonal ingredients for the freshest, fullest flavors. Another Tucson favorite is Beyond Bread, a local chain specializing in freshly made sandwiches, soups and pastry items. The atmosphere here is friendly and the sandwiches are to die for. If you're looking for a gourmet lunch on the go, make a pit stop at Feast, a unique Tucson restaurant that offers carry-out service for every item on the menu. Of course, nothing says Tucson quite like Eegees, a chain of local sub sandwich shops that offer fast-food-like service, but with fresher ingredients. Finally, if you're looking for a hip lunch spot in downtown Tucson, try the foodie haven known as the HUB Restaurant and Creamery, where classic American comfort food gets a well-deserved gourmet makeover. For dessert, don't miss the luscious ice cream treats, which are made fresh in the restaurant.
A fixture in Tucson since 1971, this is the preferred stop on sweltering Arizona days when folks drop in for an "eegee," a unique fruity, slushy concoction somewhere between an Italian ice and a slightly thawed sorbet. Choose from lemon, strawberry, pina colada or the changing flavor of the month. Food-wise, the subs, salads, soups, fries and pasta are steps above the usual fast food fare, making it a popular lunchtime destination, too. There are about 20 locations around town, so an "eegee" is never far from hand! Come here for an authentic taste of Tucson that won't break the budget. (520-792-1828)
HUB Restaurant & Ice Creamery
HUB Restaurant and Ice Creamery has quickly become a popular downtown Tucson dining destination. The menu is eclectic, fun and always fresh. Starters include a fresh calamari, jumbo lump crab cakes, and pei mussels. The Mac & Cheese is a house favorite. Choose from three varieties on the American comfort food staple: classic, bacon and lobster. Stand-out main dishes include the corned beef hash, made with red potatoes, caramelized onions, bell peppers, asparagus, swiss cheese, two fried eggs--all served with toasted bread. There is also an extensive draft beer, wine and cocktail menu. And for the dessert, try a soft serve treat from the creamery side of the restaurant. (5202078201)
Cafe a la C'Art
This charming downtown cafe, located at the historic Stevens House at the Museum of Art, offers an assortment of breakfast, lunch and dinner options. Fine art hangs on the walls, providing the perfect ambiance for enjoying the down-home breakfast plates and lunch options. The coffee is excellent. Try the house macchiato, or for something slightly different, the lachino (a wet cappuccino with less foam and more milk) is great. Salads, sandwiches and artistan breads are also on the eclectic menu. Don't leave without trying one of the cafe's famous desserts, which include plenty of gluten free options. There is a great brick patio for al fresco dining. (520-628-8533)
Govinda Natural Foods Buffet
This is one of the only restaurants in town with a completely meatless menu, but hopefully that won't keep carnivores away from Govinda's Natural Foods. Govinda's is located in the Hare Krishna Center and features an all-you-care-to-eat buffet. The offerings vary from day to day, but on Tuesday nights the menu is all Indian and on Thursday nights the choices are all vegan (no dairy). The variety is impressive, ranging from pastas to Mexican casseroles, and everything is fresh and healthy. Sunday brunch includes a selection of traditional breakfast dishes such as pancakes, home fries, fruit, and even tofu scrambles. Call ahead or check Govinda's website to see what's on the menu. Delicious. (520-792-0630)
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)
Tucson Tamale Company
Tucson Tamale Company's slogan is "unwrap happiness." Well said. With more than 30 different types of tamales, from meaty and spicy to hearty vegan treats, Tucson Tamale Company is your source for authentic and creative tamales in the Old Pueblo. The menu is eclectic and fun. Try the green corn tamales, a house favorite, or the Arizona, which is stuffed with chipotle beef. The Tucson Tamale Company has something to please every palate, including a large selection of vegetarian and vegan tamales. There are also delicious breakfast and dessert tamales so you can start your morning--and finish your meal--just right. ((520) 305-4760)
People don't simply talk about Feast, they enthuse. The concept seems simple enough: excellent gourmet food (but nothing too experimental), reasonable prices, and the option to dine in or take out. The menu changes every month -- call ahead or check their website to see what's available -- but virtually every dish is a knockout. You might encounter a savory cheesecake with artichoke hearts, zesty sweet potato chilaquiles, perfect parmesan risotto, a fennel and garlic-rubbed pork chop, or chicken masala over basmati rice and fresh sautéed spinach. Desserts are all exceptional and prepared in-house, including the ice cream, but the chocolate truffle cookies are sublime. If you're going for take out, you can also select a bottle of wine to go. (520-326-9363, 520-326-6500)
Inspired by the colorful streets of Tepatitlan, Jalisco in Mexico, Calle Tepa is Tucson's latest and greatest Mexican cafe. In a city full of great Mexican food, Calle Tepa manages to stand out from the pack for its great take on Jalisco street food, fresh ingredients, and attention to detail. Here is everything you would want from a fast-casual Mexican food cafe: homemade recipes, made-from-scratch salsas, and pillowy tortillas cooked in front of you. There is even an al pastor juicing on a rotating spit. Brought to you by the folks behind Tucson's Guadalajara Grill, Calle Tepa offers a homespun take on great Mexican food. ((520) 777-5962)
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)
Cafe Poca Cosa
Chef/owner Susana Davila creates her own unique spin on Mexican cuisine, featuring techniques and ingredients borrowed from several regions. Poca Cosa began a few blocks away from this location, and the tiny original is still open for breakfast and lunch on weekdays. At this location, the menu changes daily, but the specialties include fantastic chicken with spicy-rich mole sauce. The menu is printed on a portable chalkboard in both English and Spanish, which servers take from table to table. If you can't decide, order the Plato Poca Cosa and the chef will choose one beef, one chicken and one vegetarian entree for you to sample, each one more delicious than the next. (520-622-6400)
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.