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 Little Cafe Poca Cosa, a Mexican breakfast- and lunch-only cafe in downtown Tucson, and the little sister to Cafe Poca Cosa, which is one of the city's best and most beloved Mexican food restaurants. The menu 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, bustling 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. The menu at this seasonally-driven restaurant changes monthly, so you won't find yourself tiring of the same-old lunch and salads.
Finally, if you're looking for a hip lunch spot in downtown Tucson, try the foodie haven known as The Coronet. The kitchen offers an "afternoon" menu that starts at 11am and runs until 3pm, which offers gourmet offerings such as tartines, gourmet salads and a hearty, Welsh-style "ploughman's lunch."
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)
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)
Prep and Pastry
Prep and Pastry opened in 2013, announcing itself as a "craft" breakfast, lunch and brunch destination in central Tucson. Essentially, this means dishes are made from scratch and crafted from locally sourced ingredients. The breakfast menu is one of the most unique and sophisticated in town. Highlights include the Chef Omelette, which changes daily and is served with a side of the house hash. Another stand-out is the A.M. Relleno, a savory mix of eggs, pico, queso fresco, poblano pepper, corn tortilla strips, and a rich mole sauce. The duck confit hash is another gourmet breakfast specialty, made with shallots, spinach, chardonnay braised golden raisins, goat cheese mousse, and an over easy egg. ((520) 326-7737)
Roma Imports celebrates the spirit of the traditional Italian deli by staying true to its roots. The small shop carries a huge selection of Italian food goods, including high quality imported meats and cheeses. The menu features a large assortment of hot and cold deli sandwiches, including a classic caprese made with fresh basil and the "Ultimate Roma," made with capocolla, genoa salami, fresh mortadella, provolone, and roasted red peppers. On the hot side of the menu, you can't beat the "Roma Signature," a slow roasted pork shoulder marinated with mustard and beer, then topped with a crunchy slaw. The deli also carries an assortment of salads and hot pasta dishes. ((520) 792-3173)
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)
The Coronet is a brasserie-style cafe situated at the historic Coronado Hotel near downtown Tucson. The restaurant serves old world rustic cuisine with a big comfy patio, plenty of shade, quiet music playing the background, and excellent coffee. There's also a bar featuring hand-crafted sangrias and cocktails. The restaurant features several daily menus, including a morning, afternoon and dinner menu. For dinner, try the Dragoon session sausage, which has already become a favorite with regulars. The sausage is served with a red cabbage citrus slaw, corn & roasted tomato salad, and sprout kraut. For dessert, try the moist and sweet olive oil cake, served with orange zest and anise. ((520) 222-9889)
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)
Little Cafe Poca Cosa
The Little Poca Cosa Cafe is the sister to the award-winning Cafe Poca Cosa on Pennington Street. It might be smaller, but it certainly doesn't play second fiddle. The Little Poca Cosa, located on the corner of Alameda and Stone in downtown Tucson, revels in a fun, loud and homespun ambiance. Service is strictly first come, first serve. The music is always loud, children are welcome and no credit cards are accepted. Plus, the friendly staff make certain that every patron leaves with a hug and a kiss. Ambiance aside, the food at Little Poca Cosa is quite good. Try the pork in smoked poblano sauce--it'll melt in your mouth. Breakfast and lunch only. If you come for take-out, the restaurant encourages you to bring your own plate to stay green. ((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.