The Tucson restaurant scene has seen impressive growth in recent years. Today, even diners with strict dietary restrictions will be able to find great menu options around town.
If you're looking for some of the finest gluten-free fare in town, a visit to Gourmet Girls Go Gluten Free is a must. This bakery and cafe is a great place to grab lunch if you're looking for gluten-free options. You'll find excellent gluten-free pasta dishes, sandwiches and exquisite desserts. Going gluten-free has never been so easy.
Another great option is Feast, a local foodie haven with a revolving menu of seasonal specialties. You'll find menu dishes crafted for all diners, including those with dietary restrictions.
Over at Lovin' Spoonfuls, great vegetarian fare is dished out for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Even better, there's a new gluten-free menu for diners with special dietary needs. The cafe offers gluten-free scrambles, sandwiches, soups, salads, rice bowls and a variety of delicious side dishes.
Finally, if you're craving some authentic Mexican grub, head over to the Tucson Tamale Company. This charming, award-winning cafe offers an incredibly diverse selection of traditional tamales, including gluten-free options. Enjoy your tamales in the tiny but cheery dining room, or sit on the patio to soak in Tucson's famously sunny weather.
Our top pick is Got2b Gluten Free, a local bakery and eatery dishing out excellent gluten free desserts, including a killer New York cheesecake.
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)
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)
It's not always easy to find healthy Chinese food, but Tucson's Golden House makes it easy to have your egg roll and eat it, too. The menu at this eastside restaurant, which bills itself as "healthy fast food," cuts out the extra calories, sugar and sodium, without cutting out flavors. Diners can also request low sodium dishes, meat substitutes, and brown rice options. The menu contains more than 100 items, including chef specials like the Thai Fish, Mogolian Three Delight, and Thai Shrimp. Vegetarian and vegan foods will find many options. Many items on the menu are also available gluten-free upon request. ((520) 886-0918)
CakeLab on Tucson's Fourth Avenue is your destination for 100 percent gluten-free sweet treats and lunch offerings. Unlike other restaurants offering gluten-free options, there's no need to worry about kitchen cross-contamination when you dine at CakeLab, because everything on the menu is gluten-free. Sweet-tooths will find a variety of cupcakes, breads, cakes and pastries to choose from. For lunch, enjoy gluten-free sandwiches and soups. The restaurant and bakery sells the work of local Tucson artists. On the weekend, stop by to enjoy a treat and listen to live music. The bakery cafe features a comfy wrap-around patio. Custom cakes are available upon order, so this is the place to order a special birthday cake for your favorite gluten-free foodie. ((608) 575-7488)
"Outstanding vegetarian options" is not just a slogan here--Lovin' Spoonfuls offers an array of delicious, freshly-prepared vegetarian dishes that even die-hard meat-eaters can love. Whether you're an omnivore or vegan, almost everyone will find something to love on the eclectic, which features meatless takes on American comfort food classic, along with Southwestern, Asian, and Greek-inspired dishes. If you're idea of vegetarian cuisine consists of bland salads and rice dishes, it's time to pay a visit to Lovin' Spoonfuls. Don't leave without picking out a freshly baked treat from the dessert counter. For those with dietary restrictions, there are also gluten-free options. ((520) 325-7766)
Renee's Organic Oven
Recently voted the best pizza in Tucson by Tucson Lifestyle Magazine, Renee's Organic Oven has made a splash in the local scene with its commitment to using only the highest-quality organic ingredients and extensive selection of toppings. The restaurant features both a classic pizza menu and specialty pizzas. No matter which side of the menu you order from, you can't go wrong with the quality and taste of the pizza here. Renee's Organic Oven also offers a full range of healthy lunch and dinner options, including specialty salads, subs, calzones and sandwiches. Pasta dishes and pizza, of course, round out the menu. (520-886-0484)
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 sauteed 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)
Food for Ascension Cafe
This vegan and vegetarian breakfast and lunch cafe is one of Tucson's first "seed to table" eateries dishing out fresh-from-the-garden plant-based dishes. More than 90 percent of the ingredients used in the kitchen have been grown in the Tucson area. Food for Ascension is further proof that you don't have to give up home-style favorites like Biscuits and Gravy (served here with a side of fresh greens) to eat well. The eclectic menu also features artisan pizzas, a Southwestern-inspired bruschetta, salads and soups, and a full brunch menu. There's also a pastry case full of tempting, fresh-baked breads and desserts to finish your lunch off with a sweet note. ((520) 882-4736)
Gourmet Girls Go Gluten Free
Gourmet Girls Go Gluten Free is Tucson's premier gluten-free cafe and bakery. This is the perfect place to enjoy pasta, bread, sandwich or a big slice of freshly baked pizza, without fear of allergy-producing food products or ingredients. The menu changes seasonally, but the staff is happy to accommodate special requests. Stop by early to sample the excellent breakfast menu. The pancake sandwich should please breakfast food lovers, while the raisin challah French toast with fresh fruit is hearty without being too heavy. Gourmet Girls products also make regular appearances at Tucson's best farmer's markets, so watch out for their fresh baked breads around town. (520-408-9000)
Got2b Gluten Free
Got2b Gluten Free is a small, local eatery and bakery specializing in all things delicious and gluten free. The bakery creates handmade breads, muffins, scones, cookies and other treats fresh daily - all of which are gluten free and made from fresh, wholesome ingredients. The eatery also has a lunch menu with a wide assortment of gourmet sandwiches, paninis, and cold sandwiches. Craving dessert? Got2b Gluten Free carries a wide selection of popular dessert treats, including donuts, cupcakes, eclairs and cream puffs, and a popular New York-style cheesecake. Who says you can't have your gluten free cake and eat it too? ((520) 209-2872)
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.