10 Best Restaurants with Gluten-Free Menus in Tucson
By Patricia Escarcega
Phoenix, Scottsdale, and Tucson Local Expert
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 recent addition to the Tucson dining scene, and the perfect 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.
9 El Charro Cafe
The original El Charro, founded in 1922, is the oldest Mexican restaurant in Tucson; the original owner, Monica Flin, is said to have invented the chimichanga. The restaurant also claims the impressive title of oldest Mexican food restaurant in the country continually operated by the same family. That heritage remains strong today with a commitment to fresh, authentic Sonoran cuisine and Tucson-style Mexican food. Stop by the adjacent cantina, with its pleasant outdoor seating, and enjoy one of the finest margaritas in town. Then, have classic meals such as carne asada or carne seca beef marinated in lime and garlic. A small gift shop inside sells an assortment of Southwestern gifts. Reservations suggested on weekends. (520-622-1922)
8 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)
7 Downtown Kitchen & Cocktails
This lively downtown Tucson restaurant celebrates the city and its confluence of culinary traditions. Chef Janos Wilder has developed strong ties to the Southern Arizona gardeners and farmers for a farm-fresh menu with a strong emphasis on regional and indigenous ingredients. Try the Shrimp with a Sense of Place, a delectable entree featuring shrimp mojo de ajo on freshly ground corn masa, spicy black bean puree, salsa fresca, cholla bud escabeche and queso fresco. For an entree rich in local ingredients, try the ancho chile and chipotle braised lamb shank Tohono O'ohdam squash, served with local honey puree, greens, braising liquids and minted jalapeno vinaigrette. ((520) 623-7700)
6 Maynard's Market & Kitchen
Maynards Kitchen, a sophisticated French-inspired bistro in downtown Tucson, is Tucson's latest critical darling. Chef Addam Buzzalini and his kitchen team make almost everything on the menu from scratch. From house-cured meats to freshly baked bread, every dish is hand-crafted using locally sourced ingredients. Try the steak tartare for starters, a chef's blend of hand-chopped raw strip loin and tenderloin, watercress, served house-made potato chips. For a perfect date night, the roasted chicken dinner for two can't be beat. It features Niman Ranch organic chicken, served with roasted fingerling potatoes, farm carrots and pearl onions with lemon-thyme pan jus. ((520) 545-0577)
5 Cup Cafe
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)
4 Lovin' Spoonfuls
"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)
3 Jonathan's Cork
Although it's changed hands a few times over the years, Jonathan's Cork has maintained a loyal following, both for its rustic, retro decor and its non-standard steakhouse menu. The atmosphere is decidedly old-Southwest, with beehive fireplaces and old DeGrazia prints on the walls, but the food is decidedly more modern. In addition to great steaks and fresh fish, guests enjoy a selection of more uncommon meats such as ostrich, buffalo and venison. Most are char-broiled, sauteed or blackened to bring out the inherent flavors. There's also a good choice of beers and liquors. If you love dessert, ask for the daily dessert tray, which includes the likes of Almond Rocca Torte, Coconut Truffle, various Cheesecakes, and Pot de Cr�m. (520-296-1631)
2 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)
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)
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.