Tucson is a great city to find a good steak. Whether you're in the mood for an authentic cowboy saloon, or you prefer to cut into your delicate filet mignon surrounded by posh, dark-paneled walls and white tablecloth, Tucson has a steakhouse suited to every mood and taste.
But when you're in Tucson, you can't miss with mesquite-grilled steak, which is what you'll find at the Silver Saddle Saloon, which makes our list for its friendly neighborhood ambiance and custom-built steel and brick mesquite wood grill and pit.
Lil Abner's Steakhouse is another Tucson favorite, which was once a stop on the Butterfield Express stage stop in the early 1800’s. Today Lil Abner's is better known for authentic old-time western restaurant famous for its mesquite grilled T-bone, rib eye, filet, chicken, pork rib and beef rib dinners.
For date nights and other special occasions, Firebirds Woodfired Grill is a modern American steakhouse with a great open kitchen concept and excellent wine list. Equally impressive is the food, especially McMahon's Prime Cuts menu which includes their juicy Angus New York Strip.
For the truly adventurous, Jonathan's Cork features a range of uncommon meats such as buffalo, ostrich, venison and Angus beef, all cooked expertly to bring out the unique flavors of each meat.
Sullivan's Steakhouse of Tucson
One of Tucson's favored destinations to wine-and-dine important clients, Sullivan's boasts a classic '40s-era steakhouse look and style – from dark wood furniture and accents to white tablecloths and a smooth-playing jazz ensemble. Expectedly, beef is the specialty, and Sullivan's chefs most assuredly know their cuts. Premiere selections include the New York strip, Kansas City strip, and a Gibraltar-sized porterhouse. Steaks are hand-selected and minimum of 28 days, then seasoned simply and broiled. Seafood is reliably good as well, and the roster of bourbon, single malt scotch and cognac is impressive. Reservations are a must. All entrees are complimented by appetizers, soups, salads and side dishes. Desserts are made in-house daily. (520-299-4275)
A rustic, Western style steakhouse, El Corral has been serving up fantastic prime rib, steaks, ribs and tamale pie for over 60 years. The prime rib is served in there sizes: petite, large cut and generous cut (all three cooked to perfection and served with au jus). Huge wood beams, flagstone floors and fireplaces create a casual and inviting atmosphere where folks enjoy a hearty meal and traditional Tucson hospitality. If you've managed to reserve a little room for dessert, the Adobe Mud Pie is an absolute winner. Aside from the popular prime rib, El Corral also serves chicken, fish and barbeque ribs. (520-299-6092)
Firebirds Woodfired Grill
This North Carolina-based chain has been a hit in Tucson, where the restaurants signature wood-fired entrees fit right in with the city's native Southwestern cuisine. The menu boasts a good selection of aged steaks, which are hand-cut in the restaurant. Meats are grilled over local oak, hickory or pecan wood. Guests can watch chefs prepare meets in the wood-fired grills, thanks to the restaurant's open kitchen concept. Along with fine steaks, the restaurant also specializes in fresh seafood, ribs and chicken. The restaurant also carries an extensive selection of fine wines, including its own Firebird's label. (520-577-0747)
Silver Saddle Steakhouse
Step into the Silver Saddle Steakhouse on Tucson's historic Benson Highway and you'll be stepping back in time. If you're looking for a steakhouse with warm, rustic Southwestern hospitality, the Silver Saddle does not disappoint. The restaurant features a custom-built steel and brick mesquite wood grill and pit, and an antique buggy wheel with welded horseshoes attached is used to raise the cooking grill above the smoky mesquite wood fire. Arizona native mesquite wood imbues the meats with a rich, smokey flavor that is traditional to Southwest cooking. The dinner menu features your choice of Porter House, T-Bone, Top Sirloin, New York Strip, and Prime Ribs. ((520) 622-6253)
Li'l Abners Steak House
Li'l Abner's has been around for years, and it's easy to see why. The casual, Western-themed atmosphere is augmented by decades worth of graffiti scrawled on the walls – mostly things like "John Rules" and "Amy loves Mike," with the occasional proverb or bit of restaurant praise (and yes, you're welcome to add your own John Hancock or words of wisdom). And the steaks, well, they're the stuff of legend. Grilled over huge open mesquite fires out back, the steaks (and ribs and chicken) are big and juicy, whether you opt for the diminutive 7-ounce filet or the gargantuan 2-pound Porterhouse. The accompanying beans and salsa give the meal a Southwest flair, but for even more regional flavor, come on a Friday or Saturday night when there's live country-western music and dancing! (520-744-2800)
Pinnacle Peak Steakhouse and Silver Dollar Saloon
The number one rule for dining at Pinnacle Peak is "No Ties Allowed." Should you arrive sporting one, it will be promptly chopped off and added to the ever-growing collection hanging from the ceiling. Folks love the fun Old West ambiance here, and they love the food just as much. Most order mesquite-grilled steaks (this is the home of the Cowboy Steak, after all), but seafood is well-prepared, too. Dinners come with salad, beans and bread, but you can also order sides of corn-on-the-cob and mashed potatoes. Polish off your meal with a bowl of warm apple or cherry cobbler dessert. (520-296-0911, 520-296-5442)
Daisy Mae's Steak House
Daisy Mae's Steakhouse stands out from the pack of Tucson area steakhouses, thanks to its southwestern spin on prime cuts. All steaks are cooked outside on an open fire grill over mesquite wood. The family-friendly steakhouse is infused with homey, no-frills southwestern ambiance. The rib eye is the star of the show here, but the sides are also excellent. Think luscious baked potatoes, beans, buttery Texas toast and beer. Aside from rib eye, there are also baby back ribs, grilled chicken and fish. On the drink side of the menu, there are a number of specialty margaritas and craft brews. (520-792-8888)
Although it's changed hands a few times over the years, Jonathan's Cork has maintained a loyal following, both for its rustic, retro décor 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, sautéed 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 Crèm. (520-296-1631)
Bob's Steak and Chop House - Omni Tucson National Resort
Bob's Steak and Chop House is a traditional American prime steakhouse that serves the finest prime steaks, chops and seafood around. The ambiance is simple yet elegant, the drinks are stiff, and the fine wine selection is impressive. For starters, the shrimp platter, or a Maryland-style crab cake, are the perfect way to whet your dinner appetite. The steak entree menu includes prime "cote de boeuf" bone-in ribeye, prime filet mignon, prime Kansas City strip, prime porterhouse and t-bone, New York strip, veal bone-in rib chop, rack of lamb, pork chops, and one half roasted duck, Bob's Steak and Chop House also offers an extensive seafood menu. (5208772377)
Fleming's Prime Steakhouse and Wine Bar
In true steakhouse fashion, Fleming's sports lots of dark wood and leather and features attentive service and top-notch food. Start with zesty Cajun barbecued shrimp or crab cakes with roasted red pepper-lime butter. Steaks are excellent, of course, but other main course options are just as good, from double-thick pork chops to bacon-wrapped seared curry scallops. Sides have a regional taste too, with jalapenos and chipotles making frequent appearances. Plus, Fleming's has some 100 wines available by the glass, along with numerous others available by the bottle. The steakhouse is located near the upscale La Encantada shopping center in a fantastic foothills setting. (520-529-5017)
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.