Tucson?

Traveling and dining in other Arizona cities and beyond
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golbsalt
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7 years ago

Gotta learn to read better! :roll:

This was originally posted in the Far From Home Category. . . ooops. . . (Dom can you please delete my duplicate post in the wrong category?)

Heading to Tucson for a few days, looking to try some new places. Familiar with Athens on 4th & Yamato... any other favs. Not looking for white linen this trip, looking for places with great food that accomodate take out - all cuisine's entertained!

Thanks in advance. Heading to Tucson this Thursday (May 31).
blog.golbsalt.com - "happiness IS just a lick away!"
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Skillet Doux
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7 years ago

Done.

And no worries. I still waffle over whether I should've put Arizona other than Phoenix here or in Far From Home :-)
Dominic Armato
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azhotdish
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7 years ago

For quick grab-and-go Mexican, I recommend Taqueria El Pueblito at Mercado San Agustin just west of the I-10 off Congress. If you do decide to stay, it's a cool little place with a few shops. There is also a brasserie there that just opened recently, but I haven't been down since they've opened.

Quick breakfast, grab some granola from Beyond Bread. They have a full menu, but I have no experience with it. If you want to sit down and eat, I like Cup Cafe at Hotel Congress.

I dig the carne seca at Mi Nidito. That's all I've ever had there, so I can't comment on the rest of the food - you never see carne seca here, so why bother?

Sadly, I have probably had more bad meals in Tucson than good, but I haven't eaten at nearly as many places as I'd like. As long as I hit Congress and Cafe Poca Cosa, I'm usually good. :)
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Joel
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ThatRodneyGuy
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7 years ago

As a Phoenix native, Tucson = far from home. Not Valley Eats.

Go Devils.
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golbsalt
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7 years ago

joel, thanks for the reco's. i didn't include el charra mostly because i'm not sure how i feel about them anymore. my first experience with them was in 1995. they used to make what seemed like a GREAT carne seca, but it's not what it used to be even though they still dry it on the rooftop.

i'm with you on the more bad meals than good in tucson. i am there fairly regularly and gravitate to about 4 places. am hoping the board can offer more choices. probably won't make a breakfast dash, but Mi Nidito has my attention.

What's the story with Cafe Poca Cosa?
blog.golbsalt.com - "happiness IS just a lick away!"
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Mike S
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7 years ago

I second Cup Cafe, eating on the patio at night is a great experience. I highly recommend Neo of Melaka. It's primarily Malaysian and it's terrific. If you go, try the Beef Rendang or anything in Lemak sauce. It's heaven.
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MyLifeOnVacatio
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7 years ago

We're heading to Tucson as well and already have reservations at Cafe Poca Cosa, but have another dinner to decide on. Any thoughts on 47 Scott or HUB?
M_L
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7 years ago

I went to HUB a few months ago when I was in Tucson for work and was able to sneak in for lunch.
I wish I could remember what I had but it was pretty solid, I do remember the ice cream I had was very delicious. Good prompt service it may not wow you but I do not think you would leave disappointed.
petitfromageaz
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7 years ago

This post will be too late if you've already left Tucson, but I thought I'd share my $0.02 on HUB.

Keep in mind, I was there a little over a year ago, so it's very possible that things have changed for the better.

I went with some locals for lunch and we were all very impressed with the atmosphere and the menu offerings. We had a table of six and one child.

The menu boasted all sorts of great grub and we were all starving- so after a 30 minute wait, we were super excited for our meal.

Wow. It was perhaps the most disappointing meal I had all year. Each of the six lunches were terrible. The ingredients were of such low quality, I would have had a hard time eating it graciously if it was served to me in someone's home. Did I mention that we were starving and would have eaten basically anything at this point? Ugh.

Service was just as terrible. There was waitstaff sitting right across from us at the bar rolling up silverware & doing other side work while the other servers were slammed and unable to keep up with all the tables.

On the upside, the ice cream was pretty solid, but really nothing special.

I would love to hear from anyone that has eaten there recently. It's such an awesomely designed space in a great location. It has GREAT potential. I hope now with some time to work out the kinks,that they have improved their food & service issues.
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MyLifeOnVacatio
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7 years ago

So, we had dinner last night at HUB. It was disappointing, but not as bad as petitefromage’s experience. My cocktail was delicious (“The Dixie” – gin, orange thyme honey syrup, dry vermouth & angostura bitters), and the starter of the HUB Fries w/ cheese curds & au jus (poured, not tossed) were quite tasty, and came out very quickly. So far, so good.

But then the Warm Lobster Sandwich happened. This is why people complain that you can’t get good seafood in Arizona. It just wasn’t great quality lobster (didn’t appear [smell] to be super fresh), it wasn’t warm (as the name would indicate), and they hadn’t removed all of the cartilage from the claw pieces, which I discovered upon the first bite. Dry bread to boot. I did let one of the staff who came by to check (a manger?) about the lobster issues and he merely replied "I'll let the chef know". But the side salad was nice. Didn’t try the coleslaw.

Ice cream was ok, but not great. Due to an order mix-up, I got to try the plain vanilla (VERY strong vanilla) and the peach upside down cake (nice combo) from the 23 flavor menu. Husband had the pistachio chocolate chip and he thought it was fine. If I were to go again, I’d stick with drinks on one of the banquettes and French fry appetizers. It is a great space and has a great atmosphere, despite the food/service.

Friday night was much nicer with an excellent meal at Cafe Poca Cosa. Service wasn't super smooth due, we were told, to a large party in another part of the dining room, but our meals were fantastic and we didn't want dessert anyway, so it worked out.

Another highlight were two stops at The Rumrunner wine shop. On Saturday we stopped for wine country picnic provisions, and on Sunday for more cheese, chorizo and a couple of bottles of Bierzo wine that I've been wanting to try.

Rather than lunch in Tucson, we swung by Chou's Kitchen in Chandler on the way to Mesa. They have updated their menu since I was there last, so we tried a couple of things that we hadn't before (pan fried eggplant, potato & green chinese peppers; beef noodle soup) along with beef pies and pork & napa cabbage dumplings. Everything was great, and we have copious amounts of leftovers for lunch.
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Skillet Doux
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7 years ago

I'll be buzzing through for an early lunch tomorrow en route to taking the little fella to Kartchner Caverns, and am trying to do a little legwork to pick a place. Cafe Poca Cosa is an immediate scratch owing to summer closure, so I don't need to even think about that one.

I was immediately drawn to the thought of Malaysian, but when I see things like "Strip Steak - Shiitake Demi-Glace, Steamed Baby Bok Choy" and "Seared Shrimp & Scallops - Sake Crème" on a menu I start to get twitchy. Are dishes like the Beef Rendang and Nasi Goreng pretty much straight-up, or do they go the "Malaysian-inspired" route and Westernize them?

Golbsalt, you mentioned that you tend to hit the same four places, but didn't name them... where do you go?

Also, aren't a couple of the standard-bearers for Sonoran hot dogs in Tucson? I definitely wouldn't mind taking the opportunity to calibrate.
Dominic Armato
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azhotdish
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7 years ago

El Guero Canelo and BK...
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Joel
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ScottofStrand
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7 years ago

I took the Sonoran challenge last year, hitting BK and El Guero back to back. I think the final verdict was slightly in favor of El Guero for a softer sweeter bun and tastier dog, but a win to BK for their pork(or was it beef) cheek street tacos. It was a close call, though.
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Skillet Doux
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7 years ago

I'm starting to lean carne seca at Mi Nidito followed by an EGC sonoran dog chaser. And XLB at Chou's on the way home if I can swing it :-)

Incidentally, what's the distinction between carne seca and machaca? Or is this just a matter of regional terminology?
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azhotdish
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7 years ago

Skillet Doux wrote:Incidentally, what's the distinction between carne seca and machaca? Or is this just a matter of regional terminology?
Good question - I've wondered this myself. The carne seca I've had in Mi Nidito is much dryer than any machaca I've had in Phoenix (Mike T knows all about this). Some versions I've had taste almost like over-braised pot roast with peppers and onions - this seems to be a PHX / Southern CA problem. So when I see carne seca, I assume it's going to be the dryer equivalent.
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Joel
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Skillet Doux
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7 years ago

Yipes... well, that could have been better.

First off, I'm really curious to know how a place like Mi Nidito has managed to build up a half an hour wait for a two top by 11:15, just fifteen minutes after opening their doors. Second, this is clearly the place that's gotten the gringo seal of approval. Nonetheless, we forge ahead, with some concessions made to the little fella:
miniditocheesetortilla.jpg
Cheese Tortilla with Guacamole
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Is this what constitutes a cheese crisp up north? It was crispy, all right. Problem was that my tolerance for yellow cheese grease -- which is formidable -- was not up to the task. Other shots that caught the reflection were less flattering. We finished about a third of this.
miniditochickenchimichanga.jpg
Chicken Chimichanga
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If my kid has mini chimichangas at his wedding, I'm blaming azhotdish and petitfromageaz. He saw chimichangas on the menu and zeroed in. I told him it was a LOT larger than the mini ones he had at the wedding. He ate two bites. I might've had three or four if it were mine. Exceedingly crispy and exceedingly dull.
miniditocarneseca.jpg
Carne Seca
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azhotdish wrote:...over-braised pot roast with peppers and onions...
This exactly. Though it was obviously at one time dry, this preparation was quite wet. Which would've been fine. But it had that really acrid, unpleasant over-reduced flavor. And the accompanying flour tortilla was bone dry. I ate about half and gave up. Is what you've gotten there usually this soupy, azhotdish?

Worse, the 30+ minute wait meant that we had to scrap the El Guero Canelo plan to get to the cave tour on time (AMAZING, BTW). Buuuuuuuuuuuut, we made up for it on the return trip.
elguerocanelosonorandog.jpg
Hot Dog, Sonora Style
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Behold! The Sonoran hot dog... prepped at EGC with bacon, beans, onions, tomatoes, mayo, mustard and a "jalapeno sauce" that might as well have not been there. But the accompanying grilled guero chile was PLENTY hot. There's an extensive condiment bar, I doctored it a touch before diving in (but left it mostly intact), and was struck by three differences between this and other Sonoran hot dogs I've had. First, the sweetness of the bun. Not pastry sweet, but not at all subtle. I'm still not sure how I feel about this. Second, crisp bacon. Yes, I've had too many Sonoran equivalents of the dirty water dog at Nogales Hot Dogs. It's nice to have bacon that was cooked two minutes ago rather than four hours ago. Third, it's just very carefully put together. And this is definitely a good thing. This is the most I've enjoyed a Sonoran hot dog. But I feel compelled to qualify that with the statement that if this is the ceiling, to me these fellows will probably remain a diverting tangent rather than a paragon of hot dog awesomeness.

That said, I've heard some of the carts are way better. And we passed at least a dozen of them. There's a serious day trip right there. I have a six hour window when both kids have a full day at school. Two hours down, two hours to plow through as many hot dogs as possible, two hours back. Just need a wingman.
Dominic Armato
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The Cosmic Jester
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7 years ago

Wait, BOTH CPCs were closed? Usually they take turns; Suzana and the regular one will go on vacation, while Sandra and Marcela keep the little one running. Then they switch. And between the two, I'll take the little one anyway.

The hot dog run sounds terrific. Some Thursday soon?
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Skillet Doux
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7 years ago

The Cosmic Jester wrote:The hot dog run sounds terrific. Some Thursday soon?
Give me a couple of weeks to run the back-to-school gauntlet, and I'm in.
Dominic Armato
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azhotdish
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7 years ago

Skillet Doux wrote:
miniditocarneseca.jpg
azhotdish wrote:...over-braised pot roast with peppers and onions...
This exactly. Though it was obviously at one time dry, this preparation was quite wet. Which would've been fine. But it had that really acrid, unpleasant over-reduced flavor. And the accompanying flour tortilla was bone dry. I ate about half and gave up. Is what you've gotten there usually this soupy, azhotdish?
Ugh, DUDE! No, and that sucks. I've only been there twice, but it's never been soupy.

Overall, my dining experiences haven't been great in Tucson, and reports like this don't make me feel any better about it.
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Joel
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golbsalt
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7 years ago

Sorry, missed your request earlier this week Dom. And auto-notification doesn't seem to be working. Any who....

Not of a fan of Mi Nidito's or any mexican place in Tucson really. The carne seca USED to be decent at El Charro...but no more.

EGC is always a lunch stop! Can't go wrong there...at all.

Athens on 4th is a decent Greek place. A bit on the bland side some days, but as close to traditional Greek as I've been able to find in quite a while. The pastitsio is good - not great, but good. The lamb is usually always consistent - and that is impressive to me.

As for Malaysian Seared Shrimp and Scallops with Sake Cream Sauce...it was pretty good, better than expected actually. The Beef Rendang was straight up and the Nasi Goreng seemed to be as well. Both were a bit different than other preparations I've had and couldn't quite put my finger on why.

If I need to stop for Mexican in Tucson, I'll usually stop at La Parilla Suiza.

Yamato Sushi on Grant Rd is always a winner. It looks like an absolute DIVE both inside an out, but the fish is always incredibly fresh and the owner/ sushi masuta is always gracious.
blog.golbsalt.com - "happiness IS just a lick away!"
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