Five Classy Tucson Restaurants To Take a Date

Want to impress the lady friend? The wife? Your husband? A boyfriend? Tucson Foodie has you covered with five classy Tucson restaurants to bring a date.

What was the criteria for this list, you might ask? For one, the place needs to ooze sexiness. Two, it has to feature exceptional food, ambience, and service. Three, consistency. And, four, it must feel like something special – like, “Ooooo… you’re taking me there!”

This is by no means an all-inclusive list. There are restaurants I’ve left out that are great restaurants. Agustin Kitchen, for example – great date spot. Falora, Penca and 47 Scott, as well, are excellent places to bring a date. But, I wanted to highlight restaurants that border on the slowly disappearing fine dining.

1. Kingfisher

Kingfisher gets the top vote. It’s just goood. And, I don’t mean ‘okay good.’ It’s goood with three o’s, bold, and italic. It’s crazy too, because they’ve been so good for so long. It’s rare that a place can maintain that status. There’s nowhere else in Tucson to get better oysters. The menu is mostly seafood-comfort food with items such as Fish & Chips, Seared Salmon with Mushroom Risotto and Broccolini, and Macadamian Nut Crusted Hawaiian Fish, but it also includes standards such as Grilled Baby Back Ribs and Braised Lamb Shank. Food is almost always executed flawlessly. I only had a bad meal there once and it was when I was 22 and dipped everything in ranch dressing. Their bar is old-school sexy. The lighting is perfect. The wine selection is always stellar. Not liking this place would be the equivalent of not liking dogs or babies. Or that Blurred Lines song by Robin Thicke.

2. Tavolino

Tavolino was great in its original location at Ina & Oracle and it’s great now, too. No offense to any other Italian restaurants in Tucson, but this is the truest Italian food I can imagine. There’s no spaghetti and meatballs or lasagna at Tavolino (actually, there is, but not like you expect), which is fine when there’s Salti en Bocca alla Romano (veal medallions, prosciutto and sage, white wine reduction sauce, gnocchi alla romana, and spinach); Ossobuco, or braised lamb shank; amazing Italian pizzas, and wine made from the owner, Massimo Tenino’s brother’s company, Pietro Rinaldi in Piemonte.


Char-grilled octopus with kalamata olives, fingerling potatoes, celery and lemon at Tavolino.

3. The Dish Bistro

The Dish is almost like a little secret. They do no marketing. They have no Facebook page. Their website looks like something from 1996. It’s in a wine shop called the Rum Runner, so there’s no sign… other than the wine shop’s sign, and they’re small. Real small. And intimate. The lighting is perfectly dark and sexy, the servers are all professionals, and their food rocks: Long-Stem Artichoke Hearts with Shiitake Duxelles, Parmesan Polenta, Truffle Oil, and Almond-Basil Pesto; Moulard Duck with Cashew Crust, Chili Fried Noodle, Napa Cabbage, Radish, Sprouts, and Smoked Shiitake Broth; and Halupki with Smoked Basmati Rice, Baby Corn, Cabbage, Chevre, Black Olive, Tempura Chinese Broccoli, and Oven Dried Tomato Puree. On Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays they offer Mussels and a glass of wine (or beer) at the bar for $12.50. Or, as they state on their website, a good deal by most any standard.

4. Hacienda Del Sol

Hacienda Del Sol has been around a long time. I mean, like, way longer than most restaurants that have been around a long time. But, it wasn’t always a restaurant. Originally, it was a boarding school for girls, followed by a guest ranch fave of the Hollywood elite. Now, it’s a destination dining spot (and hotel and spa). Well known – and awarded – for their decadent Sunday brunch, their regular menu is no less of a work of art with items such as Beef Carpaccio, Crudo From The Sea (Salmon with Lemon Salt, Avocado, Jalapeno-Pineapple Foam; Ahi Tuna with Black Olive Oil, Bacon Powder; and Hamachi with Mango-Habañero Puree), Braised Pork Cheeks, Lamb Chops, and Venison Chops. And, according to their website, their wine list is insane with over 900 labels and 6,000 bottles. I feel sorry for whoever has to do inventory.

Hacienda Del Sol Dining Room

Hacienda Del Sol Dining Room

5. Maynards Kitchen

Maynards Kitchen is a sexy joint. It could almost be fine dining. You could wear a suit and feel fine. You could dress it down and feel fine, too. But, sure enough, this is Tucson, and some foolio is going to walk in wearing flip-flops and make you question what’s sacred anymore. But, that’s not the point. There’s nowhere else in Tucson that offers such forgotten classics like Poutine (Double blanched pommes frites, local cheese curds, foie gras, duck confit, roasted duck gravy, cracklins), Bouillabaisse (fresh fish, mussels, clams, prawns and scallops, lobster-saffron broth, Yukon potato, bell pepper, charred fennel, onion, pain au rouille), or Cassoulet (slow-cooked “casserole” of white beans, pork belly, hand-made Toulouse sausage, braised lamb, crispy duck leg confit, braising greens, country toast). It’s a beautiful restaurant inside a historic train station with candle-lit tables. Maynards is a top-notch restaurant which I suggest often.

Fish dish at Maynards

Fish dish at Maynards

Have a great date spot to add to the list? Let us know in the comments.

Adam Lehrman started Tucson Foodie in late 2008 as a way to track his search for the best food Tucson had to offer.