La Botana Fresco Grill & Cantina
3200 N. 1st Ave.
Happy Hour Info
Weekdays from 2-5 p.m. and 8-10 p.m.
La Botana Grill on Facebook
La Botana isn't appealing from the street, but holy guacamole it's a gem with the eats.
Its facade in the run-down Amphi Plaza doesn't do the food any justice. The patio fence is high, so it's hard to peek in while driving by. Neighbors are Family Dollar and a shell of a space that once housed Food City, which now has boarded-up windows with occasional graffiti. The corporate-esque logo is easy to confuse for a chain restaurant, however La Botana offers some of the freshest and tastiest casual Mexican food in Tucson.
Chips, salsa, and bean dip are brought to the table before each meal. Don't take this for granted. The pico de gallo is standard, but the chipotle bean dip is the star. It avoids being cloyingly thick while still maintaining scoopability and layers of flavor with heat and spice. The salsa verde also packs some heat, while little flecks of char add smokiness.
The value doesn't end with the free chips and dip, though. Happy hour will leave you with a sizable food baby. Bites range from $5 to $10, while drink specials range from $3.50 to $15. However, keep in mind that the items at the higher end of the price range are for multiple people.
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The Muuucho Margarita ($15), includes two 42-ounce margaritas on the rocks. For a size reference, most U.S. beer bottles are only 12 ounces. Though ice carries a chunk of the weight, each margarita is still gargantuan enough to last through your entire meal. The Blue Demon Margarita variation includes blue curaçao and a secret ingredient, while the Tucson Water Margarita includes Negra Modelo beer and another elusive secret ingredient. The secret recipe Sassy Sangria ($11) comes in a 42-ounce glass as well.
If you just don't feel like sharing titanic drinks, smaller drinks such as the Margarita Chica ($3.50) and Sangria Chica ($3.50) are available. For something in the middle size range, grab a mug of the Michelada Botana ($5) with Dos Equis or Negra Modelo. Their house michelada mix is irresistibly savory and refreshing, worth ordering a second mug.
If the taco of the day on the board sounds appealing, ten are available via the 10 Tacos ($10) on the happy hour menu. If you're on a taco and beer diet, go for the 3 Tacos & 3 Cervesitas ($7). A 7-ounce beer per taco (excluding shrimp and fish) is hard to turn down.
Though all of the happy hour appetizers are only $5, they're portioned large enough to easily share as well. The Fiesta Nachos earned a spot on our nacho list with its generous amount of veggies and other toppings. If you can't get enough avocado, the guacamole is available on its own with chips as an appetizer.
The Queso Blanco Fundido is a hot plate of stretchy cheese with chorizo and mushrooms, served with tortillas. The Quesadilla Botana includes chicken in adobo, mushrooms, poblanos, tomatoes, and queso blanco.
With these sociable prices and portions, it's easy to visit often. On Saturdays and Sundays, margaritas are priced 2-for-1 all day. As it turns out, they also have brunch Saturday and Sunday from 10 a.m.-2 p.m featuring their twists on eggs, chilaquiles, and breakfast burros. In case you took too much advantage of their happy hour, La Botana's posole offered during brunch is a classic hangover cure.
La Botana Fresco Grill & Cantina is located at 3200 N. 1st Ave. and is open daily. Happy hour runs weekdays from 2-5 p.m. and 8-10 p.m. For more information, visit labotanagrill.com. To keep up with their specials, visit their Facebook page.
Jackie Tran is a Tucson-based food writer, photographer, culinary educator, and owner-chef of the food truck Tran's Fats. Although he...