East Tucson might not be the strongest contender for great eats compared to the rest of Tucson, but there are gems. One recent addition is The Horseshoe Grill, which opened to the public on February 16.
Located in a large strip mall at the northwest corner of Broadway and Pantano, it’s easy to miss this new family-owned joint. Drive past with your windows down however, and the fragrance of mesquite smoke will draw you in. Since opening, they’ve been cranking out quality cuisine from scratch in their horseshoe-shaped open kitchen without skipping a beat.
Nobody’s trying to be fancy at THG. The lighting is dim and the art is casually southwest with leather and sunset-spectrum paintings. Most customers are wearing jeans. However, THG’s pride is with the craft in their menu.
Though you’ll find steakhouse and barbecue staples such as burgers, ribs, and brisket, their twists on other dishes are what help them stand out. They have cherries aging in barrels with Templeton Rye, their bacon is smoked in house, and the beans are soaked for two days before cooking. For things outside of their kitchen, they keep it local. For example, their burger buns are made fresh daily a few doors down at La Baguette Parisienne.
Word has spread quickly with folks within the food industry. It’s not unusual to catch local chefs like Ryan Clark eating here when they’re not working at their own restaurants.
When you don’t feel like indulging in an entire rack of ribs or steak, their other bites are no less satisfying. Happy hour specials vary depending on the hour. It’s a little confusing, but here are the highlights:
Each meal starts with a duo of mini-muffin-shaped green chile cornbread with butter. They’re baked throughout the day and are delivered piping hot to your table.
Drinks are straightforward. Though domestic bottles of beer such as Michelob Ultra are available, the current tap list also features Barrio Blonde, Barrio Rojo, Borderlands Dulce Noche, Dragoon IPA, Sentinel Peak Salida Del Sol, and a local rotating tap.
Cocktails are creative with southwest flavors. A glass of THG Margarita ($7) will tickle your tongue with its jalapeño simple syrup. It might even spice up your night with its Damiana liqueur, which was rumored to be an aphrodisiac in Guaycura folklore.
The Smoked Wings ($6 for 6) are available in buffalo, barbecue, garlic parmesan, and dry rub. Go for the dry rub to embrace the smokiness. They’re succulent enough to not need any sauce, so you can save that for your carrots and celery. If you order too many wings and have leftovers, they’ll reheat and crisp beautifully in the oven since they aren’t sauced.
It might be easy to dismiss the Horseshoe Tacos ($7 for 2) here since it’s not a Mexican joint, but don’t be fooled. You won’t miss anything with the juicy mesquite-grilled steak and local flour tortillas from La Mesa Tortillas. The red vinaigrette-tossed cabbage, cilantro, and onions provide brightness and crunch, while the pico de gallo and chipotle aioli balance it with some savory richness and heat.
The Grilled Shrimp Cocktail ($10) isn’t on the happy hour menu, but it outsells the happy hour cocktails because it’s so darn tasty. The house-made horseradish cocktail sauce has a chunkier-than-traditional texture giving it a rustic feel, but the chilled grilled colossal shrimp are the star. The mesquite smoke helps elevate this classic classy appetizer and truly makes it Tucson. You’ll never go back to boiled shrimp.
Another exemplary use of mesquite is their house-smoked bacon. It takes some TLC to make THG’s bacon and it shows — luckily for you, it’s a garnish for the Horseshoe Smoked Bloody Mary and available as one of the choices for your side dish. It might sound ridiculous to have a side of bacon instead of coleslaw for your barbecue, but you know you won’t regret it one bit.
The Horseshoe Grill is located at 7713 E. Broadway Blvd. and is open Monday through Saturday. Happy hour runs 11 a.m. – 9 p.m. daily. For more information, visit thehorseshoetucson.com. To keep up with specials, visit The Horseshoe Grill on Facebook. For a list of other hot happy hour picks, click here.
Jackie Tran is a Tucson-based food writer, photographer, culinary educator, and owner-chef of the food truck Tran’s Fats. Although he is best known locally for his work for Tucson Foodie, his work has also appeared in publications such as Bon...