We asked chefs: What’s the most underrated restaurant in Tucson?

Last modified on June 1st, 2018 at 8:46 am

Carne asada quesadilla from The Quesadillas (Credit: Jackie Tran)

“What’s the most underrated restaurant in Tucson?”

We asked Tucson chefs this question and let them answer as briefly or in as much detail as they wanted. Here are their responses.

Dee Buizer

Senae Thai Bistro
Dee Buizer, chef and owner of Senae Thai Bistro (Credit: Jackie Tran)

Dee Buizer, chef and owner of Senae Thai Bistro (Credit: Jackie Tran)

“Although not strictly speaking ‘underrated’ since it is a new place and not very well known, I would have to say Panda House at 1118 East 6th Street. Not to be confused with the Panda Express chain, the Panda House is owned and operated by a local Tucson family of Chinese descent, and serves absolutely delicious, authentic Chinese dishes. Since moving to Tucson five years ago, I’ve been in search of a good Chinese restaurant, so when I discovered Panda House, I stopped looking. As a Thai chef, with my own (maternal) ancestry being Chinese, I’m very familiar with Chinese cuisine, and have to say that Panda House’s food is amongst the best I’ve had in Arizona. I’ve enjoyed every dish I’ve had there so far, and look forward to working my way through their extensive menu in the months to come. Ask for owners David or Jessie. One of them is always there.”

View our October 2017 Nine on the Line with Dee Buizer.

Riley Chandler

Barrio Sandwiches
Pop-Up Tucson and Barrio Sandwiches chef Riley Chandler (Credit: Jackie Tran)

Pop-Up Tucson and Barrio Sandwiches chef Riley Chandler (Credit: Jackie Tran)

“I do frequent a restaurant many people haven’t heard of or haven’t discovered how good the food is. It’s called Raising Cane’s.

Cane’s is Louisiana style fried chicken strips done right every time. They are served with fries and Texas toast, and I often accompany my meal with an Arnold Palmer from lemonade and tea they make in-house. I discovered Cane’s when I stopped on tour in Louisiana and fell in love. I got to reminisce every once in a while when a Cane’s opened in Tempe five years ago. They opened a Tucson location more recently, two years ago, and I was thrilled. The Tucson location is at Wilmot and Broadway. Don’t hesitate to order the Caniac.”

View our June 2017 Nine on the Line with Riley Chandler.

Ryan Clark

Casino Del Sol Resort
Executive chef Ryan Clark at PY Steakhouse (Credit: Jackie Tran)

Casino Del Sol Resort executive chef Ryan Clark at PY Steakhouse (Credit: Jackie Tran)

“I think the Donut Wheel is a restaurant? Get the ham and cheese croissant… ask them to pop it in the microwave.”

Michael Elefante

Mama Louisa’s
Executive Chef Michael Elefante at Mama Louisa's (Credit: Jackie Tran)

Executive Chef Michael Elefante at Mama Louisa’s (Credit: Jackie Tran)

“This is a tough one. There are couple places that I like to go to that aren’t really ever talked about. Great Village Chinese Restaurant on 22nd and Harrison. Everything is always hot, fresh, fast and always done well.

Also, Stillhouse Grill and Bar on Tanque Verde and Bear Canyon — great place to get out with wife and enjoy some live music and some solid drinks with a great atmosphere.”

View our November 2016 Tools They Use with Michael Elefante.

Tyler Fenton

Reilly Craft Drink & Pizza
Chef Tyler Fenton at Reilly Craft Pizza & Drink (Credit: Jackie Tran)

Chef Tyler Fenton at Reilly Craft Pizza & Drink (Credit: Jackie Tran)

“Tucson has a lot of hidden gems. One that comes to mind is the Quesadillas. It’s the kind of place you could easily drive by and not think twice about, but you would be missing out. My chef de cuisine Brandon Dillon lives right down the street and he had always been raving about it, so he took me there to try it out. Everything we ate was killer, and their salsas are awesome.”

View our February 2017 Nine on the Line with Tyler Fenton.

David Martin

Red Desert BBQ & Catering
David Martin, owner and pitmaster of Red Desert BBQ (Credit: Jackie Tran)

David Martin, owner and pitmaster of Red Desert BBQ (Credit: Jackie Tran)

“Well this has to be one of the hardest questions so far.

I only recently have been able to start going out to dinner on Mondays. We are more of the breakfast type, we go every Sunday and like to look for places that we haven’t been to before. Places we enjoy and I feel are underrated are:

Four Seasons Restaurant on Miracle Mile near I-10. They do a hillbilly rice and I always get two sunny-side up eggs on top, fried rice is good in the morning.

Another place we enjoy for breakfast is Baja Cafe on Ina. They do a lot of traditional breakfast meals but with a twist on each. They also have a few of their own creations and all dishes are outstanding along with great customer service.

If this question had been given to me five years ago I would have said Bluefin or the Parish for dinner. At Bluefin, I loved their seafood and especially their bouillabaisse. The best I’ve ever had. Unfortunately, they closed.

The Parish is like no other restaurant in AZ. Their fusion of Creole/Louisiana and southwest cooking is unbelievable, only now everybody in Tucson knows how good it is with the attention it’s getting nationally. Still my favorite current place to dine.”

View our December 2017 Nine on the Line with David Martin.

Brian Smith

Maynards Market & Kitchen
Maynards Market & Kitchen executive chef Brian Smith (Credit: Jackie Tran)

Maynards Market & Kitchen executive chef Brian Smith (Credit: Jackie Tran)

Sa-ing Thai restaurant in Rita Ranch. I have eaten Thai food all over and Sa-ing Thai for me is a must-try if you haven’t been. It’s a little off the beaten path for some, but worth the commute to the far southeast side to try it out. You really can’t go wrong with anything on the menu and everyone there is so welcoming and kind.”

View our May 2017 Tools They Use with Brian Smith.

What do you think is the most underrated restaurant in Tucson? Let us know in the comments.

Jackie is a food writer and photographer native to Tucson. He loves corgis and still thinks rickrolling is funny. If you'd like to stalk him, visit jackietran.com.
  • James Ciphurphace

    The most underrated restaurant in The Soul Pueblo is ‘La Indita’ on N. 4th Ave.

    Folks need to recognize and realize!

    Viva La Indita!

    • Dee Friedman

      I have seen inside their tiny kitchen right before dinner and I must say as an executive chef’s wife, it was IMMACULATE……

      • James Ciphurphace

        That is awesome!!

Do NOT follow this link or you will be banned from the site!
X