Top 11 ugly-but-delicious foods in Tucson

Here are the dishes that are worth tasting, even though they're not Instagram-friendly

Last modified on September 13th, 2018 at 1:45 pm

Pat's Chili Dogs (Credit: Jackie Tran)

Ugly is so hot right now.

David Chang’s Netflix program Ugly Delicious forsakes haute cuisine in favor of focusing on popular foods. However, the first episode is on pizza. Who thinks pizza is ugly? Even Tiffany & Co. has pepperoni pizza earrings.

Although beauty is in the eye of the beholder, some dishes would be totally unappealing if you couldn’t smell or taste it.

We’re here for you. Our tongues are fearless. So here are the dishes that are worth tasting, even though they’re not Instagram-friendly.

BBQ Tail Confit

The Parish, 6453 N. Oracle Rd.
Southside Sandia cocktail and BBQ Tail Confit at the Parish (Credit: Jackie Tran)

Southside Sandia cocktail and BBQ Tail Confit at the Parish (Credit: Jackie Tran)

Have you ever seen a tail on a butchered pig? You probably don’t want to. But dang it, does the fatty, collagen-rich cut taste good when it’s confit, fried, and cut with the acidity of mustard and pretty pickled onions.

For more information, visit theparishtucson.com.

Biscuits and Gravy

Welcome Diner, 902 E. Broadway Blvd.
Biscuits and Gravy with two eggs at Welcome Diner Tucson (Credit: Jackie Tran)

Biscuits and Gravy with two eggs at Welcome Diner Tucson (Credit: Jackie Tran)

You can’t hide behind those chives, sausage gravy. But you do a damned fine job at blanketing Welcome Diner’s pillowy biscuits.

For more information, visit welcomediner.net.

Burros

Anita Street Market, 849 N. Anita Ave.
Red chile burro at Anita Street Market (Credit: Jackie Tran)

Red Chile Burro at Anita Street Market (Credit: Jackie Tran)

Let’s face it, burritos and burros aren’t as photogenic as their popular cousin, the taco. And most burritos look the same until you cut them in half. Anita’s burros stand a hair above the competition with their dreamy, soft fresh flour tortillas.

Keep up with Anita Street Market on Facebook.

Chicken Feet

Sushi Lounge, 4802 S. 6th Ave.
Chicken Feet at Sushi Lounge (Credit: Jackie Tran)

Chicken Feet at Sushi Lounge (Credit: Jackie Tran)

Cooked or raw, chicken feet still look like chicken feet. They’re also a difficult food to eat elegantly, considering how nibbly it gets and all the bones you’ll need to spit out. The gelatin-rich meat and wet skin serve as an ideal canvas for the deeply savory, slightly sweet sauce that makes this dish worth it.

Keep up with Sushi Lounge on Facebook.

Chili Dogs

Pat’s Chili Dogs, 1202 W. Niagara St.
Pat's Chili Dogs (Credit: Jackie Tran)

Pat’s Chili Dogs (Credit: Jackie Tran)

There’s gotta be at least five sitcoms where chili was central in a character’s plan to play hooky. Chili and Campbell’s Chunky™ Soups, at least. Regardless of their appearance, chili dogs at Pat’s have managed to stay a local favorite for several decades.

For more information, visit Pat’s Chili Dogs on Yelp.

Geoduck (Pronounced “Gooey Duck”)

Sushi on Oracle, 6449 N. Oracle Rd.

Don’t worry, the video above is safe for work. That object you see is the siphon of the geoduck, a type of clam native to the northwestern US and western Canada. You wouldn’t just grab it and bite it out of the water, but it makes some delicate sushi with flavor and texture in between scallops and surf clams.

Keep up with Sushi on Oracle on Facebook.

Injera

Queen Sheba, 5553 E. Grant Rd.
Combination of dishes from Queen Sheba (Credit: Jackie Tran)

Combination of dishes from Queen Sheba (Credit: Jackie Tran)

The spongy sour bread looks like a pancake sliced through its center. The toppings of sorted indiscernible meats and veggies don’t help. But the nose comes in handy here to detect the fragrant berbere and other spices. You’ll become an addict in no time.

For more information, visit queenshebatucson.com.

Italian Beef with Everything

Luke’s Italian Beef, 1615 S. Alvernon Way

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Described from a purely visual perspective, the Italian beef is a soggy sandwich with overcooked roast beef and pale vegetables. In reality, the beef is juicy and fragrant with oregano. The giardiniera boosts umami with olives and cuts through the richness with pickled celery and peppers. The soggy bread is filled with beef jus for a messy, sinfully enjoyable eating experience.

For more information, visit Luke’s Sandwiches on Yelp.

Loco Moco

Island Plate Lunch, 5755 E. River Rd., Ste. 141
Loco Moco at Island Plate Lunch (Credit: Jackie Tran)

Loco Moco at Island Plate Lunch (Credit: Jackie Tran)

Legend has it; the loco moco was created as the result of some hungry teenage surfers seeking something filling but cheap. Thankfully, it’s mighty tasty with Island Plate Lunch gravy, which might include bacon in its list of ingredients.

Keep up with Island Plate Lunch on Facebook.

Oxtail Stew

D’s Island Grill JA, 3156 E. Fort Lowell Rd.
Oxtail Stew at D’s Island Grill JA (Credit: Taylor Noel Photography)

Oxtail Stew at D’s Island Grill JA (Credit: Taylor Noel Photography)

Oxtail might have some beautiful symmetry in its raw form sliced, but it melts into a chunky brown pile when stewed. Oxtail happens to have an exceptionally high amount of connective tissue, leading to a sumptuous sauce, elevated with thyme and Jamaican spices.

For more information, visit dsislandgrilltucson.com.

Ugly Steak

Dickman’s Meat & Deli, 6472 N. Oracle Rd. • 7955 E. Broadway Blvd.
"Ugly steak" at Dickman's Meat & Deli (Credit: Jackie Tran)

“Ugly Steak” at Dickman’s Meat & Deli (Credit: Jackie Tran)

The Ugly Steak doesn’t have the fat cap of premium steaks, such as the NY strip or rib eye. However, this proprietary cut of beef isn’t short on rich, beefy flavor. Marinate it Vietnamese style and toss it on the grill for a jaw-dropping steak.

Keep up with Dickman’s Meat & Deli on Facebook.

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.
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