Regardless of what year the restaurant opened, here are our favorites based on our experiences in 2018.
Adam Lehrman, Founder
Rollies Mexican Patio - "Super-delicious Sonoran eats with just enough outside-the-box creativity to keep things fresh but familiar. I'm a big fan of the flat enchiladas and the rolled cauliflower tacos."
Tito & Pep - "I've only been once so far, but was blown away by the execution and quality of ingredients. Items I'd typically not be interested in, like the Charred Broccoli salad, had me licking the plate."
Bombolé Eatery - "Ultra-simple, fast-casual Indian empanada joint on the ground floor of the Pioneer Building. I'm not the biggest empanada fan in general, but these are like nothing you've ever tasted. Killer lunch special, too."
Jennifer Teufel Schoenberger, Catalyst
Pizza Luna - "Perfect pizza crust. Perfect Caesar salad dressing. A simple menu full of house-made items that gets me back there several times a month."
The Quesadillas - "For that perfect bite of corn tortilla wrapped around smokey, Mexican spiced rib eye and crunchy cabbage, namely a taco; I turn to the Quesadillas. When I'm craving a taco of deliciousness I run up the street to The Quesadillas with my family, my friends, or myself for that perfect bite of juicy meat and fresh tortilla with a bit of lime."
Tito & Pep - "The freshness of ingredients, flavors, and dishes are always delivered. We don’t have a single other restaurant in town that is delivering this balance of simple and approachable food that is brilliantly sophisticated. This is an exceptional restaurant with a wonderful staff. I’m a lover of desserts and John’s approach has conquered the perfectly curated dessert menu."
Kate Severino, Editor
Saguaro Corners - This set-apart desert oasis — in Saguaro National Park's backyard — is on my side of town. The menu is uncomplicated with large portions and cozy dishes — love a good fish and chips. Weekend music on a heated patio with string lights, siping house Margaritas, is about as good as it gets.
Prep & Pastry - All about Mimosa-Saturdays — is that a thing? It should be. Brunch at Prep is becoming somewhat of a tradition. The staff is friendly and helpful and the flavors, clean. I'm the sucker that falls for their "brunch without booze is just a sad breakfast" slogan, upping my brunch game every time. Personal favorites include the Chickpea Scramble, Oven Roasted SweetPotato Hash, and the Avo Toast (RIP).
47 Scott • Scott & Co. - "The happy hour specials are fantastic. I'm in a love affair with the Fried Cauliflower, Brussels, soup, and grilled cheese. I'd recommend any gin cocktail you can get your hands on — just that good. Go for the impeccable service, industrial feel, and drink selection — all contributing factors to my choice."
5 Points Market & Restaurant - "Because I love the restaurant-market combo, the aesthetic of the space, the Bandito Blanco, the sense of community they've created with the weekly farmers market, and their urban farm project. I am genuinely happy when I'm eating at 5 Points, it's the type of food that I like to make at home, but it's elevated."
China Pasta House - "If you know me, you know I am a big fan of dumplings. I never miss an opportunity to flood the TF Instagram with dumpling content. I typically have a stash of homemade ones in my freezer, but when that stash runs out, I run to China Pasta House. My move is always a to-go double order of Shrimp Dumplings (#B4 on the menu). Half eaten as quickly as possible, and the other half stored in my fridge to be pan-fried later."
Taqueria El Pueblito - "This is the taqueria I'll drive out of my way for. There are so many good ones in town, but the salsa bar and the flautas keep me coming back to El Pueblito. It reminds me of the taquerias I would hit up after a day at the beach growing up in Southern California."
Prep & Pastry - "For their Prep's Breakfast Sammie when I want an upgraded, fancier version of a sausage egg McMuffin."
Urban Pita - "Because gyros will always have a place in my heart. I was a safe and bland eater (aside from Filipino cuisine) and trying my first gyro from Tucson Meet Yourself years ago changed the game for me."
Matt Sterner, Events Writer
Tumerico - "I enjoy Tumerico because even though I’m not a vegetarian, the food is good enough to not care about the absence of meat. Even though I'm not fond of sharing my food and growl as I hover over my dish like a primal human being, it's easy to share at Tumerico because you get so much food on your plate. Nearly everything on the menu's got a portion size large enough to share."
Bison Witches Bar & Deli - "Nearly every time I visit Fourth Ave, I stop by Bison Witches. You can never go wrong with any of their bread bowls, their drink selections, and massive sandwiches. Plus, the chips and queso or nachos are a meal in itself."
Tacos Apson - "Stepping into the small restaurant is sort of like taking a step back in time with its history on the walls as well as what’s cooking on the grill. The dining area is cramped but it’s a great experience sitting on the barstools because you’re feet away from the grill as they make your food. If anything, make sure to get the carne asada."
Jackie Tran, Lead Writer & Photographer
Noodleholics - "**** me, I love Noodleholics so much. No malarkey here, just satisfying, flavorful food made by people who care about quality food. As someone who loves peppers, garlic, and noodles, this place is my utopia. I'd suffer through watching Spice World again if I had a supply of Chaoshou Dumplings to snack on throughout the film."
Tumerico - "Love on a plate. When I'm hungover, a plate of Wendy's cuisine and the cup of free coffee will perk me up better than any breakfast burrito. In the rare occasion that I manage to finish the enormously-portioned plate, I still feel light and mobile enough to waltz around the street. And if you see Tres Leches Cake on the menu that day, ORDER IT."
The Coronet - "The attention to detail in this tiny restaurant always wins my heart. From the custom-designed Mission tile to hand-drawn menu designs. And every person working here from the server to the chefs seem like they'd have a successful job as another type of artist, like a poet, painter, ballerina, or interior designer. Don't miss out on the Milk-Braised Chicken Breast on their current menu."
What were your favorite restaurant experiences in Tucson this year? Let us know in the comments.