12 Closed Tucson Restaurants That Should Reopen

Although Tucson's culinary scene may be stronger than ever, here are 12 restaurants we'd like to see reopen.

Last modified on December 28th, 2018 at 11:50 am

(flickr/chazwags)

Good restaurants don’t always stay open, even if they are worthy. Timing plays a critical role.

Although Tucson’s culinary scene may be stronger than ever, here are 12 restaurants we’d like to see reopen.

Neo Malaysian Kitchen & Sushi (previously known as Neo of Melaka and Seri Melaka)

6133 E. Broadway Blvd.

Nasi Lemak — a Malaysian must try and must have– Rendang Beef, Sambal Shrimp and some Achar to cool off the palate.

Posted by Neo Malaysian Kitchen & Sushi on Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Malaysian cuisine features a wide range of bold flavors with countless varieties of sambal sauces. Furthermore, Rendang Beef and Nasi Goreng have also been voted as the two best dishes in the world by CNN readers.

Sadly, Tucson’s only Malaysian restaurant closed last year. Although Neo was doing fine, the family behind it moved to Denver. Hopefully another Malaysian family steps up to the plate to diversify Tucson’s noodle and curry game.

Read about Neo Malaysian Kitchen on Yelp.

The Grill

100 E. Congress St.

Was the Grill “good?” No. It was filthy and the service was terrible. But you can’t really blame them when dealing with rowdy drunkards after midnight was the norm.

If you were ever a debaucherous rascal in downtown Tucson before it became hip, you probably made memories there while eating a bowl of Cap’n Crunch or creamy pesto tater tots.

For 24-hour downtown eats nowadays, check out Shot in the Dark Cafe.

Read about the Grill on Yelp.

Pizzeria Bianco

272 E. Congress St.

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Depending on who you asked, people often described Pizzeria Bianco in one of two ways: as one of the best things in Tucson, or as the most overhyped restaurant.

We were big fans. James Beard award-winning chef Chris Bianco is a master at highlighting quality ingredients in a simple fashion. Although the price point was higher than what Tucson was used to for pizza, the price was justified with the ingredient quality and rent.

Although Bianco has apparently been on the hunt for the perfect spot for a permanent Tucson location, that day hasn’t come. Thankfully, we now have Anello to satisfy our cravings for artisanal pizza and wood-fired local produce.

Read about Pizzeria Bianco on Yelp.

Cafe Terra Cotta

3500 E. Sunrise Dr.

Full disclosure: I stole the caesar recipe from Cafe Terra Cotta and added more garlic.Now you know.Whew

Posted by Rocco's Little Chicago Pizzeria on Friday, November 3, 2017

One of the most influential restaurants in Tucson’s history, Cafe Terra Cotta helped put southwestern cuisine on the culinary map.

Although the restaurant closed in 2009 after a 23-year run, chef Donna Nordin’s cuisine is still available via her cooking classes.

Read about Cafe Terra Cotta on Yelp.

Hungry Kepuha

Food Truck
Kepuha Combo Plate from Hungry Kepuha (Credit: Jackie Tran)

Kepuha Combo Plate from Hungry Kepuha (Credit: Jackie Tran)

Tucson’s strong military presence with Davis-Monthan Air Force Base helped make Hungry Kepuha a hit. A fair amount of folks were stationed in Guam, and Hungry Kepuha provided the cuisine of Guam in generous, affordable portions. A big ol’ plate of rice and grilled meat definitely hit the spot after a brewery session.

We didn’t have the food truck for long though, as they relocated to Las Vegas. Green Valley has a Guam and Filipino food truck called Island Mixture, but they haven’t posted on Facebook since the summer.

Keep up with Hungry Kepuha on Facebook.

Zachary’s Pizza

1028 E. Sixth St.

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Service at Zachary’s was often atrocious, but it was conveniently close to campus and the deep dish pizza was excellent. Thankfully, we still have Rocco’s around.

Read about Zachary’s Pizza on Yelp.

Bluefin Seafood Bistro

7053 N. Oracle Rd.

Jeff Azersky and James Murphy from Kingfisher opened another seafood restaurant in the Casas Adobes area. They closed after a 10-year run since they couldn’t come to an agreeable lease deal with the landlords, sadly.

Kingfisher is still one of Tucson’s best places for seafood, even after 25 years in business.

Read about Bluefin Seafood Bistro on Yelp.

BIRD Bar & Chicken

7109 N. Oracle Rd.
BIRD Modern Provisions & Bar (Credit: Jackie Tran)

BIRD Modern Provisions & Bar (Credit: Jackie Tran)

Previously known as BIRD Modern Provisions & Bar, BIRD Bar & Chicken had a Charleston sort of Southern classiness with exceptional craft cocktails. Their Agave Dinner with Spadefoot Nursery was also one of the tastiest cocktail dinners of the year.

Unfortunately, their run was short and they closed after a year in business. A piece of it lives on as the BIRD Bun at sister restaurant OBON Sushi Bar Ramen.

Read about BIRD Bar & Chicken on Yelp.

Jax Kitchen

7286 N. Oracle Rd.

From the ribeye with a house-made version of A1 Steak Sauce to Bourbon Milk & Cookies and a locally-renowned Red Velvet Cake, Jax Kitchen was among the first in Tucson to successfully feature hip, elevated comfort food.

Its initial success helped spawn a family of restaurants, but they all closed after a few years. Although sister restaurant The Abbey closed, Commoner & Co. successfully moved into the space with its own creative take on comfort classics.

Read about Jax Kitchen on Yelp.

Janos

3770 E. Sunrise Dr.
Executive chef Janos Wilder at Downtown Kitchen + Cocktails (Credit: Jackie Tran)

Executive chef Janos Wilder at DOWNTOWN Kitchen + Cocktails (Credit: Jackie Tran)

Although chef Janos Wilder is still running DOWNTOWN Kitchen + Cocktails, he helped put Tucson on the culinary map with his eponymous restaurant Janos when he won the James Beard award for Best Chef: Southwest in 2000. Wilder also earned 12 separate James Beard award nominations with the restaurant Janos through its lifespan.

While Tucson isn’t as receptive towards fine dining prices these days, we’d still love to see Wilder take another shot.

Read about Janos on Yelp.

Yogi’s Indian Café & Market

2537 N. Stone Ave.
Chicken momos at Yogi’s Indian Café & Market (Credit: Wren Awry)

Chicken momos at Yogi’s Indian Café & Market (Credit: Wren Awry)

Yogi’s stood out with their wide variety of chaat, a sort of Indian street food snack. They also offered Momos, a sort of Himalayan dumpling. While Tucson has a fair amount of Indian restaurants, we could use more Indian street food specialists.

Read about Yogi’s Indian Cafe & Market on Yelp.

El Coqui Puerto Rican Restaurant

6151 E. Broadway Blvd.

Chillo empando en platano con salsa de guayaba y mango con majada de viandas. Red Snapper breaded in plantain crust with guava & mango sauces with Caribbean root puree.

Posted by El Coqui Catering on Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Puerto Rican and Cuban restaurants have closed all too often in Tucson. Caribbean sofrito seasoning and fried plantains are fabulous, but for some reason, they just never caught on full force in Tucson.

Thankfully, we now have Asian Sofrito to satiate any mofongo and tostone fix.

Read about El Coqui Puerto Rican Restaurant on Yelp.

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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