Bratwurst Lunch Special at Ten55 Brewing and Sausage House - "While a brat on bread is at the base level of simplicity, it would be all too easy to screw this combo up with lackluster bread and an overcooked, weak sausage. Ten55 one-ups any other sausage offering in town with a perfectly cooked, locally made Forbes brat on Barrio Bread buns."
Jennifer Teufel Schoenberger, Catalyst
House-made Strawberry Jam at Prep & Pastry - "They low-and-slow cook it with strawberries, sugar, and lemon — no stabilizers, pectin or gelatin. I get a piece of their house-made brioche toast, slather it in sweet butter and pour on the strawberry jam. I get their Earl Grey tea. Perfect start to the day. Sunshine in every bite."
1922 Platter at Charro Steak - "The 1922 Platter knocked my socks off. With a steakhouse, I tend to expect spices and sauces to be simple. Gary Hickey is a deceptively complex chef. The sauces and spices on the chicken, salmon, and carne asada were complex and satisfying without being cloying. He doesn’t have to go that far because the proteins are such high quality, but great chefs take that extra step. This brings me to the star of that night: The Tomahawk. Stunningly great ranch-to-table beef. I ended up gnawing the meat off the bone. #meatcoma"
Xian Oil Splashing Noodles at Fatman Kitchen - "I was excited about a new Chinese food entry in the market. I wasn’t prepared for how fresh and beautiful every dish was — nothing held in the warmer. The protein [is] perfectly cooked and the vegetables [are] sparkling because they are treated so well. The final straw — that has brought me back four times this month — is, of course, the Xian Oil Splashing Noodle. Now, the sauce is stupendous — not just spicy, but so flavorful — [but] it’s the house-made noodle that brings me back. That noodle… well, favorite pasta bite of the month."
Barbacoa Taco at Taqueria El Pueblito - "[This] took me back to my young-20’s life clubbing in Downtown L.A. You would end up at taco stands drenched in sweat and starving after a night of dancing. Perfectly deep-fried, cooled, and spiced at the same time — with their salsa. Nothing new, just perfectly done."
Ice Cream at Desert Dream Ice Creamery - "Can’t finish without my dessert #sugaraddict #butterfataddict. Great new entry into the ice cream market: Desert Dream Ice Creamery on Fourth Avenue. Yes. The creamy consistency — from the high butterfat content (16%) — makes it a contender, but the flavors make it a champion. The Fresh Banana and the Cinnamon Ginger Snap are brilliant. Alden, their Ice Cream Guru from Maine, is committed to real flavors not driven by edgy additives. The butterfat softens the flavors and their ice cream delivers a creamy, satisfying experience. I’m excited to see where these young brothers go with this terrific new venture. That being said, my top button is in trouble due to its close proximity to our downtown office. ;-)"
Kate Severino, Editor
Caprese Sandwich at Time Market - "My love for Time Market goes beyond the restaurant. The Market houses a variety of unique, artisanal products — making it a pleasant perusing experience. I walk away with a bag of fresh produce, local products, and loaf of sourdough — get your hands on one — every time I visit. Their Caprese Sandwich features layers of thickly cut house-made mozzarella and ripe tomato topped with locally sourced basil, oozing arugula pesto, and lashings of balsamic and olive oil in a crunchy baguette. Whether you've visited or not, you should be on your way. Like, now."
Cucumber with Garlic Sauce at Fatman Kitchen - "Newly opened, unpretentious Fatman Kitchen was a taste experience. Head over in a group (more shareable food, right?) and try the fragrant Cumin Lamb, Xian Oil Splashing Noodle (those spicy wide foot-long noods everyone is trying) and my highlight, the Cucumber with Garlic Sauce. The heaping plate of crushed cukes cuts the spiciness of the chili — in the noods — and lightens the experience."
Sizzling Garlic Noodles at Noodleholics - "I tasted this dish prior to working at TF. And then again, and again. Simple components and strong flavors make this a repeat order. Expect flavorful minced garlic, sesame seed, the slow Sichuan-peppercorn burn, chili powder, scallions, and house-made wheat noodles doused in hot chili oil. You’ll be crying by the time you leave — lip-burning, feel-good happy tears. I’m not the only one who digs this dish and modern noodle spot."
Spinach and Mushroom Empanada at Bombolé Eatery - "This tiny Indian eatery is a hidden gem downtown. I'm pretty much always in the mood for one of their empanadas — crisp, well-balanced, curry-stuffed pastries that marry two cultures. I've swung from ordering single empanadas to 'The Bombo Combo' — an empanada, two sides, a sauce, and tea — on the hunger pendulum. The latest 'Empanada of the Day' was filled with spinach and mushroom in a mild curry – and boy was it moreish. Get the cilantro sauce and a side of dahl — all good things."
Nashville Fried Chicken Sandwich at Pops Hot Chicken - "A new food truck, Pop's Hot Chicken, is serving up some seriously delicious Nashville hot chicken sandwiches on Fourth Avenue. I am a big fan of chicken sandwiches, and in my opinion, it really comes down to the chicken. The chicken from Pops' food truck is a fried chicken thigh — essential to the makings of a delicious chicken sandwich. It's lightly breaded, fried, and super crispy. Everything else on the sandwich just adds to the equation here — the avocado slaw, the brioche bun, pickles, and the hot sauce — it all just works. Pops Hot Chicken's menu is simple with only a few items, but they are doing them right. This is the ideal post-drinking meal. And it's a steal at $7.50."
Poke Bowl at Hoki Poki- "I built my own bowl at Hoki Poki with salmon, seaweed salad, avocado, cucumber, and edamame (just to name a few) drizzled with spicy mayo. They have a great variety of proteins, toppings, and sauces to choose from — it's perfect for a quick and fresh fix."
Michelada at the Neighborhood- "One of the best things I ate in January was the Michelada at the Neighborhood. If you order it filled with candy, it’s practically a meal in a glass."
Centurion Pizza at Trident Pizza Pub- "I also checked out the new Trident Pizza Pub and scarfed down the Centurion pizza. The brick oven pie was loaded with pepperoni, sausage, ham, and soppressata."
Jackie Tran, Lead Writer & Photographer
Scallop at the Americana Provisions pop-up dinner at Seis Kitchen - "One of the fancier bites I've had, the Scallop was served with a sunchoke chip, pickled cauliflower, black garlic, celery fennel salad, chanterelle, fermented tomato, brioche sauce, and shell foam. The additions provided a subtle sweetness and umami richness that complemented those two natural qualities so apparent in scallops."
Branzino Veracruz at Charro del Rey - "While I love the chile pepper profile common in Mexican sauces, the Veracruz sauce features a puttanesca-esque savory profile with its combination of tomato, olives, capers, nopalito, and oregano. If you love olives, get this dish without hesitation."
Baby Back Ribs at Saguaro Corners - "Although Saguaro Corners isn't a barbecue restaurant, they make mighty fine ribs. They're not fall-off-the-bone tender; they still have a bit of a bite. While the golden Carolina sauce provides zing, ask for a bottle of Arizona Gunslinger Chipotle to boost the acidity to just the right level."
Xian Oil Splashing Noodle at Fatman Kitchen - "Biang biang noodles made their debut in Tucson with a bang. The bouncy, pappardelle-like wide noodles are topped with plenty of chili oil and raw garlic to destroy your breath for the day. Worth."
World's Crispiest Fish & Chips at the Parish - "Dishes with 'world's best' always make me think of 'according to your mom,' but this is the only dish with that phrase variant on the Parish's menu. I was distracted after receiving my plate for upwards of ten minutes (a sin, I know), but the gargantuan fish fillet was still magnificently crunchy on the exterior and juicy and tender on the inside. Add a dash of the house-made fermented hot sauce with a spritz of lemon and you're in for a treat."
What was the best thing you tasted in Tucson this month? Let us know in the comments.
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...