Exploring Tucson-area eateries can be overwhelming, especially when one intersection features several similar food options, each vying for customers.
One such corner is the busy crossroads of 22nd Street and Sixth Avenue, with three Sonoran-style stands situated on or within a few feet of the intersection.
Each has its own specialty: one serves seafood; another serves asada and birria; another serves Sonoran-style hot dogs. Each is worth a visit — it’s just a matter of which to try first!
At the northeast corner of 22nd Street and Sixth Avenue, the food stand known simply as La Palma has a dedicated clientele. It’s five years old and is probably the busiest restaurant at the intersection.
First-time customers try it because of its numerous favorable reviews or because it is so easy to pull into and park in the sizable dirt lot, or both. They come back for the delicious seafood and kind service.
During the busiest hours, the line at the window can extend beyond the shade awning. All dozen or so clean metal picnic tables are occupied with individuals and families. About a quarter of the line is getting food to go.
The line goes quickly. A friendly server greets customers at the order window, which is also the pick-up window, from where an employee soon shouts that their food is ready.
Menu prices might seem high for the setting but they’re worth it because of the portion sizes and food quality.
The fresh flour tortillas are thicker than thin and on busy days the local factory source delivers them twice — once in the morning and once at lunch. The shrimp, fish, and salsa are also fresh. Most dishes come with a huge slice of ripe avocado — a bonus for which most places charge at least a dollar. Try the fish or shrimp tacos — they’re some of the best in Tucson.
Quesadillas are justifiably popular: they’re large and dressed with a smoky chipotle-esque crema, topped with lettuce, avocado, and onion. Breaded fish and shrimp are the two quesadilla menu choices but an off-menu combo of both is available upon request.
The various ceviche tostadas are also go-tos. Each substantial serving of ceviche only comes with one corn tostada chip but lots of key limes and avocado. Unlike most Sonoran-style ceviche, La Palma cooks their seafood as opposed to just marinating it in citrus.
The house-made salsa that comes with each dish is quite spicy with a depth of flavor. It’s almost unnecessary because each menu item is already so flavorful.
La Palma is on “The Best 23 Miles of Mexican Food” list. Keep up with Cocteleria La Palma Mariscos y Mas on Facebook.
Just north of the intersection of 22nd Street and Sixth Avenue on the west side of Sixth Avenue, Taqueria los Chipilones is a little harder to drive in to. It’s well worth a U-turn for at least two reasons: their signature eponymous dish and their salsa bar.
The restaurant is named after the Chipilon, the food stand’s unique taco. Fresh flour tortillas, made by the Ruiz family’s factory in Mexico, encase carne asada, wet with what the owners call “fried sauce,” and are topped with a lot of half-melted white cheese. These tacos are only $1.50 each and while small, they are filling.
The salsa bar is contained in a lidded, clean white refrigerator. This appeals much more than comparable stands’ typical exposed salsa buffets, which are only sometimes protected by a plastic sneeze guard. The fridge keeps the selection of house-made salsas cold, rendering their deep flavors crisp.
The salsa bar also features expected fun toppings like pico de gallo, pickled onions and carrots, and cilantro (but not the usual onion-cilantro mix, a welcome surprise for the cilantro averse).
Los Chipilones’ asada is notable, whether in caramelo, burrito, or taco form. The beef is lean but cooked in a flavorful sauce so the fat is not missed — nor is asada gristle. The birria soup is another favorite and they have pollo asada, too.
Most dishes come with roasted jalapeños and grilled onions on the side and are topped with cabbage, not lettuce.
The taqueria is set just south of Viking Car Wash. The driveway to the parking lot is south of the taqueria and there’s bicycle parking in front. It’s just north of the Ruiz family’s Sonoran hot dog eatery.
Hot dogs Sonorenses originated on the streets of Hermosillo and have become iconic to the Tucson-area food scene.
The Ruiz family owns both the nine-year-old Sonoran hot dog truck and the adjacent, newer Taqueria los Chipilones. Locals simply use Ruiz Hot Dogs to identify it.
Ruiz Hot Dogs los Chipilones is located just across from La Palma on Sixth Avenue.
The dirt parking area is easy to enter and exit by car. It’s the most casual-seeming of the three eateries occupying the intersection.
It has some canopy-covered tables and chairs and sheltered barstools. Unlike most stands, the hot dog is served to the diner rather than pushed out of a pick-up window.
The eatery is a favorite due to its distinctive buns — big, buttered, and toasted on both sides. As with all Sonoran-style hot dogs, the bun spills over with a grilled bacon-wrapped hot dog topped with bright orange queso, neon green guacamole, mayonnaise, cold diced tomatoes, onions, and pinto beans.
The Ruiz rendition adds mustard and uses shredded cheddar with grilled peppers on the side. Plus they top them with the family’s “fried sauce” and optional mushrooms.
Hot dogs are also customizable with ingredients from a toppings bar, and chili is available on the side. The cost of this filling item is about $3 (cash only). Whether you can squeeze it in or not, you’ll want more than one.
For more information, visit Ruiz Hot Dogs on Yelp.