Cue all the fresh pasta.
Looking for fresh bites and forgotten treasures to return for?
Here are the Tucson Foodie staff picks of the best things we tasted in October.
Adam Lehrman, Founder
Bichi at Cocina La Ley – This bichi is chock full of fish and shrimp bits and well worth the hour jaunt to the American side of Nogales.
Breakfast Burrito at Nook – You wouldn’t expect to find this phenomenal breakfast burrito outside of a taqueria but Nook lays it down.
Cabeza tacos at Taqueria Juanitos – After countless visits to taco stands in south Tucson and beyond, Taqueria Juanitos still stands up with the best of ’em.
Jenn Teufel, Catalyst
Chicharrones taco at El Chivo de Oro – Let’s start with the chicharrones taco at El Chivo de Oro on Irvington West of 12th. I’ve died and gone to fried-taco heaven. The just-right ratio between meat, skin, and fat made this taco (on their house-made tortilla) perfecto. My search for the perfect chicharrones taco may have concluded with this one. If you eat a taco this week, give this taco truck a try.
Tagliatelle cacio e pepe at CERES – My guess is that I will share many of these with my teammates as we delighted in this beautiful simple meal together, outside, in Tucson’s lovely fall sunshine. The combination of fresh pasta with the simple butter, cheese, and pepper (Cacio + Pepe) made at new Italian takeaway stand Ceres (in El Presidio) made me smile and relax. It was so delicious. And that amazing sandwich of salty prosciutto and salami with pesto and fresh, sunshine-sweet tomatoes and arugula? We were speechless except for the occasional “are you going to finish that?” Also, if they have their Italian cheesecake, get it early before they sell out (hint: the not-too-heavy ricotta base and not-too-sweet salted caramel is just right).
Dinner at Penca – I finally made it down for dinner at Penca and was blown away with every part of the Executive Chef David Solarzano’s meal. The ceviche was fresh, flavorful and crunchy with those delicious chips (some of the best in Tucson). Mmmm, the perfect starter for the meal. The mole tasting was a surprise and so tasty on house-made tortillas (hint: they make their own masa and the earthy corn flavor is paired perfectly with the moles. I especially love the white mole with its biting raw garlic. We shared the hearty, rich short rib and finished off with one of my favorite Tucson desserts Arroz con Leche. Get in there quickly as they are changing menus soon.
Backyard Burger at The Parish – Lastly, I had a yummy bite of my son’s Backyard Burger at the Parish, before he polished it off in mere moments. That great beefy patty with white cheddar and a soft fried egg… yes, please!
Kate Severino, Editor
Horchata coffee at Seis Kitchen – Autumn afternoons in Tucson deserve creamy, spiced (iced) drinks in a breezy courtyard. Don’t hold back on the menu either.
Morning bun at Le Buzz – It was my first time having one. The sugary bun, with a generous sprinkling of orange zest, pairs perfectly with their Mayan Mocha. Repeat order for sure.
“Make American Lager Great Again” at Saguaro Corners – Saguaro Corners hosted a beer-pairing dinner featuring Crooked Tooth Brewing Company last week. The four generously portioned courses were big on flavor, but the “Make American Lager Great Again” (course three) sent it home. Each bite of the tender strip loin, bathed in whipped Roquefort butter and porchini “gravy,” was a sinful indulgence. The dish was elevated by a Crooked Light Lager.
Assorted dishes at CERES – The Presidio newcomer transports you out of the desert and straight to Europe. Imagine bustling Italian streets with patrons popping into tiny shops for bagged sandwiches, fresh twirls of pasta, and delightful baked treats. Yes, you’ve arrived. Expect to fork simply dressed, house-made pasta into your mouth between bites from a freshly made focaccia sandwich. The sandwich filling—light pesto; chunks of mozzarella; succulent, juicy slices of tomato; arugula; salami; and wisps of prosciutto—was heavenly. And those pasta ribbons? Let’s just say that you won’t want to share a bowl of cheesy cacio e pepe. 😉 Finish your meal with a molasses cookie or slice of salted caramel cheesecake. The buttery crumb from the cheesecake holds airy ricotta filling with just a hint of sweetness. Take an army, order one of everything, and find a seat at La Cocina across the street.
New menu at Commoner & Co. – Speaking of cacio e pepe, Commoner’s soft opening brought a bowl of the cheesy house-made pasta to our table. Chef Nottingham likes his pasta with tooth. Same. The newly renovated space is beautiful; don’t miss the chunky slices of August Rhodes sourdough, beet salad, goat’s cheese tart, and ragu pasta. All delightful.
Matt Sterner, Event’s Writer
Choco Taco at HUB Ice Creamery – One of the best things I devoured this month was the Choco Taco from HUB Ice Creamery in downtown. I grew up eating the Choco Tacos found at gas stations, but this one really stole my heart.
Chicken Sandwich at Molecular Munchies food truck – I grabbed a beer at Tucson Hop Shop a few weeks ago and Molecular Munchies was conveniently parked out front to cure my stomach grumbles. I ordered the Chicken Sandwich and that’s exactly what I got, but on a brioche bun. Make sure you try the house-made aioli.
Three Taco Plate & Fried Pickles at Good Oak Bar – Perhaps a hidden gem for tacos in Tucson. The Good Oak Bar really turns it up a little bit with their three taco plate. I ordered the Chile Toreado Tacos and a side of Fried Pickles. They’re easily the best fried pickles in town and the tacos were more than enough, being that they were larger than the average street taco.
Melissa Stihl, Content Creator
Shrimp Tacos Cocina La Ley in Nogales – Mid-week the TF crew piled into a giant SUV and drove an hour each way to Nogales, Arizona for tacos. And it was totally worth it. The shrimp were perfectly fried, crispy on the outside but succulent on the inside. The fresh salsa bar had lots of options that were being refilled every half hour, with pickled onions and pico de gallo that I would eat on anything. Get in your car and head south, and be sure to get a side of chipotle mayo while you’re there.
Stracciatella at Reilly Craft Pizza & Drink – Attention burrata lovers, you need this in your life. Reilly Craft Pizza recently updated their menu and included their Stracciatella cheese. Last year I attended a dinner at PY Steak with chefs Tyler Fenton and Ryan Clark. This cheese was on the menu, and it’s so incredible that I remember it a year later. I was thrilled to see it pop up on their menu, but it’s likely a seasonal item so get it while you have the chance.
Goat Cheese Tart with Seasonal Jam from Commoner & Co. – This is the perfect bite. It’s creamy and cheesy with a crisp shell and there’s a touch of sweetness from the seasonal jam. This would be my perfect meal with a green salad and a glass of sparkling wine at the bar of the newly re-opened Commoner & Co. Get yourself one and thank me later.
Jackie Tran, Lead Writer & Photographer
Hot Pot at Potwhale – Potwhale nails it with the house spicy broth and the quality of the ingredients. Don’t miss out on the house-made noodles. Bring three friends, gather around the pot, and take your time enjoying yourself.
Caldo de Pollo at Fonda La Hermanita – This soup got me right in the soul with its rich chicken broth and garlicky masa dumplings. Each of the vegetables, ranging from green beans to potatoes, were all properly cooked and not mushy whatsoever. One of the best soups I’ve had the pleasure of eating.
Picanha at Churrasco de Brasil – While this new Brazilian steakhouse offers popular cuts such as rib eye and filet mignon, the Brazilian favorite picanha is right up my alley. The contrast between lean tender meat and the cap of fat makes it a carnivore’s dream.
Dim Sum at Sushi Lounge – A little over a year ago, I called this place the best dim sum restaurant in Tucson. It ended up being too busy for the next several weeks, but I finally made the trip back. It’s even better than I remember; I also still consider it the best dim sum in town.
Steak Tartare Tostada Tito & Pep – At Film Fest Tucson’s VIP lounge, Tito & Pep catered with exceptional snacks. While all were fantastic, the steak tartare tostada with avocado and salsa macha had me coming back for seconds (and thirds).
Mesquite Tagliolini at Penca – Part of October’s Noches de Penca multi-course menu, this plate-licking course featured lobster, calabacitas, tomato, cilantro, and heart bottarga. Honorable mention to the course with flying ants.
Tagliolini Cacio e Pepe at CERES – While the kitchen already won my heart by being so gosh darn adorable, the fresh pasta won it further. Even though cacio e pepe is easy to make at home at 2 a.m. on Saturday night, having it for lunch provides a deeper satisfaction with its flecks of fresh pepper and Parmigiano-Reggiano.
Ragu at Commoner & Co. – Even though they’re not an Italian restaurant by any means, they’ve always been home to my favorite cold-weather house-made pasta dishes. Their new executive chef Drew Jawors has earned a spot as my new nonna.
Want more? Read up on other best bites in 2019 (organized by month):