Situated west of Interstate 10 between Speedway Boulevard and Congress Street, the old-school Barrio Hollywood and Menlo Park neighborhoods are gentrifying with alarming rapidity. Whatever your opinion on that controversial matter, one thing’s indisputable: the restaurant scene in that particular nook of our fair city is keeping pace. Stalwart establishments continue to thrive, and new eateries are popping up alongside the classics.
Here’s a smattering of places to check out along or near Grande Avenue, the north-south artery that courses through both barrios. Eateries are organized from south-ish to north-ish, bounded to the south by Congress Street and to the north by Speedway Boulevard.
Everything’s within walking or biking distance of one another, so why not take a Saturday to see what the buzz is about?
A little east of Grande on Congress, just off the 10, this award-winning raspados-slash-taco shop is packed with those in the know. On most weekends, they serve fun seafood dishes with proteins sourced directly from the Mexican Pacific coast. And don’t pass up their hotter red salsa.
What people go for isn’t the food, though—it’s those notorious raspados: they’re made with fresh fruits and vegetables of surprising variety.
Keep up with Sonoran Delights Raspados on Facebook.
Just a few doors west of Sonoran Delights, you’ll find Los Olivos, a tiny family-owned eatery specializing in square-cut pizza. Toppings are fresh and varied and the sauce is zesty.
Last year they refurbished an enclosed patio, offering a bit more sheltered seating, but most customers grab a generous lunchtime slice to go. They also have big salads to assuage any guilt derived from falling off that New Year’s diet.
Read our January 2018 article Los Olivos Pizzeria is a charming hidden gem on Tucson's west side.
Keep up with Los Olivos Pizzeria en Menlo Park on Facebook.
Located outside the old Menlo Liquors, west of Grande on the north side of Congress, Monster Sonoran Hot Dogs is an appropriately named food stand. They’re known for their foot-long birria Sonoran dog in their trademark red bun made by Alejandro’s Tortilla Factory. This signature item is a gigantic commitment to your cardiologist but perhaps worth it for your hedonic palate. Get extra jalapeño salsa to render your bottle of Tums your new BFF.
Try to arrive early if possible (hours are posted on their Facebook page) because they tend to sell out of the monsters fast. If that should happen, don’t worry, they’re moving into American Eat Co. this week and you can get your fill there.
Keep up with Monster Sonoran Hot Dogs on Facebook.
If you're looking for other nearby eats, read our January 2019 article 10 Edible Reasons to Visit the Mercado District.
Turn north on Grande from Congress. The first spots you’ll encounter just recently opened their doors.
Don’t confuse this newcomer to the neighborhood with the franchise with a similar name. Sporting a drive-through and some non-chicken choices like fried zucchini, Buffalo Wings is gaining popularity as one of the better wing joints in the city. Interestingly, the mild sauce is the crowd favorite, but customers weep for the hot honey flavor too.
IYou'll find it near the southwest corner of the intersection, in the precarious Ace Hardware/Food City parking lot.
Keep up with Buffalo Wings on Facebook.
On the northeast corner of St. Mary’s Road and Grande Avenue, in a casita that formerly housed the frybread shop, Manna from Heaven, is the new haven for quality tacos. Owners Patricia Gomez and Julio Garcia pride themselves on making good, not fast, food, so don’t expect taco stand-type cuisine. Rather, look for quality ingredients combined in recipes originating in Spain and central and southern Mexico.
One specialty is grilled or breaded fish tacos, which are only a dollar on Mondays. You can get them in corn, flour, or doughy empanada-type wrapping—and you don’t want more than one or maybe two of the latter. You’ll be dining artsy style because the decor is as well-attended to as the food is.
Read our December 2019 article Check out the chic interior & unique empanada-like tacos at newly opened Mestizos.
Keep up with Mestizos Restaurant on Facebook.
Just east of the intersection of Grande Avenue and St. Mary’s Road, on the north side of St. Mary’s, sits this local favorite—and they turn 42 years old in the fall, more reason to celebrate. Customers line up at the counter to order and sometimes seats are hard to come by—the red chile stew and the birria are well worth the wait though. They’re also known for their reasonably priced to-go items and catering.
Read our March 2019 article St. Mary’s Mexican Food: Fresh Tortillas, Tamales To Go & Legendary Red Chile Burros.
For more information, visit stmarysmexicanfood.com.
New to the scene is this destined-to-be-classic food trailer serving food from the state of Puebla, Mexico. It features one of our favorite Mexican sandwiches—their cemita, featuring a fried pork cutlet and Oaxacan cheese on special bread—from that region.
Arriving at the trailer can be a little confusing for first-timers. Just drive through the gates and park in the lot. You can eat at one of their clean outdoor tables if the weather is conducive or take your cemita (or tacos or chicken tinga or gorditas) to go.
Read our April 2019 article Newly Opened El Antojo Poblano Serves Tucson’s Best Mexican Sandwich.
Keep up with Al Antojo Poblano en Tucson on Facebook.
Here’s the highest concentration of dining destinations - mostly classics, some iconic.
This locally-owned small chain of seven restaurants in Tucson and Sierra Vista offers solid Sonoran and even Tampiqueño fare. They have a seafood selection and are one of the few places around town to offer traditional caldo de queso as a lunch special (or at all).
Taco Giro serves Mexican- and American-style breakfasts, including machaca seca with eggs—another hard-to-find item. If you’re feeling boozy, imbibe in what they call their “famous michelada,” or any number of cocktails and beers. The salsa bar is fun, as are the bright murals. Both make for excellent photo ops as you journey northward on Grande. Each of the locations has a slightly different vibe.
For more information, visit tacogirorestaurant.com.
Just next door to Taco Giro is another longstanding, iconic, favorite, beloved Tucson standard.
Tanias 33 can get slammed. Their parking lot can be a nightmare of double-parked trucks trying to maneuver into and out of too few, too tiny spaces. The line inside can be quite long, and the food doesn’t come out fast—it’s too good. Tanias is casual Mexcian food at its healthiest. Everything is fresh and there’s no lard in the flaky giant tortillas.
Among the thousands of permutations of burritos or tortas or tacos you can design from their seemingly endless menu, the vegetarian ingredients actually shine. There are soups and tamales and even vegan tots. There’s a reason Tanias is so popular. It’s the food.
Order ahead on their website to circumvent at least some of the wait. Better yet, call it in.
Keep up with Tanias "33" Mexican Food on Facebook.
For many locals and visitors, Pat’s is a gourmand's destination on North Grande Avenue and a top bucket list hotspot in all of Tucson.
It’s tough to not immediately equate Pat’s with Pink’s Hot Dogs in Los Angeles. In both cases, we ask: Are the hot dogs even good? Or is it just the notoriety element—the concept that “this restaurant has been on TV, so it must be excellent?” Does Pat’s serve famous chili dogs or are they actually infamous? Do we drive up for the cuisine out of multigenerational muscle memory? Wildcat-style fierce loyalty? Or because the onion rings are just that scrumptious? It’s yours to decide.
Keep up with Pat's Chili Dogs on Facebook.
A relative newcomer to Barrio Hollywood is the newly expanded Barista Del Barrio.
This young, family-owned stand offers pleasantly strong coffee drinks from a kiosk-like structure. But what you should also get are the breakfast burritos, even if it’s just before noon, when they close. The burritos are grilled. The potatoes inside are like patties, not cubes. One burrito is actually two smaller burritos so, if you can possibly manage to not devour both at once, you could hypothetically share or save one for a later meal. But you won’t be able to do that—not after you taste the burrito topped with the family’s magical salsa.
Plus the owners are super sweet: they remember your order and provide a genuine smile. This is another hotspot that can get really busy: call ahead for speedier service.
Read our September 2019 article Barista del Barrio: Mexican mochas & breakfast burritos by the Briones family.
Keep up with Barista Del Barrio on Facebook.
In 1971, Mariscos started as a seafood stand in Nogales, Sonora (not Chihuahua!). Now there are locations all over Tucson, Phoenix, and beyond. This is a family-owned Tucson-based franchise on the pricier side, compared to other eateries on the avenue.
They serve everything from oysters to octopus, calamari to clams, shrimp to scallops and even sea snails. But they won’t serve any seafood out of season. Rather, everything is as fresh as possible, considering that we’re in a desert.
They do offer chicken, but pretty much everything else on the menu comes from saltwater. Some of their creations are quite interesting and maybe even unique, such as their marinero sauce. It features green peas, green peppers, onions, and tomatoes.
Read our December 2018 article Dive into the Shrimp Culichi at Mariscos Chihuahua (VIDEO).
For more information, visit mariscoschihuahua.com.
Have a favorite eatery on the avenue? Let us know in the comments.