Where to eat at the Tucson Gem Show

By Mike Gerrard
By Mike Gerrard
January 28, 2020

One less thing to plan, we have your mealtimes covered.

The Tucson Gem, Mineral & Fossil Showcase has been a prominent annual event on the Tucson calendar every year since it started in 1955. It pumps an estimated $120 million into the Tucson economy, with over 30 shows that attract dealers and buyers from all over the world. The shows are scattered throughout the city and in hotels, bringing in tens of thousands of visitors to Tucson.

Tucson Gem Show Locations + Transport

The shows take place at numerous venues all over the city.

Take advantage of GemRide— free event shuttle buses that provide transport to the main venues; get the GemRide schedule and routes here. If you haven't already, download Uber and Lyft apps in advance to help you out if you miss the GemRide shuttles and don't have a car.

Food and Bev surrounding the show locations

Food stalls will be at some of the main venues, but, fortunately for visitors, there are several excellent local spots—from more affordable options to fine dining—to find sustenance nearby.

For the out of towners, start planning your meals as well as your schedules as the restaurants get booked up. We are a UNESCO City of Gastronomy, after all, and have a thriving culinary scene that you'll want to check out.

Here’s where to eat, some within walking distance of the show, but none of them more than a 10-minute taxi ride away from their designated venue.

Tucson Expo Center

One of the featured shows, JOGS Tucson Gem & Jewelry Show, takes place at Tucson Expo Center. Skip the national chains surrounding this venue and try these (albeit sparse) local establishments.

Brooklyn’s Beer and Burgers

3790 E. Irvington Rd.

Brooklyn’s Beer and Burgers is right on the corner of the Expo Center’s parking lot and although it’s a pretty conventional burger and sports bar foodwise, beer fans should check it out. Their Tap 21 bar has a range of beers from Arizona breweries (and some national options). If you're in the area, hit up happy hour from 2 - 6 p.m. daily.

For more information, visit brooklynsbeerandburger.com.

BBQ Rush

5151 S. Country Club Rd.
Ribs at BBQ Rush (Credit: Taylor Noel Photography)
Ribs at BBQ Rush (Credit: Taylor Noel Photography)

BBQ Rush is in an unlikely setting—an RV Park—but is only a five-minute drive from the Expo Center, which prevents you from slipping in for a bite at Denny’s.

Pitmaster Jason Scott included some of his grandfather's recipes on the menu at this central Texas-style barbecue spot—you'll want to try the ribs and wings. If you're looking to imbibe, there are several local beers on draft.

Read our June 2019 article Guide to 15 smokin' barbecue restaurants in Tucson.

For more information, visit bbq-rush.com.

Taco Fish

4841 S. 12th Ave.
Cevifritos at Taco Fish (Credit: Jackie Tran)
Cevifritos at Taco Fish (Credit: Jackie Tran)

Fish tacos can provoke fierce arguments among fans, and if you want to throw your hat in the ring, try them at Taco Fish—it's a 10-minute drive west of the center along Irvington Road.

If you happen to head over on a Tuesday, go for the Taco Tuesday special—99-cent fish tacos you'll be bragging about. If you're concerned about eating seafood in the desert, fear not. It's supplied by local seafood importer and distributor JPS Seafood. The seafood swims in from Sea of Cortez harbors: Kino Bay, Guaymas, and Puerto Penasco, Sonora, Mexico—a skip and a jump from our desert city.

Read our January 2020 article Taco Fish serves up fresh Mexican seafood like nana makes it.

For more information, visit tacofishtucson.com.

Kino Sports Complex

A couple of miles west of the Expo Center, you'll find exhibitors at the Kino Sports Complex Gem Show. This too is littered with fast food joints, but again, there are a few local eateries worth venturing into to get your fill.

Cafe Santa Rosa

2615 S. Sixth Ave.
Popover Sampler at Cafe Santa Rosa (Credit: Jackie Tran)
Popover Sampler at Cafe Santa Rosa (Credit: Jackie Tran)

With Cafe Santa Rosa's recent relocation, beloved circles of golden fry bread are less than a 10-minute drive from the Sports Complex. The simple, fried popover, which celebrates the Gonzales family's Tohono O’odham heritage, will lure you in with the decadent aroma alone.

If a sweet or savory local treat doesn't make your heart sing, the rest of the menu combines both the Tohono O’odham Native American tradition of the Gonzales family and the Mexican cuisine that Tucson has in abundance. Unsure where to start? Try the red chile popover, featuring red chile beef stew soaked up by the light fry bread, and you’ll understand why it’s their most popular dish.

Read our December 2019 article If it's fry bread you're after, Cafe Santa Rosa's location on Sixth is where it's at.

For more information, visit cafesantarosa.net

Micha’s Restaurant

2908 S. Fourth Ave.

Micha’s has been run by the same family since 1976, and their breakfast specials have a local following. They also serve up the iconic chimichanga—a deep-fried burrito with a debatable origin. Micha’s once made one that was 16-feet long for a celebration—read more about that here.

Keep up with Micha's Restaurant on Facebook.

Crossroads Restaurant

2602 S. Fourth Ave.
Chiles Crossroads at Crossroads Restaurant (Credit: Jackie Tran)
Chiles Crossroads at Crossroads Restaurant (Credit: Jackie Tran)

If it's Sonoran-style cuisine that you're after, take a five-minute walk north of Micha’s and you'll land at South Tucson’s oldest woman-operated restaurant. In business since 1936, Crossroads Restaurant serves scratch-made food, offers a breakfast-lunch buffet that rotates daily, has a full bar, and worthy happy hour. Buffet hours are 8 a.m. - 2 p.m. daily and happy hour is from 3 - 6 p.m.

For a real taste of Sonora, try the Napolitos or the Chiles Crossroads, which features two large Anaheim chiles stuffed with shrimp, wrapped in bacon, and garnished with cheese.

Read our December 2019 article Sonoran-style Crossroads Restaurant offers a rotating buffet to return for.

For more information, visit crossroadsfinemexican.com

The Mercado and surrounding area

The African Art Village Show is set up at the Mercado San Agustin, a hotspot just on the outskirts of downtown Tucson with several dining options as well as local vendors whose wares celebrate localism. If you’re a foodie as well as a gem or mineral collector, you’re spoiled for choice.

Seis Kitchen

130 S. Avenida Del Convento
Seis-Chata, Chorizon con Papas breakfast tacos at Seis Kitchen (Credit: Jackie Tran)
Seis-Chata, Chorizon con Papas breakfast tacos at Seis Kitchen (Credit: Jackie Tran)

If you’re going to this venue, make it your first stop—breakfast at Seis Kitchen is worth it (and they open at 8 a.m. daily). You'll be delighted by the airy courtyard at the Mercado, which provides ample seating and a drool-worthy menu featuring a variety of tacos, burritos, chile, tortas, and more made with fresh ingredients, sustainably sourced and locally-produced as much as possible. Even the olive oil is from Arizona.

Read our January 2019 article 10 Edible Reasons to Visit the Mercado District.

For more information, visit seiskitchen.com

Sonoran Delights Raspados

921 W. Congress St.
Prune Raspado at Sonoran Delights (Credit: Gloria Knott)
Where to eat at the Tucson Gem Show: Prune Raspado at Sonoran Delights (Credit: Gloria Knott)

If you don’t know what raspados are then it's worth finding out at Sonoran Delights. This Mexican take on shaved ice is made with real fruit juice, ice, fresh fruit, ice cream, and lechera. And tasty toppings include the likes of fresh seasonal fruit and Mexican candy. Sonoran Delights is also a taqueria-style restaurant if you want something more substantial.

Read our January 2020 article 12 Eateries Along Grande Avenue to Put on Your Radar.

Keep up with Sonoran Delights Raspados on Facebook

Los Olivos Pizzeria

937 W. Congress St.
Shrimp al Olivo at Los Olivos Pizzeria (Credit: Jackie Tran)
Where to eat at the Tucson Gem Show: Shrimp al Olivo at Los Olivos Pizzeria (Credit: Jackie Tran)

If your mood for food is more Italian than Mexican, head to Los Olivos next door to Sonoran Delights. It’s the kind of little place you’d walk or drive right by—the facade isn’t flashy but once you make your way in, you'll be glad you did. With a recently refurbished patio, there’s more seating than there used to be. Whether you sit down or use the takeout counter, there’s fresh pizza, pasta, and daily specials to choose from.

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

Looking for more nearby?

The Mercado and MSA Annex (down the street) are buzzing with options:

Tucson Convention Center and Downtown Tucson

The Tucson Convention Center, and the JG&M Expo, is where most of the Gew Show action is at. With plentiful food and beverage choices in the area, you might want to escape the shows and entertain your palate.

El Minuto Café

354 S. Main Ave.
Chicken Enchiladas at El Minuto Cafe
Where to eat at the Tucson Gew Show: Chicken Enchiladas at El Minuto Cafe (Credit: Jackie Tran)

This Mexican restaurant served its first Sonoran-style meal in 1936 and it’s still there, and still run by the same family. Directly opposite the Tucson Convention Center, you're able to call in an order and pop over when it's ready. Make sure their red Chili con Carne, Carne Seca Combination Plate, Chicken Enchiladas or the cheese crisp is on your radar.

Read our September 2019 article El Minuto Cafe: Four generations serving Sonoran-style Mexican specialties.

For more information, call (520) 882-4145 or visit elminutotucson.com

5 Points Market & Restaurant

756 S. Stone Ave.
Huevos Rancheros at 5 Points Market & Restaurant
Where to eat at the Tucson Gem Show: Huevos Rancheros at 5 Points Market & Restaurant (Credit: Jackie Tran)

A few minutes from the Convention Center, you'll stumble on a neighborhood hangout. 5 Points is a market, restaurant, and bakery rolled into one. Open from 8 a.m. - 2 p.m., you can grab a coffee, tuck into the Huevos Rancheros or Smoked Salmon Benedict for breakfast or enjoy a leisurely lunch.

Read our 2019 article 5 Points Market & Restaurant: Almost six years of nurturing community through food.

For more information, visit 5pointstucson.com.

The Coronet

198 W. Cushing St.
Herb Salad at the Coronet
Where to eat at the Tucson Gem Show: Herb Salad at the Coronet (Credit: Jackie Tran)

The Coronet, a charming, cozy space offering bistro fare, is also located across from the Convention Center. The dinner menu features delightful dishes such as the Grilled Pork Chop—served with ginger nutmeg tobacco cream, whipped sweet potatoes, roast seasonal fruit, raw honeycomb— or Beet & Halloumi Salad served with toasted hazelnut, shallot, and lemon tahini vinaigrette. And then there's that a killer cocktail list.

Read our August 2019 article PHOTO FEATURE: The Coronet to open on Cushing Street, August 30.

For more information, visit coronettucson.com.

Cup Cafe

311 E. Congress St.
Cast Iron Baked Eggs at Cup Cafe in Hotel Congress (Credit: Melissa Stihl)
Where to eat at the Tucson Gem Show: Cast Iron Baked Eggs at Cup Cafe in Hotel Congress (Credit: Melissa Stihl)

Cup Cafe has been named one of the top ten brunch spots in the USA in the past, and we’re not arguing. The restaurant, serving breakfast to dinner, is situated downtown inside the historic Hotel Congress. Although, there’s nothing historic about the quality of the cafe. If you're in the mood for decadence, the real star of the show is their Cast Iron Baked Eggs—you won’t be disappointed.

Read our March 2019 article Brunch Must-Have of the Week: Cast Iron Baked Eggs.

For more information, visit hotelcongress.com

The Little One

151 N. Stone Ave.
Pollo en mole negra at the Little One (Credit: S. Manuel)
Where to eat at the Tucson Gem Show: Pollo en mole negra at the Little One (Credit: S. Manuel)

The Little One, another sweet spot located in Tucson’s historic downtown district, is a sustainable restaurant that is always buzzing. The family restaurant is run by two of the Davila sisters, one of whom heads to Mexico regularly to not only buy fish supplies from local fishermen but catches some of them herself. The menu includes Latin American and Mexican dishes with rotating specials that will have you returning for more.

Top tips: The Little One is only open weekdays for breakfast and lunch and takes cash only—so be prepared (there are ATMs across the street if you need).

Read our 2019 article The Little One, Formerly Little Café Poca Cosa: Big on Heart & Flavor.

Keep up with Friends of the Little One on Facebook.

Looking for more nearby?

Check out our downtown and Fourth Avenue guides:

Other articles of interest

Whether you're from Tucson or visiting from out of town, let us know where you're going to eat out in the comments.

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