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.
5151 S. Country Club Rd.
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.
4841 S. 12th Ave.
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.
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.
2908 S. Fourth Ave.
View this post on Instagram
MICHA’S IS BACK!! ? ?The restaurant has a food truck set up in the vacant lot right across the street from their location on S. 4th Ave. After their business was damaged by a fire, owner Alex Franco says he is happy to be back making great food for his loyal customers. They hope to have the business back open by fall, but in the meantime, head down to the ?! #tacos #tucson #michas #foodtruck #localfood
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.
2602 S. Fourth Ave.
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.
130 S. Avenida Del Convento
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.
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.
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:
- 10 Edible Reasons to Visit the Mercado District
- If you haven’t visited MSA Annex yet, here’s what you’re missing
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.
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.
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.
198 W. Cushing St.
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.
311 E. Congress St.
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.
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
- 26 Best Restaurants in Tucson for a Business Lunch
- Where to eat on an expense account: brunch to dinner, we’ve got you covered
- Guide to 9 stops along the Sun Link for exceptional food & drink (MAP)
- 30 can’t-miss things to see, do & experience in Tucson
Whether you’re from Tucson or visiting from out of town, let us know where you’re going to eat out in the comments.