What is comfort food to you? For me, it's a bowl of steaming pho with a heaping pile of Thai basil. It's also a bacon breakfast burrito from Taco Shop at 1 a.m. with extra hot salsa.
But of course, comfort standards can vary drastically from person to person or even culture.
Comfort food is food that provides a nostalgic or sentimental value to someone, and may be characterized by its high caloric nature, high carbohydrate level, or simple preparation. The nostalgia may be specific to an individual, or it may apply to a specific culture.
For the sake of this article, we're going to arbitrarily stick with dishes commonly associated with grandma... and bagels.
Also note: some restaurants that would have made this list are temporarily closed at the moment. For now, we'll highlight the restaurants that have comfort classics available for take-out.
While bagels don't have the pajama-cozy sort of comfort, the provide comfort in the sense of normalcy in routine. If you start your day with a gourmet bagel and cup o' joe, your morning positivity is on the right track.
For the past several years, the Bagel Joint has been the place to get bagels made from scratch. The menu keeps it simple with the basics. They've been selling out early lately, so make sure to call ahead to place your order.
For more information and to place your order, call (520)329-8630.
Monsoon Chocolate is currently hosting a bagel pop-up called Bernie's Bagels for the rest of summer. While you can order a vegan bagel sandwich with a beautifully blistered black salt bagel, you can also order the basics and a bagel dog.
This pop-up is only lasting through the summer, so get it while you still can. And they also sell out early, so try to place your order within the first hour or two.
For more information and to place an order, visit monsoonchocolate.com.
Normally, I wouldn't expect readers to want a list of where to find meatloaf in Tucson. But since the demand for comfort food is so high right now, here you go.
When it comes to old-fashioned, wholesome cuisine, Blue Willow shines bright. But this ain't your grandma's meatloaf; it features locally raised Double Check Ranch Beef.
And of course, their signature omelettes and lasagnas are also available to-go.
For more information and to place your order, call (520) 327-7577 or visit bluewillowtucson.com.
Commoner & Co. has a short and sweet take-out menu with comfort classics such as meatloaf and shepherd's pie in bundles to feed two or four. And if you're trying to impress someone, order the fabulous goat cheese tart as well.
For more information, call (520) 257-1177 or visit commonertucson.com.
HiFalutin showcases comfort classics with their distinct southwestern flair. Their signature meatloaf comes in actual loaf form alongside basil mashed potatoes. You can also order the meatloaf in sandwich form.
For more information and to order, call (520) 297-0518 or visit hifalutinaz.com.
A southeast side staple, Saguaro has served up comfort classics for years. Their meatloaf features "grandma's pretty famous recipe" along with mashed potatoes and asparagus.
For more information, read our January 2019 article Saguaro Corners: Hearty Comfort Food, Live Music & Mountain Views.
For more information and to order, call (520) 886-2020 or visit saguarocorners.com.
While Southern food can be healthy, the crave-able dishes aren't known for being healthy. Think mac and cheese or fried anything.
Also, while barbecue isn't always Southern, a fair amount of it showcases Southern influences. For additional barbecue restaurants, read our February 2020 article Guide to 14 smokin' barbecue restaurants in Tucson.
Formerly known as Two Boots BBQ Shop, DA Boots shares their cuisine with Louisiana and Florida roots. Do not miss out on their collard greens.
For more information and to order, call (520) 347-5169. Keep up with DA Boots BBQ Shop on Facebook.
Although barbecue ribs are famous at Ken's, the stars are really the Southern sides. Also, don't miss out on the fried catfish, and when available, the Southern fried chicken.
For more information and to order, call (520) 745-4746 or visit kenshardwoodbbq.com.
One of Tucson's oldest barbecue restaurants, Mr. K's also has some mean hot links and sweet potatoes.
For more information, call (520) 792-9484. Keep up with Mr. K's Original BBQ on Facebook.
The Parish's menu features addictive one-of-a-kind dishes that will stick to your ribs. It's also impossible to talk while indulging in the Drunken Angel. For an easy and delicious date night with a movie, order the Bacon Popcorn and some cocktails to-go.
For more information and to order, call (520) 797-1233 or visit theparishtucson.com.
When it comes to Mexican food, the type of food that is classified as comfort food will vary possibly even more dramatically. For some, it will be a piping hot bowl of menudo. For others, it will be tacos dorados or enchiladas drowning in sauce and cheese. This short list with locations scattered around town will miss dozens of local favorites; feel free to share your favorites in the comments.
For delivery options, read our April 2020 article Guide to Mexican Food Delivery in Tucson.
For specialties from further south of the border, read our October 2019 article Guide to regional Mexican food from Baja California to Veracruz in Tucson.
Although you might be used to chips and salsa for free, go through the effort to buy some from the salsa queen at BOCA. And I'll go on the record saying that the AM Taco is one of my favorite tacos in Tucson.
For more information and to order, call (520) 777-8134 or visit bocatacos.com.
Chances are, you've attended a gathering catered with El Charro's mini-chimis. The restaurant has been around for literally a century, after all. Happy 100th Birthday, El Charro.
For more information and to order, visit elcharrocafe.com.
El Torero covers a wide area of the comfort food spectrum with Mexican and American classics ranging from a big ass carnitas cheese crisp, albondigas, and simple patty tacos to chef-driven takes on the double-double cheeseburger or mac and cheese with truffle hot sauce. The Torero Wings are also lit. And last but not least, they also sell the glorious Lerua's tamales.
For more information and to order, call (520) 622-9534 or visit eltorerotucson.com.
Nana's Tacos really do taste like nana made them. The simple combination of ground beef, peas, cheese, and lettuce in a crunchy shell effortlessly transport you back to simpler times.
For more information, call (520) 300-6289 or visit rolliestucson.com.
Salsa Verde may look like a chain from the outside, but it's indeed a local restaurant with excellent Mexican food. Furthermore, you can order classics such as chicken tortilla soup from the drive-thru.
For more information and to order, call (520) 886-6202. Keep up with Salsa Verde on Facebook.
You don't need a nonna to have grown up with comforting red sauce. Whether it be a proper bolognese or a laid back Sunday gravy, here are a handful of exceptional options.
For additional options, January 2020 read our article Guide to 30 Italian restaurants dishing up hearty portions & family recipes.
This young restaurant started out as take-out focused, so they were able to quickly adapt to this dynamic climate. While bolognese and tomato and basil are their staple red sauces, they also feature weekly specials with other preparations such as sugo all'amatriciana and arrabbiata. Get a loaf of soft focaccia and some cookies while you're at it.
For more information, call (520) 365-3500 or visit cerestucson.com.
While Fresco is best known for pizza, they also carry some exceptional pasta made from scratch. Check out their lasagnas; the meat lasagna features house-made pasta, sauce, meatballs, AND sauce. The veggie alternative, the eggplant lasagna, also includes porcini mushrooms *insert gourmet salivating here*. Also, check out their mac and cheese with house-made Andouille sausage.
For more information and to order, call (520) 881-5555 or visit frescopizzeria.com.
Joe's Special isn't something you'd find in Italy, but it's something you'll find deep in the heart of countless Tucsonans. It's been around for over half a century now, so if you're a local, chances are you've enjoyed it as a child. It gives you the type of joy that only copious quantities of garlic, cheese, and sauce can.
For more information, call (520) 790-4702 or visit mamalouisas.com.
Tucson is packed with breakfast diners, so just look at this article instead and don't forget to contact them to check their hours: Guide to over 30 essential Tucson breakfast diners.
What Tucson take-out comfort food can't you live without? Let us know in the comments.
Jackie Tran is a Tucson-based food writer, photographer, culinary educator, and owner-chef of the food truck Tran's Fats. Although he...