Fall has arrived and with the shift in season comes a return of flavors associated with it, some of which we've seen reflected on seasonal menus around town. We've also seen an increase in overall menus, from the return of local favorite, Karuna's Thai Plate, to the introduction of the much-anticipated Mojo Cuban Kitchen & Rum Bar.
Here's a look back at what the Tucson Foodie team enjoyed the most in October. Not only are these reminders of the dishes we ate, but they can also be a guide for your own decisions on what to eat here in Tucson.
I had the pleasure of sampling some Cuban cuisine from Mojo which has me really excited to try the rest of their menu. I went with the Taste of Havana. It comes with a sample of Ropa Vieja, Mojo Chicken, and Lechon Asado. All items were incredibly well seasoned and the ample portions ensured I had leftovers. I also had a (rum) flight that consisted of Pisco, Agricole, and Cachaça.
I got to check out Terra Alta Bistro with Sariya Jarasviroj recently. The ambiance is cozy and homey, almost familiar. The cheeseboard that we got to sample was plentiful with an assortment of treats that would pair well with whatever you were tasting. The current chef is also the Wilhelm Vineyards' winemaker.
The idea of living without Karuna's Thai was something I just couldn't deal with... Lucky for me and the rest of Tucson we don't have to because they are back. The vegetarian Thai Fried Rice is a perfect dish. The colors in the dish alone are mesmerizing, but, I got to tell you, there is nothing like the juicy pop of tomato that you get from a perfect bite of this rice. it is wild. Run don't walk to devour this dish.
Celebrating an October birthday at The Delta, I was treated to a Bougie Donut for dessert. The filling was described as sweet foie gras cream, the topping called a spiced mole glaze. Both foie gras and mole were too subtle for me to taste but I can attest that the donut was delicious and that I could not blow out the birthday sparkler. I had to douse it in my water glass.
Del Cielo just released their new menu, and the Vegan Sonoran Hot Dog is now available anytime. The Vegan Breakfast Plate is still one of my top Del Cielo favorites.
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Penelope’s “Pammy” with no mozzarella + jalapeños was pretty dang good.
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The Steelhead Gravlax Plate at Meyer Avenue Cafe comes with perfectly toasted crostini (a tender crunch with a moist interior), zesty horseradish labneh, and an Israeli salad for a light, satisfying breakfast.
Quail Wellington from The Dutch: Tastes like chicken (but way better).
The Chicken and Waffles at Janet & Rays skips the bells and whistles and simply serves really good fried chicken with a really good waffle. Although if you do like the bells and whistles, they have Heath Bar and Peach Cobbler Chicken and Waffles available.
The thin and lightly flavored slices of octopus made this Octopus Carpaccio the star of PY Steakhouse’s Halloween Dinner. Paired with fresh herbs and fennel to add a crunch to the smooth tenderness of the octopus, this dish was every bit as elegant as it sounded and was almost too pretty to eat. Almost.
Once again I have to give a big shout-out to Tucson Foodie’s very own vegan-about-town Hannah for inspiring Paul Reyes, chef and owner of Ciao Down, to create a gloriously meatless and cheese-free pizza that is to die for. Okay, there’s cheese on it but it's vegan cheese and it's actually delicious and melty vegan cheese. Tangy marinated jackfruit takes the place of any protein you might be missing, although you won’t miss the meat at all. The vegan pizza is finished with bright and peppery arugula that just brings it all home. With a beer from the Tucson Hop Shop across the patio, I might as well just set up a cot and tent because I ain't leavin’. Sorry, not sorry about it.
A few weeks ago, I was extremely fortunate to have written about The Lobby, mainly because it introduced me to their Classic Burger. It's insane how tasty this thing is. First off, the burger is big, it's bold, it boasts quality cheddar cheese, pickles, lettuce, tomatoes, and thousand island dressing. That’s it and that’s all you need. Ordering their classic burger with a longer cook time than medium rare and you are doing yourself a meaty misfortune. This is a burger to be savored and appreciated and I highly suggest scheduling yourself unavailable for at least half an hour, minimum, while eating it. To make matters even better, The Lobby fries are some of the best in Tucson. There. I said it. So gosh darn good.
What else would you expect from the Surly Wench, that infamous bar on Fourth Avenue, painted black, playing punk rock and paying it forward with honest drinks and really good food, to have a fiery cocktail on their menu? One of my house favorites they serve has to be the Prickly Heat Margarita because it is both yummy and spicy. Like kind of stupid spicy. That’s because it is made with hot pepper-infused tequila, prickly pear syrup, and rimmed with tajin. With images of Baphomet hanging on the wall, a demon overlooking the bar, and a burlesque show from Hell happening, the Prickly Heat Margarita is the perfect companion on your way to devilishly boozy salvation. Hail Surly!
Just got the Chinese chorizo carbonara from Noodies. Really good, really rich, and spicy. This is my first Chinese Chorizo dish, and I hope it's not my last. Cheers!
The best thin crust pizza in town comes from Rocco’s Little Chicago.
Also, the beef tacos with rice and beans from El Minuto, another long-time fave.
The Gang Panang with shrimp, Thai spicy, from Karuna’s Thai Plate. The balance of sweet and heat that traveled through this creamy dish made every bite at least as good as the last. 10/10 will be back for more.
Go try a Batido (a Cuban milkshake) at Mojo. It’s similar to an American milkshake, but with more exotic flavors. Mojo offers guava, mango, and trigo. The trigo (puffed wheat) is perhaps the most interesting. It tastes like cereal milk. I couldn’t stop drinking it. Insider tip #1: if you ask to make it vegan you’ll get oat milk + an extra spoonful of sugar instead of condensed milk. Yum. Insider tip #2: if you order a shot of dark rum and pour it on top, you just made yourself a boozy milkshake.
Portobello Cap Katsu Sando at Fatboy Sandos. I don’t normally love a portobello but the way this was breaded and fried gave it a very satisfying crust, and the seasoning and sauce on this sandwich gave it a flavor I can only describe as "addicting."
Street Noodles at Obon (Spicy Yakisoba, Chicken, Egg, Bean Sprouts, Peanuts) — ask to make it vegan.
The Quesadilla-Birria Street Tacos at La Chingada are some of the best I’ve had in recent history. What really pulls them together are the salsas they serve alongside — sweet, bitter, acidic, and fresh to cut through the rich, fatty decadence of the meat.
The Stuffed Squash at Noble Hops, which is roasted acorn squash with quinoa, tart cherries, greens, pepitas, and their “green goddess” salad dressing was an October Winner for the Marana physician and Foodie Fan.