Sonoran Restaurant Week is back for its fifth year, and this year there are close to 100 participating restaurants! But with such a diverse list of restaurants with varying prix-fixe menus, how do you decide?
My usual strategy is to go for a mix of menus, but I tend to lean towards the $45 prix-fixe Sonoran Restaurant Week menus from my favorite restaurants. This curated list of three-course prix-fixe menus focuses on restaurants that I have experienced on multiple visits. I also wanted to highlight a list that is spread across Tucson to help provide something for everyone.
Last year, I first experienced Zio Peppe when I attended my first Knife Fight, a philanthropic culinary competition that is hosted by the Gastronomic Union of Tucson. From both a service and food perspective, I was impressed. Despite the restaurant being packed, the food not only came out in a timely manner but was also visually impressive as it was tasteful. Most recently, I indulged in the Elote Arancini and the El Rustico Birria Pizza, which features Chef Juan Almanza’s iconic beef birria. So for me, this is number one on my list.
What I especially appreciate about this Sonoran Restaurant Week menu is the inclusion of some items from the main menu alongside some off-the-menu creations. This is a clever strategy for a restaurant, allowing new restaurant-goers to experience both the regular offerings and something new.
When my husband and I visit Zio Peppe this weekend, we plan to fully explore the menu by trying the various starters and entrees.
First, let’s dive into the appetizers, if you have not yet tried Chef Devon Sanner’s Elote Arancini then you are missing out; Arancini are typically too heavy for me, but I am obsessed with these! What balances out the street corn and rich risotto are the lighter elements of lime, Tajín, and queso fresco.
But, I’m also beyond excited to try the other appetizer, the Chilled Avocado Soup. It’s served with shrimp, sweet mango, a unique chipotle creme fraiche, and lobster oil. The Beef Short Rib Peposo with polenta also caught my eye since I haven’t had the chance to try it yet from the regular menu.
Chef Maria Mazon is a genius when it comes to modern Mexican cuisine and salsa recipes! While there’s only one option for the starter, entree, and dessert of this $45 prix-fixe Sonoran Restaurant Week menu, it’s still on my list for a few good reasons.
Firstly, the menu is well-executed and flows nicely from course to course. It starts with a shaved carrot and parsnip salad that’s tossed with pistachios, pepitas, and an aromatic achiote vinaigrette. The final touch is requesón, a Mexican cheese similar in consistency to that of ricotta, but more acidic.
Secondly, the pozole de pato immediately piqued my interest! As a huge fan of both duck and pozole, I'm excited to try this unique combination for the first time. I feel the fattiness of the duck will go quite well in replacing the more traditionally used pork. It’s even served with bolillo bread, so you can soak up all of the broth.
For dessert, it wraps up with another one of my favorite things: olive oil cake. I haven’t tried Chef Maria’s desserts yet, but I feel this will be a fantastic introduction! Olive oil cakes generally tend to be a bit on the dense side, so I expect that it should complement the drizzle made with preserved figs and chiltepín honey.
Wildflower is a beautiful restaurant that I enjoy visiting for lunch dates or nights out. While the interior with wainscot walls and blue velvet cushions is elegant, my favorite dining spot is the garden-like covered patio.
If you have a group of four or more, this would be the best spot due to the variety of menu items. Over the weekend, we actually dined here with out-of-town guests. For the $45 prix-fixe Sonoran Restaurant Week menu, you can choose from: four different starters, seven entrees, two desserts, and a glass of red or white wine. You can even upgrade to a full-size bottle for $15, which can be shared with the table or enjoyed individually and corked up afterward.
This time around, I just picked out my favorite menu items that were featured on the Sonoran Restaurant Week menu. Having dined at Wildflower for a good chunk of my life, I have enjoyed much of the menu.
For starters, you can’t go wrong with the smoked salmon with chive crème fraiche on a crunchy potato galette that is served with a small mixed greens salad. But if this isn’t your thing, there’s also a traditional salad or savory and sweet Brussels sprouts.
Moving onto the entree, I love the Atlantic salmon! It’s served with tender, sherry-glazed beets, gratin with a subtle horseradish kick, and arugula. The salmon is a regular menu item for me, but I’ve also enjoyed the $45 prix-fixe menu’s pan-roasted chicken and the grilled shrimp and avocado bowl. If you want something a bit more indulgent, then I’d recommend barbecue short rib.
To wrap things up, my husband and I are usually torn on what dessert to get, so I love that we could each get our own. I prefer the ooey gooey banoffee triple that consists of decadent dulce de leche mousse, banana slices, vanilla creme, and graham cracker crumbles. My husband, on the other hand, can’t get enough of the bars of sin: praline chocolate cookie topped with cappuccino mouse and served with vanilla gelato.
For me, the highlights of this year’s $45 prix-fixe Sonoran Restaurant Week menu are the seafood appetizer and the seafood entree. I’m also thrilled to see the return of the chocolate ganache and buttermilk panna cotta since both are outstanding. If you’re dining with another person, I recommend ordering one of each.
The Baja Bay Scallop Ceviche Verde is something I knew I would love from Tito & Pep since I’ve tried other chilled seafood dishes, like the aguachile and crudo plates in the past. This particular plate is prepared with tomatillo, cilantro, and jalapeño, so you can expect it to have a balanced amount of spice. To add some crunch to the mix, it’s served with totopos.
Moving onto the entree, I’m looking forward to trying the Siete Mares Verde since it’s something I’m not familiar with. But I have no doubt it will not disappoint based on the vegetable pozole and most of the menu that I’ve eaten through at Tito & Pep. Siete Mares Verde is a Mexican Seven Seas soup with Sea of Cortez seafood and chile verde.
There’s still time to partake in Sonoran Restaurant Week! I plan on visiting Zio Peppe and Tito & Pep, as well as some $25 menus before everything wraps up this Sunday. Don’t forget to make a reservation!
This is just a quick list of some of the best deals happening during Sonoran Restaurant Week. But remember — ALL of the menus offered for Sonoran Restaurant Week are a deal. It was a requirement to participate! So — take advantage! Use this week to explore all that Tucson's incredible restaurant scene has to offer without breaking the bank. That's what Restaurant Week is all about!
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Natalie is a born and raised Tucsonan. When not drinking matcha or enjoying a nice dinner, you can find her cycling around Tucson. For more food and travel content, follow her at @happilypinkblog on Instagram.