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Photo courtesy of Hotel Congress

Where to Eat During the 2024 Tucson Gem Show

Updated March 4, 2024

Every January, the Tucson Gem Show transforms the city into a showcase of precious stones, minerals, and diverse cultural experiences. Renowned globally, this event draws gem-loving enthusiasts, collectors, and curious souls alike as it permeates the city, inviting locals and travelers to engage with the diversity that Tucson both welcomes and represents. Amidst this vibrant atmosphere, we’d be amiss to leave out the culinary gems that come to light during this two-week extravaganza, offering a taste of the city’s flavors and food heritage.

This list is intended to be your guide to some of the top food spots that we suggest you add to your Tucson Gem Show agenda.

Learn how we create our guides here.

Huevos Rancheros at 5 Points Market & Restaurant (Photo by Jackie Tran)

5 Points Market & Restaurant

5 Points Restaurant & Market is a neighborhood hangout where great food, coffee, and groceries converge. Co-owned by Jasper Ludwig and Brian Haskins, this community-focused establishment embodies a passion for nurturing connections through food. With a strong commitment to sustainable foodways, 5 Points strives to “do it right” with the resources at hand and a clear mission to promote the health and well-being of everyone involved, including staff, suppliers — local farmers, artisans, and vendors — and their guests. Their emphasis isn’t just on meals but on building a thriving community rooted in wholesome, sustainable practices.

Must-try dishes include the Gorditas Infladas and the Smoked Beet Sandwich.

a picture of food
Kurobuta Pork Jowl at Agustin Kitchen (Photo credit: Jackie Tran)

Agustin Kitchen

Take the streetcar to its final stop and you will arrive at Agustin Kitchen, a modern American restaurant with classic French techniques.

Relish over a menu of Braised Mushrooms and Oysters in their bright and open dining space. After your meal walk around the Mercado San Agustin courtyard and enjoy the nearby shops.

Cafe Desta (Photo credit: Jackie Tran)

Cafe Desta

Meaning “joy” in Amharic, the official language of Ethiopia, Café Desta stands as Tucson’s second-oldest restaurant, offering a journey into the culinary heritage of East Africa. Here, patrons are treated to an array of Ethiopian dishes, from tikil-gomen — a mix of cabbage, potatoes, and carrots — to expertly prepared fish, and lamb and beef tips seared in a buttery kibé sauce. For the full experience, consider sharing a combo plate, like the Combo for Two, allowing you to ssample a medley of flavors stemming from spices imported directly from Ethiopia, ensuring a truly genuine taste of East African cuisine.

a piece of cake on a plate with a fork
Vegan quiche at Coronet Cafe (Photo credit: Hannah Hernandez)

Coronet Cafe

At Coronet Cafe, the driving force remains a deep love for food and creating memorable experiences. Serving up meticulously sourced ingredients and a commitment to sustainability showcase the dedication of their staff, the collaborative genius of this team is evident on the plate and in the environment they create, where everyone is cared for as they savor intentional — and tasty — food and drinks. There are always a few vegan options on the menu, but be sure to ask for specials, and don’t think twice about trying their Shakshuka.

Cup Cafe

Nestled within the historic Hotel Congress, Cup Cafe is a Tucson institution, beckoning tourists and locals alike with its charming shotgun-style layout, expansive windows, and inviting patio. With a menu that, while relatively unchanging, brims with beloved dishes for breakfast — the Cast Iron Eggs are exquisite — lunch, and dinner, regulars appreciate the occasional small tweaks, specials, and promotions that add a touch of excitement to the familiar fare. Cup caters to diverse palates, and diners can look forward to exploring an array of desserts, wines, and cocktails while they’re there.

Carne Seca Burrito at El Charro Cafe (Photo credit: Jackie Tran)

El Charro Café Downtown

With a history dating back to 1922, El Charro holds the title of the nation’s oldest Mexican restaurant in continuous operation by the same family. Steeped in tradition, this beloved establishment offers a menu that pays homage to authentic Sonoran cuisine, featuring timeless classics like carne seca and the iconic chimichanga. The warm and welcoming atmosphere, coupled with the vibrant flavors, makes El Charro Café a must-visit destination for those seeking an immersive experience in Tucson’s culinary legacy.

El Chinito Gordo (Photo credit: Jackie Tran)

El Chinito Gordo

At El Chinito Gordo, a fusion of traditional Mexican style and contemporary aesthetics greets visitors, creating an inviting interior. The restaurant’s name weaves together the diverse cultures and ethnicities of its owners into a unique and cohesive concept where diners can indulge in their menu full of house-made offerings, which include a recipe for Mexican bread that expertly stands up to the salsa — available in mild or spicy options — and the addictive Churro Nachos.

Carne Seca Combo Plate at El Minuto Cafe (Photo credit: Jackie Tran)

El Minuto Cafe

El Minuto Cafe has served “fine Mexican food” since 1939 in Tucson’s Barrio Viejo neighborhood.  El Minuto offers items like Shredded Beef Chimichangas and their Combination Plate with a beef taco, tamale, cheese enchilada, and beans. After your meal, take a walk around the historic neighborhood and take in the colorful homes and scenery.

a pizza sitting on top of a wooden table
Jaime's Pizza Kitchen (Photo by Hannah Hernandez)

Jaime’s Pizza Kitchen

“We’re passionate about what we do. Everything is still made from scratch,” said Gabriel Moreno, owner and chef of Jaime’s Pizza Kitchen. “Everything’s got our entire heart and soul in it, and it will continue that way as long as this brand is alive.” From their pizza and salads to their garlic knots and sauce, we can vouch for the taste of that depth of care.

 

 

 

A plate of tacos
Al Pastor Tacos at La Chaiteria (Photo credit: Jackie Tran)

La Chaiteria

La Chaiteria, a vibrant gem on Tucson’s west side and sister concept of acclaimed Tumerico, introduces a community space adorned with vibrant murals featuring Latin and Indian paintings, a salsa bar, and a selection of retail Mexican goods. The chalkboard menu unveils an array of Latin-inspired dishes, including signature vegetarian and vegan options by chef and owner, Wendy Garcia, complemented by an expanded latte menu featuring flavors like Mole, Mazapan, Saffron, and more, ensuring a fusion of flavors and a unique cultural experience.

Parisian Gnocchi at Maynards Market Kitchen (Photo credit: Jackie Tran)

Maynard’s Market & Kitchen

Maynard’s offers a welcoming blend of comfort and innovation, which is reflective in its menu. Whether you’re seeking a quick bite on the go or a relaxed atmosphere to unwind with friends, Maynard’s caters to all tastes. From breakfast delights like the Baconeggandchez and Greenchorizoeggandchez to a selection of freshly baked pastries, artisan coffee, salads, sandwiches, and charcuterie snack packs, each dish reflects a commitment to quality and flavor. The morning menu transitions into an array of beverage options, including premium whiskies, curated cocktails, and an impressive selection of beer and wine, proving that Maynard’s is more than a dining destination; it’s an inviting space where traditions meet contemporary tastes.

Rainbow Poke Bowl at OBON (Photo by Jackie Tran)

OBON

If you’re in the mood for sushi or ramen, Obon is the place to be. They’re all about mixing the old with the new to create dishes that will blow your mind. Whether you stop by for their amazing Happy Hour menu, their bao and sushi roll offerings, or to sip on a bowl of ramen, your options will be stacked and always leave you feeling pleased with your choice.

a room filled with furniture and a fire place
(Photo courtesy of Perche' No Italian Bistro)

Perche’ No Italian Bistro

Perche’ No is an Italian bistro that seamlessly blends the charm of traditional recipes with the excitement of contemporary creations. The menu is a testament to the chefs’ passion, featuring a mix of timeless favorites and innovative specials that never fail to delight. Among the standout dishes are the Ravioli di Zucca and the Penne al’Alce. The name Perche’ No, which means “Why Not” in Italian, reflects the owners’ journey back into the culinary world, driven by an irresistible opportunity and a longing for the joy that sharing food brings.

 

 

 

Deep dish at Rocco's Little Chicago (Photo credit: Mark Whittaker)

Rocco’s Little Chicago

The authenticity of their Chicago-style deep-dish pizza, a rarity done well outside the Windy City, has earned Rocco’s numerous awards and accolades, including a feature on Food Network’s “Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives” with Guy Fieri. Don’t get us wrong, their thin-crust pizzas are excellent as well, and Rocco’s isn’t just about pizza, though; they’ve also gained local acclaim for their wings, an undisputed favorite.

an overhead photo of tacos and condiments
(Photo courtesy of Seis Kitchen)

Seis Kitchen – Mercado

Seis Kitchen is a renowned destination in Tucson, Arizona, celebrated for its regionally-inspired Mexican cuisine. The restaurant is well-known for its authentic and delicious birria tacos and its commitment to quality, with breakfast, lunch, and dinner being served all day. Seis Kitchen also stands out with its innovative menu items like “The Bomb”, a soft tortilla wrap filled with beef, chicken, bacon, beans, rice, cheddar, tomato, lettuce, and mayo.

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