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"These are a few of my favorite things..." -Colby Elliott

Guest Guide: Colby Elliott’s Favorites

Updated March 6, 2024

When I first moved to town, I asked anyone I met, “What is your favorite Tucson restaurant? And you can only pick ONE.”


“No way!”

“It totally depends on the kind of food!”

And every respondent was absolutely correct.

Tucsonans live in Restaurant Disneyland, where if there isn’t a dish or style of food that’s being cooked passionately and well…you probably don’t need to eat it.But I was trying to get at something deeper.

When you get the ONE place from a person, it’s a few things. It’s what they like. It’s what’s special to them. And it’s probably their go-to. I go to that place, try the food and I think about meeting them. And if I love it too, well, that is a kindred foodie.

So here is a list of discoveries and gathered spots from my own exploration and those other adventurous eaters…who had to choose just…one…place. But don’t get me wrong, for every one of these recommendations there are at least three backups. There are many, many wonderful attractions in Restaurant Disneyland.

These are a few of my favorite things…er…places!

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Paella Valencia at Contigo Latin Kitchen (Photo credit: Jackie Tran)

Contigo Latin Kitchen

Need a lovely date night, right at sunset? Sit on the patio at Contigo with a cool gazpacho and a nice AlberiÑo. Follow it with a Cochinita Pibil and your favorite Spanish red.

a picture of a coffee shop
EXO Roast Co. on Sixth Avenue (Photo credit: Jackie Tran)

Exo Roast Co. – 6th Ave.

I’m gonna stay with coffee for just a moment longer because…do we really need a reason? Sometimes I want coffee cold and when that’s the case, I desperately crave the Chiltepin Cold Brew from EXO. The mix of chocolate, the coolness of the brew and the slight burn on the back of the throat from the pepper is the best.

(Photo Courtesy of Maico Restaurant Mexican Food)

Maico Restaurant Mexican Food

If you need something simple and perfect, it’s hard to do better than the breakfast burrito at Maico. You know you’ve found something dependable, affordable and seriously good when every time I’ve been there there’ve also been folks from the air force base in groups of 4 or more.

Big enough to eat half and save the rest for lunch, but who has that much restraint?

Bun Bo Hue from Pho Can Tho (Photo credit: Jackie Tran)

Pho Can Tho

Somedays you just need a nice warm bowl of soup. And noodles, and flank steak, and tripe and bean sprouts and oh my gosh all the good things! If I’m feelin’ rundown and think my immune system needs a little boost, a bowl of Pho recharges the batteries to 100 percent. It all starts with a great broth, and they absolutely have that.

Jalapeno Jelly Scone from Raging Sage (Photo credit: Dana Sullivan)

Raging Sage Coffee Roasters

Any day I’m low on energy I can stop in at Ragin’ Sage and get the ultimate treat/pick me up…the Double Cubano. And if you want to take it from treat to decadence, grab a slice of the Chocolate Midnight Cake to go with it.

Curry Lamb at Sher-E-Punjab (Photo credit: Jackie Tran)


When I was an exchange student, I lived in England for a year. But fish and chips weren’t the revelation, Indian cuisine was! Everywhere I’ve lived since, I have find my favorite. In Tucson, it’s Shere-e Punjab. And my perfect dish the Lamb Vindaloo. Get it spicy, just be sure to get the raita with it so you don’t have regrets the next day.

Teas & Treats at Transit Tea (Photo credit: Adam Lehrman)

Transit Tea

I love mixing and matching strange combinations of flavors (and even cuisines…see below) and Transit Tea is a veritable laboratory of experimentation. Types of teas (Black, green hibiscus,) in different styles (iced, hot, snow, even soda) fruit, and flavors make for fun mad science. My go to is a Hibiscus Tea Snow with Wanderer flavor and Focus Upgrade. The Wanderer Flavor is Elderflower, Pomegranate, and Anise. Yes, just a hint of black licorice! It’s a whole lotta flavor.

Spinach Salad from Tumerico (Photo credit: Jackie Tran)

Tumerico on 6th Street

When people ask me for my “one place” this is what I say: Tumerico.

Ropa Viejo, Frida Khalho Tostadas, Al Pastor Burrito. I think we’ve ordered everything on the menu.

Although I’ve never set foot in the physical space, this is THE most popular restaurant at my house. I’m by no means a vegan, but some of my family are. And the ones that aren’t, never miss the meat at this vegan/vegetarian treasure.

Birria Pizza at Zio Peppe (Photo credit: Jackie Tran)

Zio Peppe

“What can I say about this place except that it is where poetry and food meet. I’ve been there for themed multi-course dinners and quick pop ins for a glass of wine with appetizers. Always good and always interesting. Start with the Elote Arancini, it has a lime crema that bursts with brightness. And for a main course the Beef Short Rib Peposo matched with the Mision 20 Baja red is perfect. Need the trifecta? The Chocotaconoli nails the landing and you‘ll know you’ve been to heaven.

Want to keep it one-course simple? The Figgy Stardust is a wonderful pizza as is the El Rustico Birria.

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