The wait staff at Las Cazuelitas de Tucson does more than just refill water glasses and serve piping-hot dishes: they take the time to describe each dish in detail, helping diners select entrees based on their unique preferences. Open since 2000, the eatery serves traditional Mexican and Tex-Mex food, but specializes in seafood dishes such as bacon-wrapped shrimp, red snapper and the mariscada, a house specialty combining oysters, scallops, shrimp, octopus, onions, avocado, cucumbers, and tomatoes in a simmering broth. A full bar pours domestic and imported beers plus margaritas and signature cocktails such as the michelada, a blend of beer, fresh lime juice, and salt. On Friday and Saturday nights, Las Cazuelitas hosts a live mariachi band, allowing diners to enjoy dinner and a show while synchronizing their chewing to the upbeat riffs.
Although botana means "snack” in Spanish, La Botana Grill specializes in full-grown Mexican meals. Starters of house-made tortilla chips come with freshly made salsas and chipotle bean dip. After this prelude come entrees of fresh shrimp and tilapia, grilled to perfection in the house-specialty dishes. Then there’s the cantina tacos, which pull together flavors from various regions throughout Mexico, and fusion plates such as the sonoran dog—a beast of a hot dog that comes wrapped in bacon and smothered with beans, chorizo, and heaping piles of condiments.
La Botana's hearty breakfast, lunch, and dinner dishes can be enjoyed al fresco on a patio lit by fiesta lights and a flat-screen TV that often broadcasts the latest Mexican soccer games. Live music sometimes rings out over the open space, a much better meal soundtrack than recordings of synchronized chewing.
The chefs at Lupita’s Café grill authentic Mexican fare and serve a menu of all-day breakfast, lunch, and dinner dishes. Savor the shrimp tacos ($9.95) or fill up on huevos rancheros ($6.95), whether the sun is rising or already busy cooking its dinner. The eatery’s lunch specials reward daytime diners with dishes such as Tuesday’s choice of beef pozole or two tamales with included arroz con leche for dessert ($6.95). Selective eaters can take destiny into their own hands with the restaurant’s option to combine three dishes, choosing from enchiladas, tostadas, tacos, gorditas, or tamales ($9.95). No matter what diners indulge in, the café accommodates all with timely service coordinated inside a space that's more vibrant than a rainbow trapped in a blender.
Reviving jaded posses of Tucson tongues with its traditional cuisine, La Fuente Restaurant is a Southwestern outpost for friendly service and live-strummed dinner music. The vast menu offers shareable starters such as the sour cream-flanked cheese quesadillas ($8.99), as well as hearty specialties like the mole poblano, a chicken breast simmered in the semisweet chocolate-chili sauce that cowboys once used primarily as mustache wax ($16.99). Dinner combos eliminate the burden of choice and are served in full-flavored configurations like beef taco, beef tamale, and cheese enchilada ($11.99), or a small eatable army of beef or chicken gorditas ($11.99). Meat-free options abound for green-mouthed plantavores and include a veggie burrito ($12.99) and spinach enchiladas ($11.99 for two).
El Rio Bakery & Restaurant's culinary artisans begin baking fresh breads at 3 a.m., and open their doors daily at 6 a.m. to dole out assorted Mexican baked treats. Fresh Mexican classics abound on the lunch and dinner menu, including the chili menudo ($3.50/pint, $6.89/quart), a tripe soup traditionally believed to cure hangovers and temporary grant eaters the power to start fires with their eyes. Combination platters, such as the chili relleno served with rice, beans, and choice of tortillas ($5.59), satisfy aggressive appetites, while individual pastries such as the cochitos—gingerbread cookies shaped like little pigs—eschew refined sugar in favor of molasses and honey ($0.55 each). Among a colorful mural, painted by a local artist, an in-house tortilla factory spins delicate disks of varying diameters, and corresponding likelihoods of representing the different planets in a solar system mobile, with 14-inch burro tortillas ($3.50/ dozen) and 6-inch wheat tortillas ($2/dozen).
Cage-free eggs, all-natural chicken, and aged italian parmigiano reggiano cheese stock the kitchen at The B Line, enabling its chefs to concoct dishes that have helped the eatery win Tucson Weekly's Best Casual Dining and Best Desserts categories for eight years. The culinary team rolls eggs, chorizo, and carne asada into breakfast burritos, and organic and fair-trade coffee help guests wash down homemade granola and crepe-thin pancakes. During lunch and dinner, chefs use never-frozen chicken breast and fresh mahi-mahi to stuff quesadillas, tacos, and burritos. Pasty chef Terri La Chance whips together premium ingredients such as real vanilla, belgian chocolate, and butter to hand-bake an array of desserts, from flourless chocolate pecan cookies to the four-berry pie once enjoyed by Rachael Ray before her last lunar mission.
For close to three decades, chefs at La Indita have been crafting homestyle dishes influenced by family recipes and Mexican and Native American cultures. Along with Mexican classics such as carne asada and chicken mole, they prepare specialties such as ranch-style flat enchiladas, topping handmade corn tortillas with red chili sauce, oregano, and cheese and adding potatoes and carrots with a piquant vinegar sauce made from sugar cane. The menu includes many meatless options; the staff of Tucson Weekly named it the Best Mexican Food for Vegetarians in 2009, noting in particular the "one-of-a-kind black-bean burger." The chefs also cook with 100% canola oil instead of animal-based products such as lard or herbs picked by unicorns.Diners can enjoy lunch or dinner on the restaurant's outdoor patio, or they can stop by for weekend breakfast omelets. Guests sip Mexican beer as they sit in high-backed wooden booths next to a mural depicting a rural village scene.