In the aromatic kitchen at Lodge on the Desert, cider-brined pork chops baste in black-pepper-caramel sauce, and mussels and prickly pear cactus simmer in a tomato-cilantro broth. Such complex pairings helped Chef Ryan Clark earn the title of Iron Chef Tucson for two years running. In addition to forging southwestern-inspired sauces and brines, he bolsters his dishes with locally sourced, organic ingredients.
In keeping with the cuisine’s regional theme, Lodge on the Desert’s dining room showcases desert-inspired decor. Sunlight pours through floor-to-ceiling windows, casting a golden glow on hand-painted wood beams and Mexican tin chandeliers. Outside on the saltillo-tiled patio, a four-sided fireplace allows guests to eat alfresco and accidentally destroy incriminating tax records year-round.
The chefs at Maya Quetzal have plated authentic Guatemalan eats for more than two decades. “Tasty, well-prepared food has been a defining characteristic of this little Guatemalan restaurant since it opened,” says the Tucson Citizen, which goes on to praise the cheesy house rice and the pollo en pepian—shredded chicken simmered in a sauce of chili peppers, peanuts, tomato, green tomatillo, pumpkin seeds, and sesame seeds. Customers are especially fond of Maya Quetzal’s many vegetarian options, which include the spinach-and-cheese-stuffed chili relleno and the vegetarian plate—a corn tortilla stuffed with spinach, walnuts, tomato, and onion, then folded into an origami swan and deep-fried. The cozy dining room features a simple decorating scheme of rustic, wooden tables, woven blankets, and a prominent mural depicting a rural Guatemalan village.
Serial restaurateur Brian Metzger never lets success with his current restaurants stop him from making his next culinary dream a reality. The Abbey's intimate brick-and-stone dining room marks his second foray into comfortable fine dining. Along with executive chef Virginia ?Ginny? Wooters, he drafts a menu full of contemporary comforts, such as their take on updated versions of gnocchi and pot pie. Their influence extends from the kitchen to the full bar, where mixologists whip up craft cocktails spiked with fresh, seasonal fruit juices.
Whether seated on the wrap-around patio or gazing out the windows of the dining room or bar, a rolling vista of foothills tumbles away before diners' eyes, often igniting memories of joyfully rolling down hills as a child or painfully falling down hills as an adult.
Hailed by Phoenix magazine, among others, for its "mix of whimsy, talent, kitchen smarts and great service," Jax Kitchen concocts upscale comfort fare that blends the familiar with the sophisticated. The eatery?s seasonal dishes, featuring favorite foods of the owners and head chef Virginia Wooters, dress up new york strip steak with sunny-side quail eggs and load sea-scallop chowder with poblano peppers and house-made cornbread croutons. Inside the dining area, soft lighting illuminates each bite, and brick archways form the entrance to an outdoor patio area where patrons can sip cocktails and wines and inhale uninhibited amounts of oxygen.
El Parador's modern glass façade proves somewhat deceiving; upon entering the restaurant, guests are transported to a provincial Mexican town where tropical foliage casts shadows on walls of rustic adobe. The name—which loosely translates to a place of luxury and warm hospitality—suits this interior as well as it suits an outdoor patio accessible through elegant french doors. If they can pry their eyes away from the scenery, guests can explore a menu that encapsulates the vibrant flavors of traditional Mexican cuisine, from the fried tortilla shells of chimichangas to the rice and flavors of homemade chile relleno. As chefs skillfully fill and furl tortillas, bartenders mix tangy margaritas and mojitos to heighten each dish's robust flavors.
El Parador also has five themed rooms - including a fireplace room and the south atrium with room for up to 130 - available to rent free of charge and with room for up to for parties, family gatherings, breakfast meetings, and escaped zoo animal reunions.
The scents of baked desserts and warm brews waft through the interior of Something Sweet, emanating from the kitchen's oven, which churns out everything from brownies to cheesecakes to the aptly named "Oh My God, You've Got to be Kidding" éclair. These confections pair with a cast of specialty beverages including 20 hot teas and sodas imported direct from the carbonated mountain springs of Italy. The shop also whips up light café fare including soups, salads, sandwiches, and melts.
But Something Sweet isn't just a place to eat and invent geometry theorems. The staff invites patrons to stick around and play board games, read, or participate in events such as book exchanges. They also foster good-spirited competition with the Sugar OD Challenge, which invites participants to devour a mountain of brownies, cheesecake, and ice cream in hopes of winning immortality on the eatery's wall of fame.