Each tamale at Tucson Tamale Company is a hand-rolled, gently steamed, gluten-free masterpiece perfected from years of experimentation—making the eatery's constantly changing menu an art gallery for the mouth, only without any debonair art thieves attempting to make off with your taste buds. Former Fortune 500 executive turned passionate tamale chef Todd Martin starts each tamale with a starchy corn base known as masa, then builds on it with a wild mix of meat, vegetables, spices, and cheese before steaming it inside a cornhusk. The most recent board of fare features the vegan New Delhi tamale that's stuffed with vegetable curry, carrots, peas, sweet potatoes, corn, onions, coconut milk, and yellow curry. The meaty JoJo consists of chipotle beef, jalapeño masa, and cheese, and expels a spiciness that travels at least four circles into Dante's Inferno. For something sweeter, try the Boise's blend of sweet potatoes roasted with sun-dried tomatoes and wrapped in yam masa. The Wisconsin grilled cheese (comprised of cheese, more cheese, and trace amounts of cheese) puts a bold twist on a classic comfort food. Depending on the range of your stomach's rage, choose one tamale ($2.95, $4.95 with side), two tamales ($5.39, $6.29 with side), or feed the whole choir with a family platter ($24.95 for eight tamales, two large sides, and salsa).
Papagayo's dinner menu and pared-down lunch menu offer traditional south-of-the-border treats and elegant chef-created entrees. Pass around a plate of the chimichiquitas (a combination of mini chimichangas, $10.25) to your hungry synchronized hurdling team before leaping simultaneously into the main course. Tamale traditionalists will take heart in Papagayo's wide selection of familiar house specialties, such as the fresh, green chiles rellenos ($13.95) or cabbage-topped shrimp tacos ($15.95). The culinarily curious will want to explore Executive Chef Maria Mazon’s creative creations: Milanesas de puerco ($16) boasts a plate of boneless, breaded pork chops lightly fried and served alongside an eggroll stuffed with chipotle mashed spuds, and the pollo en salsa de chile morron ($16) features a spice-rubbed chicken breast grilled and cozily blanketed in a decadent red-pepper cream sauce.
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).
The chefs at Nana's Kitchen concoct a classic menu of sizzling tacos, burritos, and desserts according to recipes the proprietor learned from her grandmother, a restaurant owner in Agua Prieta, Mexico. A juicy, grilled Angus-beef flank steak cozies up to a love-struck cheese enchilada in the tampiqueña dinner special ($14.59). Alternately, munch the fried-egg-battered green pepper of the chili relleno ($10.98), or excavate savory ground beef and potatoes from the piping-hot interior of the Nana's Special burrito wrapped in a homemade tortilla ($8.99). For dessert, the spongy pastel de las tres leches bathes in three kinds of milk to acquire a rich, creamy texture and maintain a youthful complexion ($5.59). On some weekend nights, guests can abscond to the full bar to sip several dozen varieties of tequila—not included in today's Groupon—as they groove to live mariachi music.
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.