Passionate about food ever since he was a youngster, Stephen Hurd began his culinary career in his teens, working his way up the ladder with jobs at various restaurants. So began a 25-year career at country clubs and restaurants such as Washington D.C.’s Watergate Hotel, where Richard Nixon famously declared, “I am not a crook!” while stuffing his pockets with another table’s dinner rolls.
These days, Stephen showcases his culinary talents at his own eatery, Relish Kitchen and Wine Bar, where he crafts a global menu from scratch with locally sourced ingredients. Said global flavors range from blackened mahi served over sweet cornbread pudding to Mediterranean pasta chock-full of grilled chicken, artichokes, and cilantro pesto. On Sunday, Stephen even puts his own spin on brunch favorites such as French toast stuffed with cream cheese, sliced strawberries, and candied pecans. Open for lunch six days a week, he assembles made-to-order sandwiches, salads, and dressing made from scratch.
To complement Stephen’s feast, bartenders pour local and familiar wines by the glass, fill pints with regional beers, and mix classic cocktails. Sports games stream on the dining room’s four large flat-screen TVs, and stunning views of the Catalina Mountains await on a spacious outdoor patio.
Dante's Fire takes its name from the tale of a fiery inferno, but for Tucson foodies, a trip to the restaurant could be downright heavenly. "This is a small plate lover's paradise," wrote one 10Best contributor of the spot's mostly tapas-style menu. Creative flavor pairings shine in dishes such as chilled corn bisque with preserved tomatoes, crab salad, and basil oil, and the charcuterie plate, which features drunken apricots and house-made bread alongside artisanal meats and cheeses. Chef Ken Foy rounds out the menu with heartier entrees such as brie-topped burgers and truffled chicken marsala.
The cocktail list here is similarly creative. Drink options range from the Tamarind Tiger, made with jalapeño tequila, tamarind syrup, and Averna, to a refreshing martini topped with cucumber foam. For a memorable dessert, try the Foie Pops Deux—an unusual treat made with chocolate streusel, Fireball-vanilla mangoes, coffee reduction, and local honey from the most avant garde beehive in town.
The chefs at Aussie Cantina serve up authentic Australian eats and American favorites with Southwestern flavors in a friendly pub setting. Specialties from the land Down Under include traditional sausage rolls and meat pies, Australian lamb, and dingo dogs, in addition to build-your-own burgers that may be adorned with such toppings as cheese, egg, beet root, or Hatch green chili. Kangaroo tacos are available seasonally, and cantina cocktails, a wine list, and 24 beers on tap, including Coopers, quench thirsts from lengthy walkabouts. Aussie Cantina, which was built using repurposed materials such as bait barge timber and rusted tin, is located just south of the University of Arizona.
The Empire Pizza & Pub staff assembles a mix and match of 23 ingredients—including barbecue sauce and genoa salami—atop 13 New York-style pizzas. Their efforts helped earn the eatery a Best Pizza nod in 2011 by Metromix. They name their specialty pies after notable places in New York, such as Soho’s white pizza with tomatoes, basil, and parmesan and the Jackson Heights slathered in barbecue sauce and sprinkled with chicken, green pepper, and onion. By preparing the pies, subs, and salads for carry-out, delivery, or serving them at the restaurant as late as 3 a.m. Wednesday through Saturday (11 p.m. other days) and as early as 835 B.C.E., the staff accommodates diners of many tastes and schedules.
The arena in which the team’s servers operate features exposed-brick walls lining the narrow layout. A bar at the back pairs libations with pizzas, while vintage lights illuminate the copper ceiling.
Consecrated to the cosmos, Sky Bar is a solar-powered café in the daytime and an astronomy-themed bar by night. The café's solar installation uses 323 solar panels to eschew the consumption of fossil fuels and help keep the planet healthy. At night, the focus turns to celestial bodies other than our own, as images from the bar's rooftop telescope are projected inside to create a cosmic ambiance. On open-mic nights, local and traveling musicians take the stage under the auspices of host DJ Odious, whose vinyl collection includes a 7-inch cut from Saturn's rings.