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.
Grand Cinemas, originally opened in 1998, has two second-run theaters, Crossroads and Oracle View, in its movie-watching network. Films may be a few months old by the time they reach Grand Cinemas’s 35-foot screens, but Dolby surround sound and a unique snack bar keep the experience from going stale. Their managing staff is always eager to accept suggestions for feature films both large and small, and their modest ticket prices and membership packages grant visitors a bigger budget for snacks, offering discounts of up to $2.50 on a single item and diamond-studded soda glasses. See independent films from Hollywood and Sundance at the Crossroads location at a discounted rate.
Grand Cinemas's rates fluctuate throughout the week.
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.
R-Place Bar & Grill serves up burgers, seafood, salads, and sweets within family-friendly casual confines. Diners can engage in light levities with homemade soup or salad before initiating carnivorous conversations with half-pound specialty burgers such as the Horsey, topped with melted swiss, grilled onions, lettuce, tomato, and spicy atomic horseradish ($6.99). A Friday-night all-you-can-eat fish fry from 4 p.m. to 9 p.m., with hand-battered cod, fries, and slaw ($7.99), satisfies growling stomachs along with the Saturday-night Steak Stampede, allowing meat mavens either a top sirloin ($10.95) or a T-bone ($12.95). A Brownie Blast tops the eponymous chocolate treat with a scoop of vanilla ice cream, chilling belly-dwelling gnomes like a cool zephyr ($4). With breakfast served until noon, R-Place's TVs appease sports fans all day, and more hands-on types can wage friendly battles at the eatery's dartboards and pool tables with coffee creamer chips or pure pride on the line.
For more than 17 years, Chad's has offered a casual, relaxed atmosphere with a dinner menu that centers largely on its specialties: prime rib and a slew of succulent steaks. All steaks—including Chad's signature rib eye ($21.95), the filet ($21.45), and the sizzling mushroom steak ($17.95)—come with a dinner salad, fresh baked cheese bread, cowboy beans, and choice of baked potato, sweet potato, french fries, or rice. At many steakhouses, non-beef eaters are taken out back and impaled with a barbecue fork, but Chad's respects other diners with a menu that includes charbroiled chicken breasts ($14.95) in a lemon-butter or teriyaki sauce, the delicious oxymoron that is jumbo shrimp scampi, grilled and smothered in garlic butter ($16.95), and a fresh-catch seafood option offered at market price. Chad's is also open for lunch, with a range of sandwiches, burgers, salads, and soups.