The chefs at Big Juan’s tacos y burros serve generously sized quesadillas, burritos, tacos, and enchiladas 24 hours a day. “All of our recipes use fresh ingredients and are made from scratch continually throughout the day, just as if it was prepared in the customer’s own kitchen,” cofounder John Schwimmer says in QSR Magazine. Shrimp, chicken, and carne asada are stuffed inside everything from tortas to street tacos and sautéed envelopes, wheras breakfast items range from burritos with egg and cheese to huevos rancheros.
Under the expert guidance of master chef Shunichi Funakoshiya, Bushi anoints bare platters with savory Asian specialty dishes. A hefty dinner menu silences incessant stomach whines with platters such as spicy garlic shrimp, which blends oceanographic flavors with a garlic sauce ($12.99), or the classic beef teriyaki ($13.99). Wrap chopsticks around an item from the extensive sushi menu, touting such rolled and raw favorites as kani (crab) rolls ($3.50 for 2 pieces) and unagi (freshwater eel) rolls ($4.50 for 2 pieces). Noontime noshing begins with a two-item chuushoku, or lunch, ($9.99) allowing diners to custom-build their meals from exotic morsels such as Korean-style bulgogi—marinated beef sliced thinly enough to be folded into a fortune teller or flightless bulgogi airplane.
For decades, the dedicated pizza purveyors behind Magpies have woven together appealing pies that burst at their dough-seams with ingredients made fresh on-site every day. The expansive menu presents an appetizing array of options. Specialty pies—such as the Godfather, which manages a tightly knit family of mozzarella, swiss, cheddar, and romano cheeses and a meaty gang of Italian sausage, Canadian bacon, and capicola ($2.99 slice, $14.99 12", $17.99 14", and $20.99 16")—carry out quick, efficient digestive hits. Culinary constructioneers, meanwhile, can design their own doughy disc ($2.99 per slice, $10.99 12", $12.99 14", $14.99 16"). Starting with a foundation of New York–style regular, wheat, or crispy-sourdough crust, add a decorative daub of fresh sauce such as house red, tomato pesto, or barbecue sauce. From there, add on cheeses, veggies, and meats (extra ingredients cost $0.50 per slice, $1.49 each for 12", $1.79 each for 14", and $1.99 each for 16")—or indulge your mad scientist by piling together anchovies, fresh cilantro, pineapple, piñon nuts, and feta cheese and then bringing it to life during an electrical storm.
Using a blend of local and imported ingredients, Cafe Italiano’s chefs, Dave and Carla Pursel and their daughter Krystal Adams, handcraft 27 flavors of gelato and sorbetto each day. Since these sweet treats contain less fat than ice cream, eaters can give gastronomic guilt the cold shoulder without sacrificing tastiness. Sample the stracciatella (similar to chocolate chip) or salute taste buds with all-American apple-pie gelato ($5.49 for a 7.5 oz. container). Traditionalists cozy up to classic flavors such as vanilla bean and pistachio ($9.99 for a pint of up to two flavors), and modernists paint culinary canvases with cookie dough, mojito, and spicy chocolate ($16.99 for a quart of up to three flavors). Sugar-free options are also available, as well as a selection of fruity sorbettos. Savory stomachs can snack on margherita pizza, Cafe Italiano’s newest menu item, as frosty jaws are thawed by freshly made lattes and cappuccinos.
Brewing just 90 gallons at a time, the brewers at Sentinel Peak Brewing Company nano-brewery maintain tight control on the quality of their beers by hand-crafting such small batches. Often inspired by their travels, the resulting beers include a roster of regulars and a handful of seasonals, such as the Haboob IPA, and the Summer Scorcher Citrus Ale. At the brew-pub, visitors can sip on their ultra-fresh, unfiltered beers alongside an impressive menu of beer-friendly eats, such as soft pretzels and buffalo-chicken paninis.
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.