Seven Cups serves up a thirst-eradicating array of high-quality teas, and has been named Best Tea Service five years in a row by the readers of Tucson Weekly. To treat their customers to the best leaf juices in the world, the Tucson-based company's owners make frequent treks to China, where they foster relationships with local growers and engage in traditional wire-heavy fight sequences in authentic Chinese tea houses. As such, they have a fascinating story to tell about each of their more than 100 varieties of Chinese tea. Sip and read about green teas such as organic Ming Qian An Ji Bai Cha ($7.45, small pot; $14.20, large pot), a legendary tea beloved by Emperor Song Hui Zong that has only recently become available in limited quantities. Otherwise, indulge your inhaler with scented selections such as Silver Dragon Jasmine Pearls ($4.50, small pot; $8.60, large pot), an organic white tea that is hand-rolled into tight pearls in the cold of spring and piled among night-flowering jasmine (which is then discarded at the first light of dawn). Yellow, white, black, oolong, puer, and other teas flesh out Seven Cups' encyclopedic offerings, and are best paired with an assortment of sweets and savories such as Japanese ice cream ($3.50 for two scoops) and moon cakes ($6.45) fresh from lunar hearths.
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).
The authentic Chinese dishes at Szechuan Omei strike a balance between sweet, savory, and spicy flavors, with chef's specialties ranging from mild cantonese chow mein to peking duck complete with oriental crêpes and plum sauce. Asian-inspired artwork and a massive photograph of a mountain landscape emblazon the walls, and an aquarium by the entrance houses a glistening silver fish to greet guests and ask if they are celebrating special occasions this evening.
For more than 20 years, the chefs at Ali Baba Restaurant have churned out healthy and flavorful Mediterranean and Lebanese meals. They pile plates with traditional Mediterranean specialties, including seasoned gyros and beef shish kebabs, and Persian delicacies such as lamb filet steak and joujeh kebabs, each served with basmati rice and spiced onion. Turkish coffee and Persian iced tea lend every dish an authentic edge. With a private event area capable of seating 90, a resident hookah lounge open every day, and weekend belly-dancing shows, the spacious eatery possesses more entertainment value than an ice-skating rink populated by overcaffeinated cats.
Distinguished by Tucson Weekly readers as the best Middle Eastern/African restaurant in the city in 2011, Zemam's transports tasters with an exotic menu of authentic Ethiopian cuisine. Sourdough flatbreads supplant utensils and stain-resistant foam fingers to help diners corral bite-size portions of spicy fusions, such as the vegetable-and-potato medley of yetakelt wat. Mine through a platter of shiro and scoop up puréed chickpeas soaked in berbere and spices, or investigate the gomen alicha to unmask a trove of carrots, cabbage, and potatoes congregated in mild sauce. Channeling American or Ethiopian traditions, beverage baristas prep coffee and tea to order, and a bevy of carbonated drinks volunteer to tickle lips like an excessively friendly mustache. Additionally, Zemam's serves guests in several small dining rooms that Tucson Weekly lauds for being "immaculate, whitewashed and simple."
Burgers, beers, and fries are pub staples, but the versions that emerge from the kitchen at Social House Kitchen & Pub are anything but the norm. Fit for foodies and casual diners alike, the menu puts a gastropub spin on its eats. Crispy pork belly and mushroom gravy coat the “loaded” fries, and the American classic burger comes with a crown of candied bacon. Other entrees that shake up familiar dishes include beef short ribs with egg, fish ‘n’ chips with apple slaw, and a dip sandwich finished off with rosemary aioli. Behind the gleaming bar top, bartenders pour out 32 craft brews, which patrons enjoy inside a modern space that features a mixture of rustic wood furnishings and bright white upholstery.