David’s Picks: The Best of Tucson— Dining, Golf, Tennis, and Hiking
“Tucson is an International Culinary Destination”
I love exploring the many unique dining experiences in Tucson. Did you know Tucson is the first city in the United States to be honored with the UNESCO World City of Gastronomy designation. A rich history of agricultural, along with a thriving culinary scene that rivals those found in much larger urban areas, is what helped this city of more than half a million people earn this coveted title.
Here are my favorites:
- At the top of my list is Contigo a Latin Kitchen next to the Westin La Paloma hotel serving the best heirloom recipes of South America and Spain. Be sure and try the daily Gazpacho special. Tell Deborah the proprietor that David sent you and let her help you pick a red wine from her great selection.
- When you venture downtown, another favorite of mine is Reilly Craft Pizza. Much more than pizza, they offer an innovative menu of salads, small plates, pasta and specialty cocktails. They also have a beer garden and a dungeon bar in the basement. The family friendly atmosphere and consistently excellent food in a beautifully restored historic building make Reilly a must stop on your dining rotation.
- For Mexican (maybe Tucson’s most famous specialty!) downtown offers two outstanding options. The original El Charro has been serving Mexican food in Tucson for nearly 100 years. They have several locations but the downtown spot is the most charming. For a taste of real, authentic cuisine try the carne seca or green corn tamales. Or, if you want to take it up a notch try Penca offering Mexico City cuisine and an international bar in a very cool atmosphere. Penca is located in the rapidly growing downtown district, which features dozens of amazing new restaurants, bars and shops.
- If you want to experience the University of Arizona scene “get your red on” and check out Pasco Kitchen & Lounge. Find Pasco in a fun location with a great patio. Their website describes it best: “Our mission is to share our love for food and mixology with an ‘urban farm’ inspired menu. Urban farm fare is our way of describing traditional comfort food and drinks, approached with an eye toward modern techniques and emphasis on fresh, local ingredients.”
- The most celebrated chef designation goes to Janos Wilder, a James Beard Award winner and chef/owner of Downtown Kitchen + Cocktails, who serves up a Global and Local Cuisine.
- Tucson’s most famous chef is arguably Daniel Scordato.Vivace, his fine dining Italian Restaurant in the Foothills is upscale dining for special occasions. When you go you will probably be greeted by Daniel, who seems to be everywhere in the restaurant, ensuring your experience is memorable.
- Head back downtown for Tapas at Casa Vincente. Here you will find traditional cuisine from Spain and live entertainment nightly including eye-popping flamenco guitar and dancing.
- For a casual lunch there are many good choices. Pita Jungle has two locations, Pita Jungle - Tucson and Pita Jungle - Oracle/Ina they serve up great Pitas, Hummus, and Salads with an emphasis on healthy eating. Sauce Pizza has four locations and serves up great pizza, salads, and wine—again with an emphasis on farm fresh ingredients.
- If you find yourself on the Northwest side and you are parched, check out the patio at Noble Hops, one of the first Gastropubs in Tucson. You will find people enjoying a craft beer and Pusch Ridge views with their four legged friends lounging by their side.
- For a ‘Cheer’s Bar’ experience check out Gusto’s Italian restaurant. Gus the owner serves up recipes handed down from the Scordato family. Anthony the bartender will introduce you to the local patrons, talk sports with you, and offer up a nice selection of wines.
- Other Bests
- Salad Scordato’s Pizza Gorgonzola Cheese and Grape Salad.
- Burger Diablo Burger
- Sports Bar Trident II Grill on Swan
- Best Chinese PF Changs and little brother Pei Wei (don’t want to put you in chains, but you can’t go wrong here)
- Steak and live music Sullivans Steakhouse
- Fish Kingfisher (hands down)
- Breakfast Cup Café at Congress Hotel
- Patio Dining Maynard’s Market and Kitchen
If you love golf, Tucson truly is paradise. Year-round golf is available at over 50 public and private courses all over town. I find the Golf Arizona directory complete and informative. Visit the website at http://gogolfarizona.com/course-directory/
My personal favorites include:
- Gallery Golf Club North and South Courses “Best golf experience”
- Stone Canyon Golf Club “Blue Blood with 360’ views”
- Saddlebrook Ranch Golf “Fun Track”
- Sewalio “Blackjack after”
- Dove Mountain Golf Club “Jack was Grumpy”
- Arizona National “Scenic and tough”
- Randolph South “Hot Dog & Beer Muni in shadow of downtown”
- Views Golf Club “Oro Valley Gem”
There are also exciting golf events for spectators including a prestigious PGA Tour stop. Find information about upcoming golf events here: http://www.visittucson.org/things-to-do/golf/events/
Tennis anyone? With so many places to play and practically endlessly great weather (even in the hottest part of the summer, tennis under the lights is fantastic! Tennis in Tucson rules!
If you are looking for a USTA team or recreational tennis here are a couple of great resources:
- http://www.reffkintenniscenter.com/ Reffkin Tennis, located in the public tennis facility in Reid Park at Broadway Blvd and Alvernon Roads.
These sites offer a great selection of resources for lessons, leagues, events and more.
Of course, if you are looking for that unique property that has its own private tennis court, David Swan can help you find it!
Southern Arizona has literally thousands of beautiful hiking trails in an astonishing array of elevation types.
The Santa Catalina Mountains and Mt. Lemmon— at a cool elevation of 9,175 feet— provide Tucsonans with a green getaway and dozens of hiking trails. For a nice day hike in the pines, try the Aspen Loop Trail; this is a fairly easy hike, dogs on leashes are OK. https://www.alltrails.com/trail/us/arizona/aspen-trail
If you are looking to venture out of the area a little further, try the Chiricahua Mountains in SE Arizona, the White Mountains in the middle of the state or, the remote Ancha Wilderness in the Tonto National Forest north of Roosevelt Lake (near Globe, AZ.)
Probably the most important thing to keep in mind as you embark on a desert hike (especially of you are new to the desert!) is that you WILL need more water than you think you will. Be sure to take an adequate supply. Also, many of our desert friends are frightened of you, or don't want you to hurt them or eat them. That is why they have venom, fangs, stingers, spines or other unpleasant incentives to leave them be.
Be very aware of your surroundings. Don’t wear headphones. Listen to the environment around you as you walk. Leave things where they are, including creatures you may encounter.
Here is a site that offers a huge variety of desert trails to try:
Two of my favorites are the Aspen Loop Trail at Mt Lemmon with the dogs, and the hike to Seven Falls in Sabino Canyon. Most of all, when you live in Arizona, GET OUTSIDE and enjoy the Tucson Lifestyle.
I can help you find the perfect outdoor space in your new Tucson home.