Monday, December 22, 2008

Tucson: A Fan's Guide to Food

Originally written and posted for the folks at FanFoodie.

Tucson, Arizona. Located 100 miles South of Phoenix and 60 miles north of the Mexican Border is best known for a few things:

JoJo's Bar featured in the Beatles hit "Get Back", sadly JoJo's no longer exists.
The site of fictional Adams College in Revenge of the Nerds.
Being the Wild Wild West where many old Westerns were filmed including Tombstone, Three Amigos, The Outlaw Josey Wales, El Dorado, Rio Bravo, and of course the 90's classic Hey Dude.

These are things that I'm sure you could figure out by visiting Tucson's Wikipedia page or searching for Tucson, AZ on To those of us lucky enough to live in the Old Pueblo, Tucson is known for three things:

Great Bars, Great Food, and the University of Arizona.

Everyone knows about Phoenix, Tucson is just like Phoenix with better bars, less traffic, and better weather. So here's a fans guide to food and fun in Tucson.

Visitors to Tucson are here for one thing, sports. Whether it is for Golf on one of the amazing courses out here, College Sports, Minor League Baseball or Spring Training. One thing runs true through all of those things. Food and drinks.

When attending a game at U of A thirsty folks want to go to a place near Arizona Stadium, McKale Center, or Sancet Stadium. Luckily there are more than a few places a short jaunt from those sports facilities.

Trident Bar and Grill - Located on the corner of Speedway and Campbell Trident has been a fan favorite for years. ESPN 1490 and Jody Oehler can be found broadcasting before and after basketball games from the corner booth giving away tickets and prizes. Get there early, it's usually standing room only an hour before tip-off, and the place is packed during major fall game days. Not to mention the bartender who goes by one name, "Bones" who has been featured in the Arizona Daily Star as one of Tucson's top Bartenders.

Championship Dining - Less than a mile South on Campbell at the corner of 6th and Campbell sits a relative new comer to the Tucson Bar Scene. Championship also happens to be the home of a local sports radio station on game days, you can usually find the guys from 1290 AM hanging out on the patio of Championship Dining. Pretty busy at night, the place to go if you want to spend a few extra bucks.

Dirtbags - Billed as a part of growing up, Dirtbags is located on Speedway between Cherry and Campbell and is packed full. I've never personally had anything to eat there but I've had plenty to drink there. The line forms early so get there earlier, if you're not in by 12:30 you probably aren't getting a drink.

University Blvd. - Running right up the gut and into the campus of the University of Arizona sits University Blvd. Shops abound on either side of the street and ecelectic food choices are everywhere. If the weather is right stop by Gentle Ben's Brewery, Frog n' Firkin, or No Anchovies Pizza. On game days these patios are packed with rabid fans in red. In the Fall the party starts on Friday night as ESPN 1490's Oehler hosts Beardown Fridays with fun and food for the whole family.

U of A Campus - If you're not into the whole restaurant scene and you want to get into the meat of it, skip the bars and head right to the Campus. The Mall, a long patch of grass located in between Speedway and 6th on Campbell hosts fans hours before fall contests. Tailgating Heaven. The Pride of Arizona marches right through the Red Army on it's way to Arizona Stadium, playing loudly the whole way through. If you don't know anyone but are looking for a place to enjoy the fans and fanfare just head over to the mall. If you're wearing red chances are you will run into someone more than happy to share a drink or 20. If you're lucky enough to know someone near the school or happen to be an alumni of a Fraternity there are plenty of games of Beirut and Flip Cup happening on patio's, porches, courtyards, and backyards surrounding the school.

After the game is over you can't miss with Trident or Dirtbag's.

If you're in town for the food you can find anything your heart desires.

For great Chicago Hot Dogs, Polish Sausage, Italian Beef, Italian Sausage, or the Italian Combo (Italian Beef with an Italian Sausage jammed inside) stop by one of the local Luke's locations on Stone and Fort Lowell or Grant and Columbus.

If pizza is your thing there are 4 places to go in Tucson. Rocco's Little Chicago on Broadway and Plumer, Brooklyn Pizza on 4th Ave, and the aforementioned No Anchovies and Frog n' Firkin on University.

If you're in the mood for great sandwiches try Beyond Bread on Campbell for fancy sandwiches and great bread, Bison Wiches on 4th for the 6.50 Half sandwich and soup combo with chips (way too much food). There's a Cheeba Hut for "Toasted Subs" right next to Arizona Stadium, and a little further south a taste of the East Coast at East Coast Super Subs on Park and 9th. Get extra hot peppers on any sandwich you grab there. And of course there's the college town norms like Jimmy John's and Silverbell.

For a good burger Gentle Ben's and Trident are the best places near campus, and Lindy's packs a punch on 4th. A Small hole in the wall where you can try to finish the 3 lb OMFG and get your picture on the wall and a free T-shirt.

For Mexican food there are plenty of amazing places BK's on the Southside of Town, El Guerro Canelo off of Stone and Grant and El Taco Tote on the Eastside are just a sampling of some of the best authentic Mexican in town. You can't go wrong with a taco cart on the side of the road or one of the many Los Betos, Nico's, or Los Alazones (sp?) on Campbell and Grant.

Don't get me wrong, Tucson offers much more than the typical game day fare. For modern Italian head to the Northside and visit NoRth. For a good steak take your pick from McMahon's, Fleming's, or Sullivan's.

Of course if you want to avoid the occasional line or having to hear Sweet Caroline belted by drunk sorority girls you can always venture a little off the beaten path and head to the Golden Nugget or the Home Den off of 1st, the Buffet off of 4th Ave (open at 6am!!!!), the Red Garter Saloon (featured in a Jack Daniels Commercial) or the Bashful Bandit (any Night but Tuesday, College Night). Or if you really want something different head out East to The Home Plate it's a bar and batting cages all in one.

In contrast if you are looking for the bars with the guaranteed lines out the door head to Maloney's or O'Malley's on 4th or Dirtbags around 11 PM.