In college, I worked as a hostess at a restaurant/bar. We were told that if a patron came in to dine alone, we should—without saying anything—drop a magazine off at their table.
I think the idea—or the stigma, perhaps—was that people who dine alone are lonely, and a magazine might keep them company. Now, I think dropping a magazine off at a solo diner’s table is a little insulting. People dine alone for lots of reasons: to think, to escape thinking, because they’re traveling for business, because they hate people, etc.
Personally, I view eating alone as a reward. After a long day, it’s a treat to hang out and snack, enjoying the sunshine with my dog at my feet, not saying a word to anyone (can you tell that I’m an introvert?). On the flip side, I also eat alone when my job is overwhelming—the walk to and from a restaurant distracts me from work worries, and I set my phone down and concentrate on each bite, returning refocused.
Due to dozens of solo meals, I’ve discovered a few Tucson gems that cater to the “just one, please” crowd. Check out my picks and answers to anticipated questions below. And if you see me eating at any of them, no pity please! I can assure you that I’m perfectly content.
I wrote a post for sheswanderful.com on what it’s like on the United States/Mexico border, and growing up in Nogales, AZ. My favorite part of the piece is this:
It’s strange to me to see news pieces with titles like “Border Wars” or “Battle on the Border,” because there’s no battle on the border at all.
Discussions on the United States and Mexico—the people, the exports, the imports—aren’t fought at this physical barrier. They’re fought in legislative chambers, in offices, in your home, and sometimes even on Twitter.
Each dinner table discussion about “how dangerous Mexico is” is an argument. Each news segment showing hooded figures running through desert terrain, their eyes flashing green because of night vision, is a brawl. Each DC politician who has never been to the border without an agenda (yet somehow knows all about those “bad hombres”) is a war.
When we came back from Spain and Portugal this past September, I quickly dashed to the nearest bar at the airport where we had our layover, desperate for an ice-cold craft brew. It was probably one of the best beers I’ve ever had, considering I had spent weeks drinking Cruzcampo and Super Bock.
There are many things that the Spanish and the Portuguese do well—I did not find beer to be one of them.
Luckily, I live in a craft beer haven where a new local brewery opens approximately every half hour. The most recent being Crooked Tooth Brewing Co.
My interest in the Owls Club was both sinister and typical. A recently opened cocktail bar located a little south of downtown Tucson’s main hub, I was curious to see what the new hot spot was like. But there were darker motivations, too.
The Owls Club is located in a renovated, former funeral home. On the day it opened, a friend told me that she had visited and joined a group on an informal tour, which included the former embalming room. Upon entry, she described feeling utterly creeped out—the temperature dropped and her chest felt heavy.
I’ve been lucky enough to travel a lot in my life—trips that have been as short as less than a day and as long as a few weeks. In my years of packing, there are a few surprising items that I have learned I cannot travel without, no matter the destination. If you have a big trip coming up and are scrambling with what to bring along, read below for the 9 things I always take with me.
A sarong/oversized scarf: This is the number one thing you need—use it as a blanket on a cold plane (or when you have to spend the night at a train station), as a towel on the beach, as a scarf to dress up a plain LBD for a night on the town, to wrap up the delicate items you’re bringing home as souvenirs, the uses are endless. Pictured below are a few times my lightweight scarves have come in handy: as a beach towel, a blanket for a chilly Santorini sunset (yes, they exist) and as, well, a scarf. I like this one from Mara Hoffman, because it’s pretty and the pattern has a lot of color, so it dresses up the neutrals you might have packed—of course, it’s $100 and rayon, so. This one’s neutral enough, and cheap enough, that it’ll definitely get its use.
Chilly sunset in Oia, Santorini, Greece
A baggy chambray shirt: Use it as a cover-up for the beach, an extra layer on chilly nights—heck, just a shirt!
A big canvas bag: to hold all your items when you go to the beach; to serve as your carry-on; to hold dirty laundry; line it with a plastic bag and put ice in it for an impromptu cooler (don’t judge). This one has a lifetime guarantee and a zip-top for extra security.
I have to admit that I was a little sour on Welcome Diner when it first came to town from Phoenix. It took the place of Chaffin’s, a beloved breakfast spot of mine that served inhumane amounts of food for about $8 (their hash browns were the best—crispy, fluffy in the middle, yum!).
And then I tasted Welcome Diner’s mac and cheese. Oh, how quickly we forget.
The views along the trail to the Romero Pools will take your breath away—if you have any breath left, that is. Steep ascents remind you how out of shape you are, while flat spaces between climbs provide a welcome respite (and also keep this hike ranked a 3 on trailvoyant.com, a local Tucson hiking resource).
Fueled by breakfast burritos from El Güero Canelo, Rob and I headed out on a beautiful 70-degree morning for Catalina State Park. We paid $7 for a day pass (check the calendar to time your visit with an event and get the most bang for your buck) and followed the road to the trail head. Dogs are allowed for the first mile or so, after which the trail runs through Bighorn Sheep wilderness, which is strictly protected and dogs are strictly forbidden. From there, we walked a little more than 3 miles. I’d estimate 1.8 of those were pure elevation gains, baby.
I worked at an American Eagle Outfitters in the mall for two years while in college. The only thing that kept me going during six-hour shifts were these chicken cheesesteak sandwiches from Charley’s Grilled Subs, in the food court. I would hunker in the stock room, drowning annoying customer needs in cheesy goodness. I work in downtown Tucson now, with no mall in sight (good riddance). Lucky for me, the best part of the mall still isn’t too far away.
*Note: This is a continuing series on dining in Tucson, where I live. My hope is to prevent visitors from asking, “What is there to eat here?”
NoRTH is where my boyfriend and I go when we’re feeling fancy; it’s perfect for Date Night. It’s a little more pricey (entrée’s average about $22), but the nighttime views of Tucson below make it worth the splurge. NoRTH markets itself as a modern take on traditional Italian cooking, which is a little hard to define—there’s classic Italian appetizers, such as arancini and calamari; there’s pizzas, pastas and salads, as well as entrées.
Possibly the best meal I’ve ever eaten, in Tucson, was at NoRTH: Pork tenderloin served over creamy white polenta. It wasn’t easy to forget. The pork was perfectly colored, the polenta was swirled with a dark balsamic sauce that was just, ugh. It was so good. This is a pretty major statement, but if I knew that I was near the end of my life, I would order that damn pork tenderloin.
Unfortunately, it’s been substituted with a different version of pork tenderloin that I have yet to try (wrapped in prosciutto, mmm mmm mmmm). For now, I order the spicy shrimp pasta.
My recommendations: Now, LET ME TELL YA about the Salted Caramel Budino. It’s spectacular. Salted caramel’s overdone? Don’t care! It’s like a warm hug, with a pudding consistency, topped with course-ground salt that balances the sweetness. I don’t even LIKE dessert and I loooove this thing.