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I grew up traveling to Tucson, Arizona a lot; the lack of an orthodontist, shopping mall, Target, and and other basic luxuries of a big city in my hometown made it necessary. I felt like I already knew a significant amount about the second largest city in Arizona, but my excursion there over Labor Day weekend, and what I discovered, surprised me. My companion for this trip was, for lack of a better term, my “brother from another mother,” Andrew Urman, and we had a mission to accomplish –
Ivy: Subs are buy one get one free!!
Andrew: So naturally we’re getting two each
Our destination? Sausage Deli. A brown building surrounded by a parking lot on the corner of First Avenue and Grant Road that has been serving up delicious sandwiches since 1978, and thank goodness for it. For as long as I’ve known, I’ve always ordered the Italian Grinder (or its smaller counterpart, the Hoagie, if I’m feeling shy): a huge sub stuffed with a variety of meats, provolone cheese, lettuce, tomato, onions, green peppers and a special dressing to top it all off. Their lunch special includes two sides (try the jalapeno chips and yummy potato salad) and a drink. I always get lemonade, as it’s the perfect mixture of sweet and sour, and I love that they use crushed ice (which might be stupid, but this is my blog, damn it). Andrew ordered a Susie Sorority (*giggle*) and an Artichoke Reuben. Although I’m completely satisfied with my traditional order, it’s nice to know that if I ever get tired of it (I won’t), the Reuben is a fantastic alternative! Further proving how much I love Sausage Deli.
Full from our feast, our next stop was University Drive; the bars, restaurants and shopping here would keep any student happy for hours. Frog & Firkin cooks delicious red and green fries and famous pizzas; it’s a fantastic spot to watch any U of A game or people who pass by while enjoying great food and drinks.
Although it was a little cheesy, I fully enjoyed my ride on the Old Pueblo Trolley, which arrived in 1992 from Osaka, Japan. The trolley ride lasted about five minutes and the sights through the windows were really neat. The Trolley rides down University and towards Fourth Avenue, the hippy Mecca of Tucson.
Tattoo parlors sit next to thrift stores and art galleries on the Fourth Avenue. In 2001, the street filled with rioters after the University of Arizona lost to Duke in the final round of the NCAA tournament, although the damage to Fourth and the surrounding areas is definitely gone by now. Hippie Gypsy and Bison Witches Bar & Deli are two businesses located both on Fourth Avenue and Mill Avenue in Tempe. Andrew, who works at Bison Witches in Tucson, insists that the one on Fourth is much cooler… although he’s a bit of a Tucson puritan so I’m a little reluctant to believe him all the time. The garlic wafting from Caruso’s Italian Restaurant was almost enough to make me eat again. Brooklyn Pizza Company tops their pies with whatever ingredients you want, in a solar-powered, environmental friendly restaurant. If you’re ever in need of a Halloween costume, I would highly recommend the Tucson Thrift Shop, which has costumes from Elvis to MC Hammer, used and inexpensively priced, or the Goodwill across the street, which is covered in orange paint and colorful tiles. I ended up buying a hamburger hat at the Thrift Shop, for who knows what reason (I know I don’t).
The Trolley dropped us off towards the end of Fourth Avenue so the walk to Congress Street was quick. The pedestrian underpass used to be a little unattractive, but it has a new industrial style, renovated bridge, featuring waterfall sculptures and photographs of Tucson residents. Trolley tracks are in place under the bridge, but aren’t in use quite yet. The first sight of Congress Street is a mural on the side of the Rialto Theatre, an old movie theatre that became a small concert venue. The Rialto and Hotel Congress, which are across from each other famous, were built around the same time and have serious history. Hotel Congress is famed for the capture of notorious criminial John Dillinger, happening nightspot Club Congress and, as with many old buildings, being haunted.
Behind Hotel Congress is Maynards Market & Kitchen, a cleverly disguised train depot. I had never been inside Maynards and was delighted to find a market with wine and organic products, incorporated with a restaurant. People can chose to eat outside, although they may be surprised by the large trains that pass by extremely close and at extrememly high speeds. Passenger trains arrive a few times a week, greeted by a big TUCSON sign on the side of the building, and maybe a few shocked Maynards customers.
Andrew and I took the trolley back to University Drive, and he insisted we go to Red Velvet Cupcakery. Although I was still full from Sausage Deli, I’m glad I made room for the Southern Belle, the Cupcakery’s namesake. I have tasted my fair share of red velvet cupcakes, but this one was by far the most delicious!! The cake was moist and full and covered in a good amount of sweet cream cheese frosting; the cherry on top of my Tucson experience.
Andrew and I spent several hours in midtown Tucson alone, but we could have spent an entire weekend in the Catalina Foothills, South Tucson or on top of Mount Lemmon – different areas of Tucson with differnt characteristics. In Phoenix, Tucson has the reputation of a less sophisticated version of the Valley; when in reality, Tucson’s maturity is evident in it’s history and it’s proud culture. Tucson embraces it’s past, while developing it’s future. While these things could easily contrast, they flow well – it is an eclectic mix of University life, the Southwest and a modern big city, with fantastic cupcakes and hamburger hats.Follow @ivymorris