Best Places in Tucson to Eat Alone

Hungry minus company? Check out the best places in Tucson to dine alone.

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.

Continue reading “Best Places in Tucson to Eat Alone”

What the US/Mexico Border is Really Like

Learn what life is like on the United States/Mexico border from a native.

Hello! Hola!

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.

Knowing is half the battle.

Here’s the link, if you’d like to read the rest

Is Tucson’s Owls Club Haunted?

A whiskey bar in a renovated, former funeral home brings a hint of mortality with your Manhattan.

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.

It was my mission to experience it for myself. Continue reading “Is Tucson’s Owls Club Haunted?”

Tucson: Romero Pools hike

One of Tucson’s favorite hikes, I write up my experience on a trek to the Romero Pools.

Name: Romero Pools

Location: within Catalina State Park

Total time: 3 hours, 30 minutes

Length: 6.5 miles to the pools and back

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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.

Continue reading “Tucson: Romero Pools hike”

Maynards Market & Kitchen

Tucson Chicken
Tucson Chicken “Cheesesteak”—the subject of many of my dreams

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.

Continue reading “Maynards Market & Kitchen”

Tucson: NoRTH

*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?”

Photo via official restaurant page: bit.ly/RzfiLM
Photo via official restaurant page: bit.ly/RzfiLM. I would take my own photos, but I’m too busy stuffing my face. This is The Pig pizza, another winner.

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.

Tucson: Wings Over Broadway

*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?”

An actual chicken wing from Wings Over Broadway. This really happened. It's like the Snitch in Harry Potter.
An actual chicken wing from Wings Over Broadway. This really happened. It’s like the Snitch in Harry Potter.

Wings Over Broadway probably got its name after a customer took a bite of a wing, died of love (or something), became an angel and went to heaven. The 15 sauce flavors range from child friendly to “oh my god, I’m crying in a restaurant and everyone can see me. Server, please bring me a bucket of ice water”: White Wings, Garlic Parm, Teriyaki, Sweet Heat Asian, Lemon Pepper, Honey Gold, Mild Buffalo, Honey BBQ, Honey Hot, Medium Buffalo, Cajun Spice, Golden Hot, Habanero Heat, Hot Buffalo, No Mercy. Their 40¢ Wing Tuesday specials pack the restaurant to capacity, with a line out the door. WOB is filled Wednesday through Monday, as well—I can’t imagine the volume of napkins they go through. Wash the sweet, the garlicky, the burning, down with a stein of beer for the ultimate party.

My recommendations: Lemon Pepper, Honey Gold and Cajun Spice

Tucson: Sushi Garden

*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?”

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Tucson residents are bombarded with Sushi Garden commercials, but even their constant presence between drama on The Bachelorette isn’t enough to lessen my love. Now, this town is passionate about its sushi restaurants—I’m sure some people are upset by my decision to recommend Sushi Garden. It’s just, I know I’m not alone; Sushi Garden has multiple locations that often have a wait list, as well as good Yelp reviews. The fish tastes fresh, the recipes contain creative combinations and the ambiance is lively and bright. The best deal is the all-you-can-eat menu: this green sheet generously allows guests to order round after round after round of a huge selection of rolls, nigiri, sashimi and more for about $20 per person. The catch: If you don’t eat it all, you could incur a fee, so GO!SLOW! It’s torture, as well as a #firstworldproblem, finishing two more rolls when you’re already about to burst. Trust me.

Recommendations: Salmon and Albacore nigiri, S.G. Roll (Deluxe) and Spicy Yellowtail roll [pictured].

Tucson

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I used to be such a Tucson hater; I’m rolling my eyes just thinking about it. Tucson was just fine until I got to Arizona State University, then it became the place that failed in comparison to Tempe: University Drive, the lesser Mill Avenue; the University of Arizona? You mean the inferior version of Arizona State University? So dumb.

I was soooo crazily grossed out by Tucson that I didn’t even consider applying for a job there until I had been unemployed for three months, sitting at my parents’ kitchen table, always in the same pair of yoga pants as I hadn’t showered in DAYYYSSS. It’s totally the reason I didn’t blog for so long. Just kidding! I’m actually super lazy.

Tucson, I’m sorry I thought so little of you. One day in late 2012, I searched LinkedIn for jobs (in TUCSON!! The agonyyy!!) that dealt with travel writing. I’ve been working at my company, where I write and edit for travel guides, ever since. It’s particularly great because my blog (this one! The one that you’re reading!) helped me to get a job. My boss read a couple entries and called me for an interview after I submitted an application! Awesome.

In my time here, I’ve come to love The Old Pueblo and hate the Tempe-obsessed, anti-Tucson person that I used to be. Every city has its strengths! I’m here to argue in favor of Tucson, in hopes of both turning around even the biggest doubters and convincing some folks to visit. I’ll start with food.

Stay tuned. Stay hungry.

An Amateur at Accenture

A couple years ago, I babysat for a family in north Scottsdale. Their golden retriever’s name was Bogey. It took me three months of employment to figure out that Bogey was a golf term—and that’s about as much as I know about golf. Well, that and how to clap politely.

GolfClap
But when your boss comes over to you and your coworker on an overcast Wednesday morning and asks if you want two VIP tent passes to Accenture Match Play (did I mention there’s unlimited free alcohol and food in that tent?), it’s an opportunity you don’t pass up.

Cheer
Accenture Match Play is a big deal in Tucson, an annual World Golf Championship that takes the top 64 players on the planet and pits them against each other through several single-elimination rounds. The champion wins more than a million dollars.

Tucson is a golf haven every winter. The weather, 70 degrees and a welcome polar opposite to the polar vortex, is only part of the attraction. The Old Pueblo has a collection of world-class courses, designed by the likes of Tom Fazio (Ventana Canyon), Arnold Palmer (Starr Pass) and, most recently, Notah Begay (Sewailo). You can see why people visit year after year, and many residents drive their golf carts more than their cars.

Accenture Match Play takes place just outside the city, at Dove Mountain in Marana, a Jack Nicklaus design. The crowd at Accenture seems to be a mixture of three groups: People who are die-hard golf fans, people who are there for corporate networking and people who are there because, “heck, Accenture Match Play is in Tucson, let’s go check it out!” I most closely identified with the last group.

This tournament was the first time I’d ever even stepped foot on a golf course. Needless to say, I had no idea what to expect (except a vodka tonic, please). If you’re in the same position, it’s totally ok—I didn’t know a damn thing about golf and I still enjoyed myself.

I texted (ok, bragged to) my golf-following friend as soon as Rory McIlroy hit a par 3, 16th hole in two swings. I think they call that a birdie? I watched as McIlroy’s posse of caddies and advisors loaded up and trekked on foot from hole to hole to hole to hole, wondering how long it took them to stop being mesmerized by his Northern Irish accent. Did they constantly force him to say aluminum? I quieted myself when volunteers, dressed in a beautiful teal shade similar to Tiffany blue, threw their hands in the air, clutching signs that said, “SILENCE: GOLF IN PLAY.” As soon as the signs went down, I resumed my conversation with my coworker about how beautiful the Catalinas looked today, how the saguaro cacti surrounding each hole and covering each mountain take about 40 years to grow to just four feet tall. Many reached with their 50-year-old (plus!) arms seven feet into the sky; all while tiny white golf balls flew 300+ feet past, over a green and manicured path.

Cacti
I think, even if I hadn’t had VIP tickets, I still would have enjoyed many of the same things I delighted in at Accenture Match Play: the people watching, the weather, Rory McIlroy’s accent. If the tournament returns to Tucson next year, I’m definitely going to consider going. If my boss decides to give me VIP tickets and parking again, you’ll find me at the Canyon Club, vodka tonic nearby, golf clapping when appropriate.