The perfect dining experience can be hard to find. Between the food, the service and the atmosphere of the restaurant, a multitude of aspects have to come together to make a restaurant experience stand out.
Several UA community members weighed in on what exactly makes a trip to a restaurant memorable and worth repeating. Staff members from several restaurants on Fourth Avenue also shared what they think makes their respective restaurants an experience for customers.
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Josh Henley, the general manager of Magpies Gourmet Pizza on Fourth Avenue, said the “combination of the entire environment” of a restaurant may be what makes a dining experience memorable.
“Some people come just for the food; some people come for the family experience,” he said.
Several characteristics of the food at Magpie’s make the restaurant memorable for customers, Henley said. The restaurant uses fresh produce, makes its dough and sauce in-house and offers gluten-free and vegan options on its menu. Magpies was named Best Pizza by the Tucson Weekly from 1999 to 2007.
Henley named “The Magpie” pizza as a memorable meal offered at the restaurant. It’s made with ricotta in the pizza sauce, giving it more of what Henley called a lasagna taste.
William Vail, an engineering freshman, said he liked the patio at Magpies. When it comes to what makes a meal at a restaurant memorable, he said the people you’re with play a large role.
“Obviously if the food’s good, that helps, but you can have pretty average food, and as long as you have really great friends with you it’s a pretty great time,” Vail said.
The availability of options is an important quality for many dinners.
Vegetarian options are considered a strong point at La Indita, a family-owned restaurant featuring a fusion of Mexican and Native American food on Fourth Avenue, according to Meleena Velez, who works frequently in the restaurant and is the granddaughter of the owner.
Longtime La Indita customer Lisa Stage, a marketing specialist in the office of the Chief Information Officer at the UA, mentioned vegetarian options as something that stood out to her about the restaurant. Vegetarian-friendly dishes include potato tacos and mushroom enchiladas. The restaurant was named Best Mexican Food for Vegetarians in 2009 by the Tucson Weekly.
“There’s a lot of Mexican restaurants that don’t have that option,” Velez said. “We don’t use any lard in our beans or chicken broth in our rice, so I think that’s a big seller for a lot of vegetarian/vegan people.”
Stage, who has been coming to La Indita for 25 years, said the restaurant has fantastic salsa and named delicious food as an important part of making a meal memorable.
Stage also said a family feel from the people working at the restaurant was important and she saw this quality at La Indita. The restaurant, which has been open since 1985, incorporates family recipes like the chicken enchiladas with green sauce, which Velez said came from her grandmother.
They also incorporate elements of Native American cuisine because Velez’s grandfather is Tohono O’odham, Velez said.
“A lot of people like that it’s family owned and operated,” she said. “They feel like family when they come in. A lot of them know our names. It’s a very community-driven place.”
Atmosphere plays a role in what makes a meal at The B Line on Fourth Avenue stand out, according to customers Julianne Vice, a pre-physiology junior, and Michelle Reading, an early childhood education senior.
Rose Crocker, a lead server at The B Line, said service at the restaurant is quick because people come up to the front and order, sit down and receive their food from servers at their table. The restaurant was named Best Casual Downtown Breakfast by the Tucson Weekly several times, most recently in 2010.
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“We also make everything really quickly so people don’t have to wait very long for their food, and that makes people happy and come in and out,” Crocker said. “We also have wine and beer so people can drink and hang out if they want to, and they can get pretty much everything—breakfast, lunch, dinner, dessert, just a cookie, coffee, pretty much anything.”
Reading said variety is important in making a restaurant experience memorable, and Vice said she liked that B Line’s menu offered a range of dishes from Mexican food to Italian food to salad. Crocker said B Line’s fish taco plate is the most popular dish at the restaurant.
“It’s hard to find healthy, good fish tacos because we don’t deep fry them like most places do,” Crocker said. “They’re really fresh and made from scratch, and they’re really good.”