With sprawling mountains, rugged desert scenery and a widely known university, an outsider may not envision a culinary hotspot when they think of Tucson. But the city, the first in the U.S. to be designated a UNESCO City of Gastronomy, is a foodies paradise.
Just hop on the Sun Link streetcar that runs through the heart of the University of Arizona campus and connects Tucson east to west and you will see many of Tucson’s most well-known restaurants. From tacos and hot dogs to pizza and pasta, eating your way along Fourth Avenue is just an appetizer of what Tucson’s restaurants have to offer.
Address: 444 E University Blvd.
As the first stop down the Sun Link, Time Market is a restaurant and grocery store under one roof. Time Market’s restaurant menu is an eclectic mix of salads, sandwiches and pizzas, crafted from locally sourced, humanly raised ingredients, according to the website. Divided by a cash register, the other half of Time Market is a small grocery store where customers wandering the narrow aisles can find anything from local wine to made in-house cookie dough and fresh-baked bread.
Time Market is open from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily.
Address: 802 N. Fourth Ave.
Mike and Cianna Kirksey opened an outpost of the Arizona wing restaurant in 2019 with the goal of redefining how wings are served and fostering a welcoming restaurant environment.
“Our most popular items are definitely the traditional wings, deep-fried biscuits and the gorilla bites,” said employee Ernesto Arvizu.
All The Luv Wings is open from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Mondays through Saturdays and until 5 p.m. Sundays.
Address: 402 E. Fourth Ave.
Further along the Sun Link is Tumerico, a Latin inspired, vegan and vegetarian Mexican restaurant. Feel-good food that nourishes the body from the inside out is Chef Wendy Garcia's focus.
Tumerico is open from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday and from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday; closed Mondays.
Brooklyn Pizza Company
Address: 534 N Fourth Ave.
Brooklyn Pizza Company was voted best in Tucson and the long lines often found on Friday and Saturday nights can attest to this. The pizza restaurant was one of the first two businesses in Southern Arizona to offset their electricity with solar energy.
Brooklyn Pizza Company is open 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Sundays through Thursdays and 11 a.m. to 2:30 a.m. Fridays and Saturdays.
Address: 434 N Fourth Ave.
Caruso's is the oldest family-owned and operated restaurant on north Fourth Avenue and one of the oldest in Tucson, dating back to 1938. The menu includes classic Italian dishes from lasagna to ravioli and eggplant parmigiana, served in a homey space that encourages dining to be fun and lively.
Caruso's is open from 4 p.m. to 9 p.m. Tuesdays through Thursdays, 11:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays and 11:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sundays; closed Mondays.
Boca Tacos y Tequila
Address: 533 N Fourth Ave.
Fans of the Bravo hit TV Show “Top Chef” will be intrigued by Boca chef/owner Maria Mazon, who competed in season 18, “Top Chef: Portland.” Whether it’s her hand-crafted salsa with distinct hints of locally sourced produce or house-made corn tortillas, Mazon’s goal is to serve customers with a combined taste of Tucson and Sonora, Mexico.
Boca Tacos y Tequila is open from noon to 9 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays. 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays and 11:00 a.m. until 8 p.m. Sundays.
Address: 500 N Fourth Ave.
Chef and owner Qais Papoutsis and his brother, Chef Nawid Esar, pride themselves on providing customers with a family-friendly and tasty experience.
“The most popular item, that’s hard but probably the gyro pita,” said employee Aylan Arana.
Opa's Grill is open from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sundays through Thursdays and 11 a.m. until 10 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays.
Lindy’s on 4th
Address: 500 N Fourth Ave.
Like Boca, Lindy’s on Fourth Avenue is no stranger to reality TV shows, having appeared in “Man v Food,” “Meat and Potatoes” and Food Network’s “Ginormous Foods.” Customers can expect an array of monster-sized burgers from your basic meat and cheese to more out-of-the-box options like the macaroni and cheeseburger.
Lindy’s on Fourth Avenue is open from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Sunday.
The Drunken Chicken
Address: 429 N Fourth Ave.
The Drunken Chicken serves its house-made chicken strips in sandwiches including the chicken and waffle breakfast sandwich topped with an egg.
Drunken Chicken is open from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. every day.
Address: 220 N Fourth Ave.
With dim lighting and manicured wood stretching from floor to ceiling, Ermanos is inviting yet sleek. Brothers Mark and Eric Erman, originally from Michigan, opened Ermanos in hopes of re-inventing the dining experience. The gastropub menu runs the gamut from ceviche and a Sonoran meat and cheese board appetizers to burgers, steaks, salads and chops on the entrée side.
Ermanos is open from noon to 10 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays, noon to midnight Fridays, 11 a.m. to midnight Saturdays and 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sundays.
Address: 238 N Fourth Ave.
Small to mid-size renovated shipping containers fill the courtyard of The Boxyard, home to the Nhu Lan Vietnamese restaurant Ni, the Indian restaurant Spice Box, the Mexican grill Percheron and Sal's Fat Slice pizza and burger joint.
The Boxyard times vary per restaurant; Nhu Lan and Spice Box are geared more to dinner service while Sal’s and Percheron are open for lunch beginning at 11 a.m.
Desert Dream Ice Cream
Address: 210 N. Fourth Ave.
The final foodie stop along the Sun Link route is Desert Dream Ice Cream, which specializes in house-made craft ice cream.
“[The most popular flavor] changes and that’s hard to say, but right now it would probably be cinnamon ginger snap, mud pie or honey lavender,” employee Zacharia Bergeron said.
Desert Dream Ice Cream is open from 2 p.m. to 10 p.m. Tuesdays through Friday and noon until 11 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays; closed Mondays.
*El Inde Arizona is a news service of the University of Arizona School of Journalism.
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