Back In Town

Wednesday, March 7, 2007


Tucson Restaurants

A poster asked a week or so ago for my recommendations of good restaurants in Tucson. So below is my very subjective list based on 10 springs in the Old Pueblo.

You cannot go wrong with any of the Metro restaurants (think Lettuce) like Old Pueblo Grille (southwest, corner of Broadway and Alvernon, not far from Hi Corbett), City Grill (Tanque Verde), Firecracker (Pan-Asian, at Swan and Ft. Lowell) or McMahon’s (steak, across from Firecracker).

Up in the foothills a popular place is Piazza Gavi (Sunrise and Kolb) for the best Italian, Risky Business (same general locale) for good bar food. Over near La Paloma, you can find Janos (at the Westin), Café Terra Cotta (a personal favorite), Fleming’s (West Coast steak chain). At the corner of Campbell and Sunrise (near where I live), there is North, Ra and a couple of others I can’t remember as I sit on the plane. Nearby is Anthony’s (I think you need a jacket) and Soleil, where I am planning to take my wife when she arrives later this month.

At the corner of Campbell and River, (south of Sunrise), there is Bistro Zinc, Sullivan’s (yes, the Chicago favorite) and P.F. Chang’s.

Lots of our players and staff like Sushi, but I am from Iowa, so inherently I don’t like Sushi. We cook anything that comes out of the Mississippi. You are on your own when it comes to Tucson Sushi.

Some other popular spots around Tucson include:
Daisy Mae’s … very casual but a steak/rib place near Starr Pass.
Lil’ Abners … Ed Farmer swears it’s the best rib place in the country (and you should see him down a rack of ribs).
Sakura … my family has already voted to head to this Teppan Yaki/Sushi place on their first night in town (on Tanque Verdi)
Fox & Hound … (located NE near the Foothills Mall) for those of you looking for a good place to watch NCAA Basketball
Champions … (I think that is the name, located near 22nd and Campbell near the U of A) has a great bar and nice menu.

Re-reading this list, you must wonder if I do anything but eat while in Tucson (well, you know I do golf). But take 45 x 10 = 450 nights of my life spent in Tucson. And some springs, I never even open the oven in my apartment. In spring training 1995, Dan Evans and I roomed together in Sarasota. That was the year to two spring trainings, one with replacement players, one with the regular guys, and Dan always joked that we did not cook a single meal.

While I am on the Tucson topic, here are a few non-baseball things you could consider while in the city…

Visit Sabino Canyon, Saguero National Forest (it’s Cactii, not trees), drive to the top of Mt. Lemmon or any of the other outdoor options that are so great. Watch for rattlesnakes (when it gets warmer) and Mountain Lions. On the Mountain Lion point, I read somewhere that if you see one, make yourself as tall and as loud as you can, place small children on your head, etc. Whatever you do, do not run (something about triggering a chase instinct and you ain’t gonna outrun one, guys). Someone else told me not to worry. By the time you see it, it is way too late. These things are apex stalkers. (Editor’s Note: Remember I live in Chicago. Don’t take wildlife advice from me very seriously).

So my kids posed around a big orange sign last spring that read: “Warning: Be Alert for Mountain Lions” or something like that. We made it into a holiday card and sent it to the grand parents. They sure loved seeing their progeny placed at risk in the wild.

A Connecticut cousin (all due respect to Mr. Twain) visited us last year and the kids, ages 6, 9, 11, 13 and 15 set out down a Sabino trail to “find a rattlesnake.” We figured what were the chances? Well, pretty good. About 10 steps down the path, there was a snake, minding its own business, curled under a tree/bush. You should have seen those kids scamper back up the trail. The biggest one was shoving his loving little cousins aside in his effort to escape the snake. It was Survivor writ large.

OK, re-reading this section (and I hope my wife does not), I realize you must think we are terrible parents. Please assume I have exaggerated some of this for effect, call it fictionalized non-fiction. But they did see a snake.

So there’s some of the other fun stuff you can do with your family and toddlers in Tucson.

No really, some of the other cool stuff is… Pima Air Museum (near the ballpark, military planes of all kinds, even the Air Force 1 Johnson was sworn in on), Zoo at Reid Park (right by Rockies ballpark), The Desert Museum (really a Zoo, this place is great. Make sure you take Gates Pass Road to get over to it), Old Tucson, Kitt Peak (an hour away), and there is a cave to the east of town that is worth the trip out (bank robbers used to hide out, lots of bats, lots of bat guano … my nine-year-old loved it).

Finally, the U of A offers great options. Their sports teams are fun and there is always something happening on campus or in the artsy area around the campus.

I am sure I have omitted much and maybe have made some mistakes in this info. Anyone who has visited or who lives in Tucson, please add to this entry or correct the record.

Special thanks to Kevin Buzard, who I understand is encouraging his MySpace friends to visit this blog. Appreciate the added readership, Buzz. Thanks.


So I was playing MLB 2k7 today, and noticed that Brian Anderson is now wearing number 32…. Anyone know the reason for the change?

I read he gave his number 44 to Toby Hall. I also read he picked number 32 in honor of Magic Johnson, who he thinks is one of the best athletes around.

And he had a great quote when talking about the change, saying, “I’m sorry to all 10 fans that went out and bought my jersey last year.” haha Love the spark of that kid!

To add to Scott’s excellent restaurant list, here are some other nice Tucson dining establishments:

Let’s start with Breakfast. To start your day off right, you can’t go wrong with The Good Egg (they have 3 Tucson locations: 4775 E. Grant Rd., 5350 E. Broadway Blvd. and 7189 E. Speedway Blvd.). If you want something more upscale, most of the leading Tucson area resorts offer more upscale breakfast options.

On to some other dining options for lunch and dinner:


Café Poca Cosa (located on Pennington St, near Scott) is a sophisticated destination restaurant and truly a Tucson treasure. It is (without question) one of the finest Mexican restaurants in the US. Experiencing Café Poca Cosa is a must on any trip to Tucson.

Cafe Terra Cotta: Anther upscale Southwestern dining gem located at 3500 E. Sunrise Dr.


Pastiche Modern Eatery, located on Campbell Ave. just south of Ft. Lowell Rd. This exceptional restaurant has a beautiful ambience (without being stuffy) and their upscale, imaginative menu is not to be missed whenever you visit in Tucson. The Pastiche late night (10 PM – midnight) happy hour menu offers nice discounts on most appetizers and their vast wines and beer selections, martinis and other libations are well worth the trip. My wife and I frequent this eclectic restaurant on a regular basis.

Asian Fusion:

Bamboo Club (located near the back entrance of Park Place Mall on Broadway (between Wilmot and Craycroft).Exceptionally, refined Asian dining. Great ambiance.

All YOu Can Eat Buffet/Salad Bar:

Sweet Tomatoes (3-4 Tucson area locations). For a healthy, quick meal Sweet Tomatoes features an inspired ultra-fresh 100-item salad bar, 7-8 daily soup selections, pasta station, baked potato bar, focaccia pizzas, several desert selections, etc. (not bad for $10 including drink).

Since Tucson is the “Mexican food Capital of the U.S.” here are two of Tucson’s best…

El Charro Cafe, the oldest Mexican restaurant in the US, is another famous “Tucson Original” Mexican restaurant (with 4 Tucson area locations – as well as booths at Tucson Electric Park to enjoy during White Sox home spring training games and at Tucson International Airport while you are waiting for your flight). El Charro’s Chimichangas are rated the best in the US by a number of leading dining guides and food critics and they are one of the two self-promclaimed Southern Arizona creators of the Chimichanga back in the 1940s.

Macayo’s (with 2 Tucson Locations (Eastside: on Broadway Blvd. just west of Kolb Rd. and North Tucson: on Oracle Rd. north of Ina Rd.) is a good casual Mexican dining option. Macayo’s holds the distinction of being the other local self-promclaimed inventor of the Chimichanga also during in the 1940s.

There are many other excellent establishments in Tucson covering every culinary dining category imaginable. Any way you slice it, Tucson is an excellent restaurant town.

My first 1st White Sox spring training game of the season will be this Saturday (March 10th) at TEP with the White Sox taking on Oakland… followed by the Sox facing the Cubs the following Friday (March 16th).

Michael Harkins

From sunny Tucson, AZ where it reached the upper ’80s today!

Having just returned from Tucson, I thought I’d add my 2 cents:

For out-of towners looking for a nice resort, I’d highly recommend the JW Marriott Starr Pass. It’s relatively new (2 years) and located closer to the ballpark than any of the city’s other resorts. Tucson traffic can be a bear, so the resort’s proximity to Tuscon Electric Park is a BIG plus. I’ve stayed at the Hilton El Conquistador previously and would recommend it for families with kids. The Loews Ventana Canyon has a quiet, secluded feel… very nice for adults. The Omni wasn’t bad, but no details stand out.

For Mexican food, I’d second Michael Harkin’s recommendation for El Charro, but would suggest steering away from the location at Speedway and Swan. Both the original location (downtown) and the Broadway & Wilmot spot have better atmospheres.

We’ve hit McMahon’s for steak on a few occasions, and I personally think the food quality isn’t as good as it used to be. (We’ll try Sullivan’s next year.) This year, we lucked out, and hit Tucson when the U of A was on spring break. (I’m a little old to be mingling with the college set.) In the campus area, we found a nice brewery: Gentle Ben’s. Very casual, nice service, and decent food.

Another siteseeing option you might want to consider is a tour of Kartchner Caverns. It’s about 60 minutes southeast of Tucson. Call ahead to ensure a tour reservation. Demand is high, and they tend to book up. I’d recommend the Rotunda tour over the Big Room, but both are pretty amazing. I have visited Colossal Cave (which is also in the area) and there really is no comparison.

If you do opt to go west to the Kitt Peak observatories(about 90 minutes west of Tucson), they offer a nighttime stargazing tour. (Again, call ahead for reservations.) It’s very interesting, but be sure to bring a warm jacket and gloves. Even in March, the temps drop into the 30s on top of the mountain. And in case you didn’t know, the observatories aren’t heated. It’s tough to look through a telescope when your teeth are chattering like a woodpecker. (Had to learn that lesson the hard way.)

I hope this is helpful to anyone considering a trip down for spring training. Please feel free to email me directly if you’d like more info.


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