It’s 2007. You’re sitting on the crunchy bedspread at a mid-range chain hotel.

The TV has channels you don’t get on the basic cable at home: Nickelodeon, ESPN, HBO and Food Network. Your dad is flicking through the channels while a movie is on commercial. He lands on a segment and the volume seems to be turned all the way up. The host, a man with bleached tips, wears his sunglasses backwards and is yelling at the camera, but in a happy way.

A montage emerges to a rockabilly soundtrack. The footage can only be described as food porn: a deep dish pie with a crust shelf like Marianas Trench; a mélange of different prepared meats crammed between two buns; bowls of spices being dumped into a 10-gallon bucket of red sauce.

The show is called Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives, and it’s an initiation for many Americans’ into our country’s unique food culture. The premise, if you don’t know, is an endless road trip sampling the best down-home cooking the 50 states has to offer. Sitting in the hotel room, you’ll take a trip to Grand Rapids, Michigan, or Wilmington, North Carolina, and make note of the food to try if you ever do find yourself there in person.

The bottom of a pan reads “Guy ate here” with Guy Fieri’s signature at Tumerico.

In 2018, Guy Fieri, the magi of holes-in-the-wall, visited Tucson. He filmed six segments that were distributed across just as many episodes. Every one of these establishments survived the pandemic. One is even persisting despite the never-ending construction project on Broadway.

The restaurants that Fieri picked defy the milkshakes and cheeseburgers collaged in Triple D’s intro: his research team curated a diverse roster.

Eaters interviewed at these restaurants often said, “You can’t find this kind of food anywhere else in Tucson.” One vegan restaurant even made the cut as an homage to Fieri's sister, who died in 2011 and was a vegetarian. Fieri shows off a tattoo honoring his sister during the episode: she's stylized in the image of La Virgen.

Here are the six restaurants Guy Fieri visited in Tucson and what he ate there:

Goulash at Chef Alisah’s, operated by a Bosnian refugee who came to Tucson in 1998, was featured on "Diners, Drive Ins and Dives."

Chef Alisah’s

During the Bosnian war, Chef Ahmet Alisah and his family were put in a concentration camp. He came to Tucson as a refugee. Now he serves up eastern-European-style fare in the Casas Adobes neighborhood, aided by his wife and son who work in the front-of-house. In the broadcast segment, Guy Fieri sampled the cevapi, homemade beef sausages served with tzatziki and yeast bread, as well as the goulash.

Chef Alisah’s was featured in episode 13 of season 28, “Seafood and Savory.”

Location: 5931 N. Oracle Road

Hours: Lunch service 10:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Wednesday-Sunday | Dinner service 5:30-9:30 p.m. Tuesday-Sunday | Closed Monday

For more information, check out their website.

Seco de Carne with a glass of wine at Inca's, 6878 E. Sunrise Dr., in Tucson, Ariz. on April 28, 2022. Inca's, a Peruvian cuisine restaurant, was one of a few restaurants featured in American Restaurateur Guy Fieri's Diners, Drive-ins and Dives television show.

Inca’s Peruvian Cuisine

Inca’s shared an unusual backstory with Fieri: the restauranteur Fátima Campos is a Mexican woman who fell in love with a Peruvian man. She said her mom told her the love starts with the food, so she learned how to make his favorite recipes from home. The Foothills-area establishment served Fieri a stewy steak dish served with a sauce made from herbs and peppers the chef imported from Peru, called seco de carne con frejoles. He also tried their lomo saltado, Peruvian-style steak frites.

Inca’s was featured in episode 11 of season 28, “Pizza, Pork and Peru.”

Location: 6878 E. Sunrise Dr.

Hours: 11:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. Tuesday-Sunday | 4-8 p.m. Monday

For more information, check out their website.

Renee's spinach dip calzone was called "dangerous" by Guy Fieri in the 28th season of his show, Diners, Drive Ins and Dives.

Renee’s

“Marchin’ to the beat of their own drum; doing it their own way” is Fieri’s pitch for east-side favorite Renee’s (then Renee’s Organic Oven). The restaurant now serves a “Food Network box” alongside other takeout combos like a series of vegan or comfort food dishes.

The standout item is the spinach dip calzone: “This is dangerous, bruh,” Fieri said to the chef, Steve Kreager (owner Renee Kreager’s high school sweetheart and husband).

Fieri also sampled the Tailored Tony, branded as an open-faced sloppy joe, with a little Caesar on the side. “I love Caesar dressing,” Fieri said.

He pointed out Renee’s commitment to organic ingredients, which elevate the simple flavors: “The kicker on the whole thing are these red bells, man.”

Renee’s was featured in episode 7 of season 28, “Rollin’ in the Dough.”

Location: 7065 E. Tanque Verde Road

Hours: 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Wednesday-Sunday | Closed Monday-Tuesday

For more information, check out their website.

Rocco's Little Chicago was featured on the 28th season of "Diners, Drive Ins and Dives." The Kitchen Sink deep dish pizza is topped with mushrooms, green bell peppers, red onions, pepperoni and sausage. The cheese: it's under the sauce.

Rocco’s Little Chicago

“I’m usually a thin-crust guy, but I hear the deep-dish you do is pretty gangster,” Fieri said to owner Rocco DiGrazia, a transplant from Chicago who has brought his hometown eats to the Old Pueblo.

Rocco’s Little Chicago often features creative pies, including monthly specials that customers can write in suggestions for. (This month, April, is the Cretaceous Mass Extinction II: The Lost World — a deep-dish pie covered in mac n’ cheese, a single meatball asteroid and a scattering of terrified lil dino nuggets, topped with Hot Cheetos lava.)

The pie featured on the show, though, was the Kitchen Sink: pepperoni, Italian sausage, red onions and green peppers. They also filmed a side of Hot Sticks: pizza dough breadsticks, smothered in Buffalo wing sauce and twisted into shape.

Rocco’s Little Chicago was featured in episode 14 of season 28, “Grab and Grub.”

Location: 2707 E. Broadway

Hours: 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily

For more information, check out their website.

Guy Fieri was amazed at Tumerico's vegan jackfruit carnitas.

Tumerico

Walking down the sidewalk off of Sixth Street, Guy Fieri gives us a little anecdote. His sister Morgan said, “You gotta give vegetarian food a chance.” But he insists he’s not willing to sacrifice flavor. So he comes to Tumerico, where you can get eerily convincing carnitas made of jackfruit.

In the kitchen with Chef Wendy Garcia, Fieri points to a tattoo on his forearm. “Morgan, that’s my sister,” he said. “She taught me so much about vegetarian cooking.”

By the end of the segment, Fieri is video-calling his mom to get her to attest to the dupes. He shows her a jackfruit carnitas plate, with house-made soyrizo, adobo, rice and beans with ranchero sauce, and eggplant chicharrón. He also samples the nopales tacos.

Tumerico was featured in episode 10 of season 28, “Lights Out Latin.”

Location: 2526 E. Sixth St. and 402 E. Fourth St.

Hours: Sixth Street | 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. Wednesday-Saturday | 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Tuesday and Sunday | Closed Monday. Fourth Avenue | 3-8 p.m. Friday | 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Saturday | 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday | Closed Monday-Thursday

For more information, check out their website.

The doro wat chicken dish is served with freshly-made injera at Zemam's, Too.

Zemam’s

Zemam’s, like Chef Alisah’s, is a restaurant founded and run by someone who came to Tucson as a refugee. Amanuel Gebremariam fled Eritrea over 40 years ago.

Zemam’s original location, now temporarily closed due to construction on Broadway, was the home he settled in with his wife and kids. For now, though, we’ll have to suffice with Zemam’s Too, their second location on Speedway.

Fieri first watches Gebremariam make injera, the traditional sourdough bread made with teff flour that is used both as a plate and utensil in Eritrean and Ethiopian cuisine. Then, he tries a vegetarian platter called gomen alicha, and the doro wat chicken platter. “Each of the individual dishes is its own little song. And it becomes an Ethiopian musical!” Fieri said.

Zemam’s was featured in episode 8 of season 28, “International Intrigue.”

Location: 119 E. Speedway

Hours: 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Tuesday-Thursday and Sunday | 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Friday-Saturday | Closed Monday

For more information, check out their website.


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