2018 Tucson Meet Yourself

Zehra and Rana Kilcak indulge in a few helpings of Turkish treats at the 2018 Tucson Meet Yourself.

Tucson Meet Yourself is Tucson’s annual folklife festival, where we have the opportunity to meet our neighbors from across different cultural backgrounds.

Festival organizers will sometimes call the event “Tucson Eat Yourself” because of its outstanding, diverse array of food vendors, many of whom come out exclusively for this event.

We’re here to help you plan your food itinerary for the festival, which is taking place Friday-Sunday, Oct. 7-9 at Jácome Plaza downtown, 101 N. Stone Ave. The festival runs 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Oct. 7-8 and 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Oct. 9.

This roundup of vendors is informed by the event’s official site and subject to change. See full menus here!

1. BBQ and Beats

Its name says it all: this food truck brings dance music DJs and Southwestern, mesquite and hatch chile barbecue together.

Standout menu items: The menu is centered around pulled pork, BBQ chicken, and “sloppy bro” beef. Standout menu items are the loaded mac & cheese and BBQ tacos.

2. Food 2 Door Catering (Persian)

This Persian catering company is serving refined home cooking.

Standout menu items: I’m most excited for their pistachio ice cream, made with saffron and rose water.

3. Herculean Chicken

Taiwanese-style fried chicken, yes please! This is the pop-up project of IG foodie @phx_food_whisperer.

Standout menu items: the eponymous Taiwanese-style fried chicken, served with basil.

4. MAD Filipino Cooking

This pop-up offers a short menu of Filipino favorites like pancit, lumpia and ube cookies.

Standout menu items: Filipino-style siomai, made with pork and beef instead of shrimp.

5. Off the Hook Seafood

Off the Hook Seafood has a cult following in the Take-Out in Tucson Facebook group for their Southern-style fried fish.

Standout menu items: fried catfish and hush puppies.

Festival-goers gather in Jacome Plaza during the opening day of the 2018 Tucson Meet Yourself folklife festival.

6. Tucson Afghan Community

This Afghan community group wants to share their culture through their food and hospitality, beyond the headlines.

Standout menu items: their pictured dish appears to be the qabuli palow, beef served with raisins, carrots and rice. Their morgh e tandoori might be more accessible, similar to the more familiar Punjabi tandoori chicken.

7. Boriken Modern Puerto Rican Cuisine

I love arroz con gandules, and this Puerto Rican mobile caterer offers that and much more.

Standout menu items: Carne Frita con Mofongo, garlic mashed plantain with fried pork.

8. Cafe Francais

This east-side pastry shop offers more traditional French pastries alongside American favorites like brownies.

Standout menu items: kouign-amann pastries are hard to find in Tucson, but you can get them here!

9. Chinese Student Association

This University of Arizona group will be making small dessert items traditional in China and Hong Kong.

Standout menu items: Portuguese egg tarts (popular at dim sum spots) and Hong Kong-style French toast, made with condensed milk instead of syrup.

10. Churros El Rey

This churro truck serves a variety of churros: filled and à la mode, alongside a menu of ice cream and coffee specialties.

Standout menu items: churro sundae, please!

11. Club Colombia

This Colombian group makes food at Tucson Meet Yourself and Tucson Meet Yourself only. Colombian food is hard to find in Tucson, so check it out here.

Standout menu items: arepas!!!

12. Cocina Oaxaquena

We featured this Oaxacan food truck last year, because of their traditional mole and tamales wrapped in banana leaves instead of corn husks.

Standout menu items: Tamales oaxaqueño con mole y queso fresco.

13. Coyote Kitchen O’odham Frybread

Coyote Kitchen is making both sweet and savory popovers, with red or green chile beef.

Standout menu items: Add honey to your popover for no charge.

Festival-goers indulge in the food offerings during the opening day of the 2018 Tucson Meet Yourself folklife festival.

14. Eatgypt

This Egyptian food vendor has been spotted at farmers markets in town, and mainly serves koshary, Egypt’s national dish, along with lentil soup called Shorbat Adas and the karkade drink, similar to jamaica.

Standout menu items: koshary, a vegan dish made with a jumble of chickpeas and starches, topped with crispy onions and tomato sauce.

15. El Taco Rustico

Tucson loves El Taco Rustico, which got its start at the O’odham Swap Meet and now runs a sit-down restaurant on Oracle Road.

Standout menu items: their al pastor tacos are carved from a trompo.

16. Empanadas El Dominicano

Empanadas have a variety of regional variations across Latin America. The Dominican style is similar to those you can find in other Caribbean countries, savory hand pies.

Standout menu items: jamon con queso is an especially popular variety.

17. Frost Gelato

This homegrown gelato shop will be at this year’s Tucson Meet Yourself.

Standout menu items: Flavors aren't yet listed on the TMY website.

18. Fruit Shack Smoothies and Yogurt

You can find smoothies alongside empanadas and pretzels at this eclectic stand, which also has a location on Broadway.

Standout menu items: Specifics aren't yet listed on the TMY website.

19. HBCU College Tour Group

Alumni from Historically Black Colleges and Universities are bringing Southern-style barbecue, a special part of family reunions, to Tucson Meet Yourself.

Standout menu items: BBQ rib plates, peach cobbler (!!) and Kool-Aid served with fresh fruit and berries.

20. Hawaiian Shave Ice

Hawaiian shave ice is freshly-shaved ice served here with your choice of 26 different flavored syrups.

Standout menu items: the li hing powder and chamoy toppings!

21. Inca’s Peruvian Cuisine

This Foothills-area Peruvian restaurant was visited by Guy Fieri in 2018. You can get a limited selection from their menu at Tucson Meet Yourself.

Standout menu items: chica morada, purple corn drink.

22. J’s Kettle Corn

It’s kettle corn! Available in three different sizes.

23. Just Churros

Just Churros uses a traditional Spanish recipe, with the traditional Mexican cinnamon sugar topping.

Standout menu items: their churros are heavenly. I don’t need any toppings, but if you’re interested you can try the cajeta, goat milk caramel.

24. Kingston Kitchen

Kingston Kitchen is bringing Jamaican food to Tucson Meet Yourself.

Standout menu items: Oxtail with the side of festival, Caribbean hush puppies.

25. Lajkonik Polish Folk Ensemble

This folk ensemble does more than perform their traditional dance at Tucson Meet Yourself, they’re bringing us Polish food too!

Standout menu items: the menu is simple. Choose between pierogi with vegetarian fillings or Kielbasa, polish pork sausage. Or get both in a combo plate!

Shish kebab, chicken and beef sticks with fried rice and egg rolls from the Laos Academic Organization booth in 2016.

26. Laos Academic Organization

This Laotian group has been at Tucson Meet Yourself for the past quarter century. They offer a cuisine with influence from nearby countries, like Thai larb and papaya salad.

Standout menu items: papaya salad, chicken sticks and Laos sweet tea.

27. Los Chiquilines Aguas Frescas

These aguas frescas (traditional Mexican drinks) are made from scratch and have been featured at Tucson Meet Yourself from the start.

Standout menu items: horchata, and the agua de sandia (watermelon) or mango.

28. Mama Carey’s Kitchen & Catering

Mama Carey is a caterer specializing in soul food: sweet potato pie, fried catfish and hush puppies.

Standout menu items: catfish sandwich and homemade pound cake and sweet potato pie.

29. Mariscos Chihuahua

This local mariscos restaurant will be offering ceviche made with either shrimp or chickpeas.

Standout menu items: while both ceviches are likely delicious, their ceviche made with chickpeas is one of the most exciting vegan options at Tucson Meet Yourself.

Helpers and staff of Tucson’s Café Santa Rosa make Indian fry bread during the opening day of the 44th Tucson Meet Yourself. Café Santa Rosa, which specializes in Native American cuisine, “started at Tucson Meet Yourself,” said Maribel Alvarez, program director for Tucson Meet Yourself.

30. Miracle on 36th St. (Cafe Santa Rosa)

Cafe Santa Rosa is a local favorite restaurant serving O’odham food. At Tucson Meet Yourself, they’ll be serving a popover-centric menu.

Standout menu items: their hamburger made with popovers sounds decadent.

31. Moreno’s Roasted Corn

Whether you call it roasted corn or elote, Tucsonans love this food. Eat it plain with butter or with toppings like mayo and cheese or lemon pepper.

Standout menu items: It’s corn!

32. O’odham Ladies

Find popovers with both sweet and savory options.

Standout menu items: red chile taco, please!

Everyone’s waiting for the Tsatziki sauce to top off the gyro sandwich at the Daughters of Penelope/Order of Ahepa Greek Food Booth in 2017.

33. Order of Ahepa Greek Food

You might not be able to stop by the Tucson Greek Festival this year, but you can still get food by its host, St. Demetrios Greek Orthodox Church. You can try their gyros, spanakopita, dolmathes, baklava and lemonatha (Greek lemonade).

Standout menu items: their dolmathes are made by the γιαγιάs of the church. The ones I had at the Greek Festival last year were one of my favorite things I ate in 2021!

34. Pam’s Kitchen

This family operation sells Jamaican specialties like jerk chicken and oxtail. You can’t find this outside of Tucson Meet Yourself.

Standout menu items: curry goat!

35. Ricuras de Venezuela

Venezuelan arepas are more like pita pocket sandwiches than a grilled corn patty with a filling. Ricuras de Venezuela also offers cachapa and papelon con limón, Venezuelan lemonade.

Standout menu items: The papelon con limón is made with piloncillo. Yum.

36. Saffron Indian Bistro

Saffron has a brick and mortar in the Oro Valley area and is part of the same family as Kababeque Indian Grill on University Boulevard. They’re offering a chicken or veg combo box of curry, samosas and flatbread called chole bhature.

Standout menu items: curries and mango juice.

37. San Xavier Cooperative Farm

Sax Xavier Cooperative Farm is using heritage O’odham ingredients like tepary beans, squash, wheat berries, O’odham yellow watermelon and mesquite flour on their menu.

Standout menu items: Tohono O’odham pea soup with yeast bread, mesquite cookies and O’odham yellow watermelon lemonade.

38. Santa Cruz Catholic Church/Little Mexico Restaurant

Little Mexico Restaurant serves classic Sonoran foods (carne asada tacos, quesadillas, horchata, etc.). Their Tucson Meet Yourself booth every year supports local Santa Cruz Catholic Church.

Standout menu items: cinnamon tea.

Tessa Bielecki and David Denny, co-directors of the Desert Foundation, finish eating their food during the 2019 Tucson Meet Yourself in Jácome Plaza. 

39. Sema Foundation

Sema Foundation offers a substantial menu of Turkish favorites like gözleme, doner, and kebap made with chicken, koefte (Turkish meatballs), and veggies.

Standout menu items: doner with bulgur salad and hibiscus sorbet.

40. Solid Grindz Hawaiian Food

Solid Grindz is a Hawaiian food truck (with a location inside the east-side Just 1 More bar) serving chicken katsu, ahi poke, spam musubi and lau lau. 

Standout menu items: I’d like to try their mochiko chicken!

41. Sonoran Sno Cones

Raspados!! Sonoran Sno Cones have both sweet and savory toppings, from ice cream and condensed milk to Japanese peanuts, clamato and cucumber.

Standout menu items: If you like the combination of both sweet and savory, try pepihuates — Japanese peanuts, cucumber, clamato, chamoy, lime, Mexican candies.

Robert Rosas and son Bubba, 2, discuss lunch choices.

42. Takoyaki Balls

This food truck makes Japanese specialties, including the eponymous Takoyaki balls, which are fried octopus dumplings.

Standout menu items: Katsu curry.

43. Taste of Bosnia

If you’re not familiar with Bosnian food, it is informed by its intersectional location, nestled between the Mediterranean and central Europe. At Tucson Meet Yourself, Taste of Bosnia is offering both Hungarian-adjacent goulash or a spinach and feta pie in the family of borek and spanakopita.

Standout menu items: Their only two other menu items are baklava made with walnuts and honey, and cevapi, sausage made of ground beef and lamb.

44. UA Filipino Students Association

Every item at this Filipino food booth is a no-hitter: barbecued pork skewers, ube horchata (!!), lumpia, adobo fried rice (made with chicken adobo), and bibingka (coconut rice cake).

Standout menu items: I’d go here for dessert — ube horchata with bibingka. My editor Gloria Knott says their lumpia is “SO SO good.”

Son Tran, a senior physiology and molecular and cellular biology student at the University of Arizona, grills pork and chicken at the Vietnamese Student Association booth during the annual Tucson Meet Yourself in 2019.

45. Vietnamese Student Association

This group of UA students is bringing Vietnamese favorites like bánh mì and Vietnamese coffee, alongside marinated pork or chicken skewers.

Standout menu items: I want to try their limeade!

46. Wat Buddhametta

This Thai Theravada Buddhist temple is making food and making friends at this year's Tucson Meet Yourself. “We are at the festival not only to raise money to support our temple, but also to build friendship [with] others,” they say on the festival's website. They’ll serve classics like pad thai, chicken satay and Thai iced tea.

Standout menu items: I’m excited about their fried banana, but their pad thai is likely a good bet.

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