My mom tells me stories of spending her high school years getting bussed an hour and a half each way, from her home in a small housing development past Forty Niner Country Club, where Tanque Verde Road turns into Redington Pass, to Rincon High School, where she was districted.

She tells me about how the weather is wildest when it blows in from the east over the Rincon Mountains, how she would be kept up at night with the sounds of lightning and crazy monsoon winds.

The far-east side of Tucson has grown a lot since those days, when her neighbors would uniformly wear cowboy boots and many had acreage to back up their outfits. Now there are big developments anchoring that part of town, like Rita Ranch, and Tucson has pushed its metro borders out farther than my mom ever expected, reaching Marana and Vail.

So a lot of Tucsonans live in areas past Houghton Road now, and want to know where to eat. Truthfully, I had no idea — I live in midtown and the 30-minute drive to the far-east side poses a threat to my understanding of the area. But I wanted to learn, so I asked the experts at the Take-Out in Tucson Facebook group, and thoroughly assessed Google Maps photos and Yelp reviews before making a short list of places to check out in person.

I found a handful of gems, places I can’t find even in midtown, alongside a huge index of neighborhood staples, from carnicerias to a local Buffalo wings joint.

Jackfruit tacos are prepared for a to-go order at the Taco Stop on the southwest corner of Houghton Road and Speedway.

Taco Stop on Speedway and Houghton

I first tried this place when driving home from a hike in Agua Caliente with my boyfriend at the time. He was a strict vegetarian and we were both starving, miles from home. The sun had long set over the valley when we pulled up to what felt like the first stoplight in forever, at North Houghton Road and East Speedway. He pulled into the Circle K parking lot with confidence I lacked that he would find a vegetarian option. I couldn’t have been more wrong.

Taco Stop has since made a name for itself on social media, connecting with vegan foodies like Hannah Hernandez. While we might have settled for a simple bean burrito, Taco Stop goes above the call of duty with some of the best vegan and vegetarian options in town. The crown jewel of their menu is a flavorful jackfruit birria, which adds spice, tang and substance to their tacos, burritos and quesabirria.

But their humbler — and much cheaper — bean burrito is delicious as well, loaded with all the fixins and especially tasty when topped with their spicy salsa verde and a squeeze of freshly-sliced lime. While the vegan birria is an event worth a trip from midtown, the bean burrito and non-vegetarian options would be lazy-day favorites if I lived in the area.

Location: 10290 E. Speedway

For more information, check out their website.

The Drunken Noodle meal, pan fried noodles, with special roasted chili sauce, jalapeño and Thai basil, from Sa-ing Thai Cuisine.

Sa-Ing Thai at Valencia and Nexus

Tucson is not known for its bounty of Thai restaurants. You probably have your neighborhood favorite, where you get your standard, inevitably tasty, Pad Thai and rarely deviate from what you know you like. When Tuk Tuk Thai came to town with their Khao Soi chicken, Tucson got to experience regional Thai street food.

I love Tuk Tuk, and yet Sa-Ing Thai offers something different: a little less flashy, just as reliably delicious. Users on various review platforms rave about Sa-Ing’s exceptional quality. I’d say that if you love Thai food, you should make the trip to try Sa-Ing to evaluate the restaurant for yourself. If you live in the area, it could become a part of your regular rotation.

I haven’t been able to try everything on the menu, but when I followed the proprietor’s recommendation and ordered the Drunken Noodle for takeout, I was delighted at how well the punchy, multifaceted, tangy-savory-sweet-spicy flavor came through, even after a misadventurous drive home that took over an hour and a half.

It wasn’t as spicy as I’ve had in the past, but I also didn’t make any particular request. I loved their Thai tea as well, which tasted strongly of ceylon and wasn’t as sweet as I’ve had elsewhere (while still sweet enough, you know?).

I’m excited to return to the area, to sample from competitor Luckie's, and to try more from Sa-Ing’s sizeable menu — starting with the other dish the guy behind the counter recommended, their green curry.

Location: 9136 E. Valencia Road

For more information, check out their website.

Salima’s Central Asian Bakery at Rincon Valley Farmers Market

This is the find that you couldn’t find on your own, without trekking out to the Udall Park or Rincon Valley farmers markets. The family who runs the Salima's food stand is from Uzbekistan and they bring to Tucson the really special foods that were innovated at the intersection of Europe, Asia and the Middle East. Everything they make is good.

I took home both their pillowy flatbread, decorated with a quilted pattern and sprinkled with white and black sesame seeds, along with a stuffed flatbread that tasted like gozleme made with flaky layers of laminated dough. Reheated to a chewy crisp in the toaster oven after nearly an hour’s drive home, it was downright heavenly.

Salima’s is also experimenting with a spicy red pepper spread called salça, available upon request.

Salima’s is available at the Rincon Valley Farmers Market:

Location: 12500 E. Old Spanish Trail Road

For more information, check out their website.

(Salima's is also at the Udall Park Farmers Market.)

Server Chloe Tribolet takes orders as the sky darkens over the patio at Saguaro Corners, 3750 S. Old Spanish Trail.

Saguaro Corners at Old Spanish Trail and Escalante

When I asked people on Take-Out in Tucson where their favorite far-east side restaurant is, Saguaro Corners became the clear favorite. It’s easy to understand why: the location amid the undeveloped east-side desert is as serene and untouched as Tohono Chul’s bistro, and the food is remarkably good.

I was once visiting a family friend on the far-east side of town with my uncle who was visiting from LA, and the friend recommended Saguaro Corners. When I read their menu, I didn’t quite understand the menu’s mix of bar food and bistro fare. I didn’t know what to expect. I ordered the Southwest chicken corn chowder, which was delicious, but what I can’t stop thinking about is the pan-seared salmon my health-conscious uncle ordered. It was incredible.

Saguaro Corners makes it with asparagus, which my uncle doesn’t care for, and I got to try it in the lemon-caper-butter sauce. It was some of the best asparagus I’ve had in my life, perfectly tender without being mushy, and with a healthy dousing of the tangy sauce, which is a classic accompaniment for a reason.

My favorite part of this restaurant is that it has a patio. Although the view isn’t quite as nice as in the spectacular, glass-walled atrium of a dining room, it’s spacious enough that I feel comfortable dining outside amid fluctuating COVID protocols. Grab a DD and settle in for the night — I get the sense their bar is as good as their kitchen.

Location: 3750 S. Old Spanish Trail

For more information, check out their website.

Other restaurants to check out on Tucson's far-east side — near or east of Houghton Road

Argenziano’s

Red sauce Italian-American eatery.

Location: 16251 S. Houghton Road

For more information, check out their Facebook page.

Arizona Pizza Company

Pizza, salads and wings in a casual setting.

Location: 13190 E. Colossal Cave Road

For more information, check out their Facebook page.

The Barnyard Crafthouse & Eatery

Grill menu with pizzas, spacious outdoor seating and a cohesive barn theme.

Location: 11011 E. Tanque Verde Road

For more information, check out their website.

Black Barn Eatery

A food truck with a small menu of sandwiches and homestyle sides like mac and cheese and a quaint, established outdoor eating space.

Location: 6200 S. Kolb Road

For more information, check out their Yelp page or their Instagram.

Blackhawk BBQ and Coffee Shop

A military-themed barbecue joint and coffee shop, with country-western live music and discounts for first responders.

Location: 16461 S. Houghton Road

For more information, check out their website.

Charquitas Mexican Food

Mexican food truck with seating near Ace Hardware. Reader Nikki recommends their salsa verde, beef burrito enchilada-style, and their pickled carrots.

Location: 16335 S. Houghton Road

For more information, check out their Facebook page.

Dos Hermanos Taqueria

Sports bar meets taco shop. The menu at this new spot is a bounty of drink specials and tasty bar food, with Mexican flair. Is it the most fun restaurant on Tucson's far-east side? You'll have to go to find out.

Location: 8270 S. Houghton Road

For more information, check out their Facebook page.

El Coronado Restaurant

Sit-down Mexican restaurant with margaritas, burgers and chimichangas.

Location: 7385 S. Houghton Road

For more information, check out their website.

Hacienda Del Lago

Bar and grill with a happy hour and kids menu at the Del Lago Golf Club.

Location: 14155 E. Via Rancho Del Lago

For more information, check out their website.

Happy Wok

Chinese restaurant with a variety of regional options, from Schezwan chicken to Hunan shrimp, as well as noodles and classic standbys like mapo tofu and Kung Pao chicken.

Location: 9040 E. Valencia Road

For more information, check out their website.

Hops Sports Grill

Classic sports bar with a made-from-scratch menu, a daily happy hour and gameday specials. Recommended by reader Craig!

Location: 120 S. Houghton Road

For more information, check out their website.

Houghton Meat Market LLC

Locally-owned New-York-style butcher shop, plus ready-made options like meatloaf and bacon-wrapped jalapeño poppers.

Location: 10275 E. 22nd St.

For more information, check out their website.

Loncho’s Street Tacos & Spirits

Taqueria with burgers and frozen drinks.

Location: 8270 S. Houghton Road

For more information, check out their Facebook page.

Luckie’s Thai Asian Cuisine

Thai restaurant that also offers some Chinese standbys.

Location: 8110 S. Houghton Road

For more information, check out their website.

Montgomery’s

Classic grill menu: burgers, soups, salads, sandwiches, as well as bar fare like mozz sticks.

Location: 13190 E. Colossal Cave Road

For more information, check out their website.

Mr. Toro Carniceria

Mexican-style meat market with a small hot-food menu: combo plates, quesadillas and breakfast burritos, and more.

Location: 7545 S. Houghton Road

For more information, check out their Facebook page.

From left: A massive fish taco, paired with a carnitas Taco Frito at Papa Locos.

Papa Locos

Burritos (including the breakfast variety), tacos, Sonoran dogs and chiles rellenos, as well as burgers.

Location: 8201 S. Rita Road

For more information, check out their website.

Rancho Rustico

Sit-down Mexican restaurant recommended by many on Take-Out in Tucson.

Location: 10275 S. Houghton Road

For more information, check out their website.

Rincon Mountain Grill

Bar and grill with pizza, wings and Southwest options, with a patio at the Forty Niner Country Club.

Location: Forty Niner Country Club, 12000 E. Tanque Verde Road

For more information, check out their website.

Rocking K Market

Deli with draft beers on tap, a rotating kitchen menu and a cute patio.

Location: 12660 E. Old Spanish Trail

For more information, check out their Facebook page.

Serial Grillers

Popular Tucson chain for sandwiches, as well as pizza, tots, wings, and salads.

Location: 7585 S. Houghton Road

For more information, check out their website.

Tanque Verde Ranch

Guest ranch with a variety of cowboy-style dining, from a sit-down restaurant to a saloon, as well as plein-air, post-ride options.

Location: 14301 E. Speedway

For more information, check out their website.

Wings on Fire

Local spot for Buffalo wings, with a variety of creative fries and a small selection of chicken sandwiches, salads and hot dogs

Location: 9040 E. Valencia Road

For more information, check out their website.

Food trucks that can often be found at Nexus and Valencia roads:

Did we miss any of your favorite far-east eats? Let us know at elueders@tucson.com!


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