Holy churros Batman! We've got a sprinkle one. It's fresh out the fryer and dipped in liquid chocolate, just like those pictures I saw on Instagram. Will it save the world from the brink of utter collapse? Probably not, but it tastes real good in the parking lot with an iced coffee.
Surprisingly, King Churros is just one of 11 (I repeat, 11) new restaurants that have opened in Tucson over the past couple months. I'm just about over the moon here, thinking about how determined our service industry folks are, and all the new options we have for Hong Kong-style Chinese food, drive-thru falafel, artisanal cider and more.
This really is a solid list this month. I've yet to go to the poke place, but I can personally vouch for the majority of restaurants on this list. Many of them are second locations, like Tacos Apson and Med Cuisine, which makes them all the more accessible during this pandemic. Also, we've got some interesting concepts on the horizon. Make sure to check the bottom of this list to see what we have in store this fall. (Is it fall yet, please?!)
The 81 Hong Kong Cafe
Even a pandemic can't keep our regional Chinese game down ... The 81 Hong Kong Cafe features a large menu of Cantonese classics that you'll find on the streets of Hong Kong. The restaurant is just doing takeout through the front door right now, but I was wowed by the food I picked up for lunch. Make sure you grab some fried chicken wings as an appetizer; they were crunchy and sweet with 5 spice rub. The menu has lots of rice and noodle dishes, including an entire section of rice bentos that come with hot dogs, Spam and a fried egg. My pork bento don was fantastic, but definitely not for car eating. #messy
Hours: Wednesday-Monday, 10 a.m. to 9 p.m., closed Tuesday
Bawker Bawker Cider House
Tucson is getting its first artisan hard cider producer this week. Bawker Bawker is opening its doors on Fourth Avenue this Friday evening (Sept. 4) for an opening "Flight Night." (Make sure to reserve a table ahead of time by going to their website.) Former brewer Don Rubino will have a rotating assortment of 15 different apple ciders that he ferments in-house. He uses unfiltered apple juice from the Pacific Northwest and ingredients like lavender, cucumber, curry and even tomato basil to create different flavors. I stopped by for a tasting and really enjoyed the prickly pear lemon, which was refreshing in the heat, but not cloyingly sweet.
Hours: Friday 6-10 p.m., Saturday 3-10 p.m., Sunday 1-6 p.m., closed Monday through Thursday
Bumsted’s at Wonderwall
Bumsted's is back! The Fourth Avenue bar has reappeared inside the former Royal Sun karaoke lounge at the Best Western hotel on Stone Avenue. The owners are working together with a local karaoke producer Tony Diaz of Ynot Entertainment to bring the funky menu back, plus a regular schedule of karaoke. (The team is keeping tables far apart and is sanitizing the microphone between performances.) Also, they're doing breakfast now?! Read more.
Hours: 11 a.m. to midnight daily
El Chapo Restaurant
This new raspados joint is the boss. But that's because it has a drive-thru, which allows you to get your sweet and spicy mangoes without leaving your air conditioned car. The name El Chapo is actually the owner Karim Duqmaq's childhood nickname, and we'll leave it at that. You've got your regular raspados and tostilocos here, but the main draw is the several styles of elote on a stick, rubbed in your choice of spicy chip dust: Takis, Tostitos, Hot Cheetos, etc. You may recognize these folks from the Tanque Verde Swapmeet, because that's where they started!
Hours: Tuesday-Sunday, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m., closed Monday
Gamar Family Market
This Middle Eastern grocery store has been here for a few months, but now there's a takeout counter in the back of the shop. Its owner Omar El Farmaoui used to have Wrap N' Roll on the University of Arizona campus, where he sold pita sandwiches and rolled Thai ice cream. He intends to bring that concept here to Gamar Family Market, and he's already stocking up on different candies you can add to your ice cream. The food menu is simple right now: Build your own pita sandwich or rice bowl, with chicken shawarma, gyro meat, falafel or beef. They're also doing kabobs and lamb shanks for those high-rollers.
Hours: 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily
In the same shopping center as Gamar Family Market, this new churro spot is a game changer for the Mexican sweet scene. King Churros makes its churros fresh to order, which means they're crunchy and bubbly and hot when you get them. Customize each churro ring with ingredients like chocolate, sprinkles, Oreos and more. Or go for one of the more indulgent offerings: churro sundae, churro ice cream sandwich, churro burger?! So much for that whole diet thing you were trying to do. Whatever, the world's ending, right?
Hours: Sunday-Thursday, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.; Friday and Saturday, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.
You may remember this restaurant from the Park Place Mall. Well this is actually Med Cuisine's second location, in the former home of El Saguarito on Prince and Campbell. The menu has classic Middle Eastern fare, including many Lebanese dishes like tabbouleh, beef tenderloin kebobs and the roasted eggplant dip baba ghanoush, which is made in-house by charring eggplants until their skin blackens. Med Cuisine also has a drive-thru, so you can chow down without getting out of your car.
Hours: Monday-Friday, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.; Saturday, 11 a.m. to 9:30 p.m.; Sunday, 11 a.m. to 6:30 p.m.
Ngan Jimenez and her family are originally from Southern Vietnam, so Phở Ngân has dishes that are less familiar to American palates than your typical pho noodle soups and bun cha vermicelli rice dishes. You've got to try the pyramid-shaped bánh giò, located in a counter up at the front of the restaurant. The glutinous rice flour batter is wrapped around a cluster of ground pork and woodear mushrooms, and then steamed in a fragrant banana leaf. Also, don't miss the bún bò Huế. Kind of like a red menudo, this spicy Vietnamese beef soup is a great hangover cure with its heady lemongrass-infused beef broth. Read more.
Hours: 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily
Pure Poke and Prep
Y'all remember Hoki Poki? Well unfortunately that is no more, and its east side location has been taken over by a new poke spot called Pure Poke and Prep. (It's like Prep and Pastry got together with Tito and Pep, and had a little tuna baby.) This new restaurant seems intriguing, because it serves traditional Oahu-style poke, which is much different than the California poke hybrids we're used to. The Kahuku bowl, pictured here, is simply ahi tuna in a sweet soy marinade with white and green onions and sesame seeds. They also do the build-your-own poke bowls, but I'm excited to try the real stuff! Read more.
Hours: 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily
Snooze an A.M. Eatery
Snooze's opening was pushed back three months because of the coronavirus pandemic, but it's finally here. The buzzworthy chain of breakfast diners has expanded to Tucson, and is now open in the Grant Modern complex next door to Postino. Snooze an A.M. Eatery is known for its funky eggs Benedicts and sizable bloody Mary bar. (Thank goodness we can get our booze to-go now.) I enjoyed the Funky Monkey plate, which is basically banana bread made into French toast, with a brûléed banana on the side. Skip the breakfast burrito; you can get better elsewhere.
Hours: Monday-Friday, 7 a.m. to 2 p.m.; Saturday and Sunday, 6:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.
Hungry northsiders, wait no longer! Tacos Apson held its grand opening this Monday, and the grilled meats are plentiful. The South Twelfth Avenue taqueria just opened a second location in a former Chuy's on Thornydale, bringing its acclaimed Sonoran food to Marana. The new space is roomier than the original location, and boasts an expanded menu with "ordenes pa' llevar" or to-go platters, including parillada platters with carne asada, al pastor, beef ribs, two dozen tortillas and more. I know it's random, but you have to get the Taco Chino, which is filled with their fabulous refried beans. But eat it right away, even if you're in the car. It's worth it! Read more.
On the horizon:
• Tuk Tuk Thai at 2990 N. Campbell Ave. is holding its soft opening this Monday, Sept. 7, according to a Facebook post. The restaurant serves Thai street food, with some interesting dishes like pad Thai noodles with softshell crab. Look at this bowl of khao soi!!!
• Transit Tea is still undergoing construction on its building at 2645 E. Speedway, it posted on Facebook. The business started out as a food truck and is opening its first brick and mortar in a former Fired Pie pizza joint.
• A sign has gone up at the old Athens on Fourth space at 500 N. Fourth Ave. The new restaurant will be a second location for Opa's Best, the Greek restaurant on Broadway and Swan. (Not to be confused with Opa!, formerly at American Eat Co.)
- With reporting by Gerald M. Gay