I don't know about you but I could go for some comfort food right now. Something real decadent, like a classic cheeseburger or a strawberry raspado made with Hawaiian shaved ice and stuffed with Thrifty ice cream.
Thank goodness for food. And thank goodness that Tucson has not one, but nine new food spots this month. Some of them serve cheesesteaks. And others serve pie. Need I say more? Before I leave you with this massive list of awesome new spots, I wanted to tell you that you're awesome too, and that all is not lost. Just this week, the House of Representatives passed the $2.2 trillion “Heroes Act,” which includes more than a billion dollars in grant money for independent restaurants. Now it's up to the Senate, which is a mixed bag right now ...
That's why I want to thank everyone for doing their part to support local restaurants by getting takeout or dining out on a patio somewhere near you. The industry may be struggling, but that doesn't stop these hard workers from innovating and opening up new ventures for our enjoyment. Also, check out the list of "upcoming restaurants" at the bottom of this article. Himalayan food? Right on!
Frankie’s South Philly Cheesesteaks
This midtown staple has been slinging cheesesteaks since 2004, but it's finally getting its second location this month. Frankie's South Philly Cheesesteaks opened in a stripmall spot at 3780 W. Ina Road in Marana, next door to Mod Pizza. Although founder Frank Santos passed away last summer after a long battle with cancer, you can still expect the same delicious greasy cheesesteaks that the shop is known for. Make sure to get yours with the Whiz, and maybe a little broccoli rabe and roasted hot peppers in there. Then it counts as healthy! Read more.
Hours: Monday through Saturday 11 a.m. to 8 p.m., closed Sunday
George Wine Shop
George Wine Shop is named after its owner George Bon, but the name George also means "farmer" in Greek. And that's what this wine shop is all about. Bon wants to highlight smaller production family wineries that practice sustainable farming. A service industry buff, Bon caught the wine bug while living in San Francisco and was most recently doing group sales for conferences and conventions at the Omni Tucson National Resort when he got furloughed in March. His new shop has approachable wines from all over the world, including some familiar Arizona wineries like Sand Reckoner and Page Springs Cellars. They'll also deliver anywhere in Tucson for a $5 fee.
Hours: Monday through Saturday 11 a.m. to 7 p.m., closed Sunday
Rae’s Classics Burgers, Fries & Pies
Does anyone remember the old Shari's burger shack that was on First Avenue for more than 50 years? Well the owners of Fat Noodle are big fans, and they want to recreate the Shari's vibe with their new ghost kitchen Rae's Classics Burgers, Fries & Pies. (Kind of a random flex, but it makes sense considering one of Fat Noodle's best menu items is a ramen burger.) The menu is simple, with everything you see here in the name. And it's available for pickup at Fat Noodle's spot on Wetmore, or delivery through Grubhub. I haven't hit this one up yet, but the pictures look so good! Read more.
Hours: Tuesday through Saturday from noon to 7 p.m., closed Sunday and Monday
Sydney’s Sweet Shoppe
East siders have a fabulous new pie spot, now that Sydney's Sweet Shoppe is open on Tanque Verde and Bear Canyon roads. Owner Sydney Adams learned to bake from her grandmother Patricia “Pat” Finney, who won a first-place award for her chocolatey Texas sheet cake in a "Parade Magazine" Family Weekly Neighbor’s Recipe contest in 1979. The whole family was there during the shop's grand opening this Thursday, and grandma watched as her cakes flew by. Pies are the name of the game here though, and they've got a nice selection of fruit pies, cream pies, pecan and my favorite, pumpkin. Oooh, it was delicious as I stuffed it down in my car. You can also order specialty pies online at Sydney's website, or get pies delivered through platforms like Uber Eats.
Hours: Tuesday through Friday noon to 6 p.m., Saturday 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Sunday and Monday
Toto's Taco Restaurant
This new Sonoran taco joint moved into the St. Mary's building that most recently held Mestizo's, which closed at the beginning of the pandemic. Toto's Taco Restaurant is half casual taqueria, half homey Mexican restaurant that serves breakfast burros and plates in the morning and Sonoran soups and combination plates for lunch. The cheesy birria tacos are worth a try, but the tripas was probably my favorite of all the taco selections. They weren't super crunchy, but had a nice fatty flavor with some fresh guacamole on top. Toto's also does a Sonoran dog called the Chackaloso, with two wieners and melted mozzarella cheese.
Hours: Tuesday through Saturday 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., Sunday 8 a.m. to 3 p.m., closed Monday
Tuk Tuk Thai
This trendy new spot comes straight from Portland, which has one of the biggest Thai scenes in the United States. For the past eight years, owner Bud Sayso has owned a Portland restaurant called Khao San Thai Street Foods, which had been written up in the New York Times. His latest project Tuk Tuk Thai serves regional dishes like khao soi curry noodles and hoy joh meatballs, which can't even be Googled, they're so rare. The menu is expertly designed by his wife Noy, who plans to run an ambitious 7-course tasting menu by reservation in a private dining room they're calling Noy's House. Read more.
Hours: 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. and 4-9 p.m. daily
3 new concepts at American Eat Co.
The southside food hall American Eat Co. is looking pretty different these days, with a host of new vendors including a Sonoran taco spot that serves al pastor on the spit. El Tacoson is the second venture by Raúl and Denise Leyva, who also own Mariscos el Bochas across the dining room. Peter "Pops" Yucupicio of Pops Hot Chicken is opening his second stand as well. Hielitos offers scratch-made raspados, using a Hawaiian shaved ice machine that gives the treat a finer snow-like texture. My favorite was the fresa or strawberry, with layers of condensed milk and Thrifty ice cream in there. Also, GM Kitchen 86 is a new sandwich spot from a classically-trained resort chef. A quick note before you go: For maximum social distancing, you might want to hit up American Eat during the off hours between lunch and dinner. Read more.
Hours: Wednesday through Sunday 11 a.m. to 9 p.m., closed Monday and Tuesday
On the horizon:
— Construction is coming along for Tucson's first all-you-can-eat Korean barbecue restaurant, Taegukgi Korean BBQ House. The San Diego-based business is going in at the old Fuddruckers at 6118 E Speedway. When it's completed, Taegukgi will be the fourth Korean restaurant along Speedway, after 7 Ounce steakhouse, Korea House and Takamatsu.
— Sentinel Peak Brewing Company has changed its name to Fire Truck Brewing, and is opening two extra brewpubs in midtown and Oro Valley (very close to the new Seis spot). That will give them a total of four locations, writes Cathalena E. Burch in the Star.
— James Beard nominees Barrio Bread and El Charro are opening a restaurant together in the Island Plate Lunch spot at 3699 N. Campbell Ave. Barrio Charro will be "bodega-meets-grab-and-go/fast-casual-sandwich-shop," writes Cathalena E. Burch.
— The owner of Everest Souvenirs on Fourth Avenue is opening an "Eastern Asian style health food restaurant" called Lemongrass in the revolving restaurant space next to Che's Lounge at 344 N. Fourth Ave. A sign posted on the door says owner Tank Ojha learned to cook while working as a geologist in the Himalayan Mountains, and recently owned a Himalayan restaurant in Silver City by the same name.
— A sign advertising a business called Hot and Sexy Drinks has gone up at 2230 W. Drexel Road near the Tohono O'odham Swapmeet. The sign advertises "coffee, raspados, juices and more."
- With reporting by Cathalena E. Burch