Congrats Tucson townies! We have the city to ourselves again, and for some reason it's still cool enough to go outside? Let's celebrate our good fortune with some Texas barbecue or a Jingdong meat pie for the table!
What's a Jingdong meat pie? It's a porky Chinese pastry that you can find at the new Chef Wang, which specializes in hard-to-find dishes from Northeastern China. You may have seen the spot as you drove by on Grant Road. It was the one with the mini lighthouse, left over from when the building was a Mariscos Chihuahua.
Speaking of mariscos, there's also a new spot on South Fourth Avenue I like. My favorite thing about Pescaderia y Taqueria Yami is the badass mural of a Mexican cowboy riding a marlin. But the food is also pretty choice too. If you're in the neighborhood, stop by for some shrimp tacos and some of that wicked housemade salsa!
It is May, so there aren't A TON of new places open. Most of the restaurants on this list are actually new locations of successful businesses like Cafe Santa Rosa. But this'll be a fun summer project for you ... Go to all of them and report back!
BZ’s Pizza and Italian Kitchen
7856 E. Wrightstown Road, 520-546-1402
The east side restaurant BZ's Pizza closed in the summer of 2017 after its shopping center's anchor Safeway pulled out. But now it's back on the southwest corner of Pantano and Wrightstown. The new spot has 30 draft beers and a menu that includes pasta and seafood entrees like cioppino and lobster ravioli along with the signature thin crust pizzas. The Goodfella looks especially yummy, with pepperoni, ham, sausage, bacon, capicola and chicken.
Hours: Tuesday through Sunday 11 a.m. to 10 p.m., closed Monday
Cafe Santa Rosa
2615 S. Sixth Ave., 520-203-7569
After six years, Cafe Santa Rosa has moved from its flagship location on South Twelfth Avenue to the much-larger space that formerly held Los Portales Mexican food. The new spot has a full bar that will stay open later than the restaurant on the weekends. Co-owner Daniel Gonzales is also excited about the 200-person banquet hall that the new restaurant can use as a private dining room. Expect the same menu of Mexican and O'odham comfort foods, with some extra bar appetizers coming soon.
Hours: Kitchen open Tuesday through Sunday 8 a.m. to 9 p.m., closed Monday; bar open Tuesday through Thursday and Sunday 10 a.m. to 10 p.m., Friday and Saturday 10 a.m. to midnight.
7109 N. Oracle Road, 520-779-1922
The family behind the historic El Charro Mexican restaurant has yet another fine dining concept under its sleeve. Charrovida delves into the healthful side of Mexican and Mediterranean food, with options like hemp tamales and cauliflower al pastor. Much of the menu is made up of veggie-based small plates, with plenty of vegan and gluten free options. Check out the menu here.
Hours: 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily
356 E. Grant Road, 520-367-5375
Chef Wang has an extensive menu that includes Chinese-American classics, spicy Sichuan food and hard-to-find dishes from Northeastern China. The new spot is a partnership between Baoge Chen and Chef Hongquan Wang, who are from the city of Shenyang in the Dongbei. This region is known for its wheat dishes rather than rice, and includes hearty stews, dumplings, meat pies and pickled vegetables like you'd see in Korea. Start with the soup dumplings and Jingdong meat pie and go from there. Read more.
Hours: Monday through Thursday 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.; Friday and Saturday 11 a.m. to 9:30 p.m.; and Sunday noon to 9 p.m.; subject to change
Holy Smokin' Butts BBQ
6940 E. Broadway, 520-329-3088
Not long after it closed its small storefront on Wilmot, Holy Smokin' Butts BBQ is now open in the sprawling space that once held Gordo's Mexicateria. The 6,500-square-foot space features an open counter where you can see the meat being carved and prepared. They serve their meat like they do in Texas, laid out directly onto the tray with a paper liner. The menu specializes in smoked meats like brisket, pulled pork, sausage and tri-tip, which can be ordered by the pound or in a combo as well as a sandwich. Read more.
Hours: Tuesday through Saturday 11 a.m. to 8 p.m., closed Sunday and Monday
Island Plate Lunch
3699 N. Campbell Ave., 520-989-0001
After closing its original foothills location in April, this local Hawaiian restaurant moved to larger digs on Prince and Campbell. The new Island Plate Lunch sports a separate bakery area with Hawaiian baked goods made by classically trained pastry chef Renee Eder. The malasadas were gone by early afternoon, but we found everything from Spam buns to butter mochi cake. The lunch menu also includes what I deem to be the best Hawaiian combo plate in town, with perfectly cooked kalbi ribs, teriyaki beef and chicken.
Hours: 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily
Pescaderia y Taqueria Yami
This casual mariscos spot on South Fourth Avenue serves food from the coastal town of Guaymas, Sonora. This means you'll find shrimp cocktails, ceviche, various tostadas with octopus, crab and more. We tried a few different tacos including the Sonoran specialty cahuamanta, or stingray. Our favorites were the fried tacos gobernador, as well as the battered shrimp and cazon shark tacos, which had a sharper flavor to the fish. Pescaderia y Taqueria Yami also has a small market up at the front where you can purchase seafood to-go.
Hours: Monday and Tuesday 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.; closed Wednesday; Thursday through Sunday 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
On the horizon:
• A new Turkish restaurant called Istanbul is slated to open in the former May's Counter Chicken and Waffles spot in mid-August, writes Cathalena E. Burch in the Star
• The popular vegetarian restaurant Tumerico is opening a second location off of Fourth Avenue, as reported by Cathalena E. Burch in The Star
• Spotted: a sign for Mestizos Mexican restaurant on the former Indian Fry-Bread Manna From Heaven building at 1118 W. St. Mary’s Road.
• The owners of Putney's are opening a country-themed nightclub called Whiskey Roads at 2265 W. Ina Road, writes Cathalena E. Burch in the Star.