Bing bing bing! You are correct. The picture you are looking at is in fact a plateful of Chinese meat pies. They call them "bing" in China, and they're very hard to find here in the United States. Unless of course, you live near the intersection of Speedway and Craycroft where Jewel's Noodle Kitchen just opened. I mean you don't really have to live there, but may want to after you eat the food?
I kid I kid, it's actually very easy to find obscure Chinese dishes these days in Tucson. What the heck is going on here?! Literally half of the new restaurants on this list are regional Chinese places. This makes me very happy, as Chinese is my favorite food. The fact that I can have hot pot now makes me giddy and weird. Also, I am very hungry and trying to finish this article so I can go get some noodles at the new Mian Sichuan. (They close at nine! I better hurry.)
What else opened this month? Neapolitan pizza and Mexican food in the campus area, and Tucson's first (that I know of) Salvadoran restaurant! That's probably the one you're gonna want to go to, because who doesn't need pupusas in their lives. But I do suggest the hot pot place. It is grand.
Also, check out the bottom of this list for all the foods to look forward to. Brazilian barbecue and Japanese curry? Yes please!
Contemporary Italian food in Main Gate Square ... Bacio Italiano serves Neapolitan style pizzas with a New York flair. The restaurant recently opened in the former Red's Smokehouse and Taproom. The new dining room is airy and minimalist, fashioned around a massive domed pizza oven imported from Italy.
We haven't had a chance to check out their pizzas yet, but we did stop by for a scoop of gelato. They source their 18 flavors from Villa Dolce wholesale business. We tried the pistachio and sea salt caramel, which were super creamy and smooth but a little less intense in the flavor department. They also have 20 beers on tap, woowie! Read more.
Hours: 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily
Jewel’s Noodle Kitchen
If you're into homey noodle joints in hidden locales, like China Pasta House for example, you need to try this new spot. Jewel's Noodle Kitchen is owned by Ronghua Zhu who hails from Beijing and has filled her small menu with Northern Chinese specialties like dumplings and housemade wheat noodles.
The menu doesn't have any descriptions, so you may have to speak your questions into a phone translator so you can converse. (During my visit, two guys were struggling with the question, "What is cabbage pie?" for five straight minutes.) I'm sad they didn't end up ordering it because the meat pies are the best things on the menu: They're like a cross between a bun and a dumpling, with handmade dough. AMAZEPIES!
Hours: Tuesday through Sunday 10 a.m. to 9 p.m., closed Monday
Noodle city! Tucson's regional Chinese food scene is blowing up like volcano noodle soup ... with Sichuan peppercorns and American cheese. That's the main draw at Mian Sichuan (not to be confused with the former MiAn sushi downtown). This new shop in the Tucson Mall area has a distinct Noodleholics vibe, with a clean minimalist aesthetic and a small menu of spicy noodle dishes and soups. I've been champing at the bit to get to this place, but alas, have yet to attain my noodle dreams. Stay tuned for my full report!
Hours: 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. and 5-9 p.m. daily
The old Rosati's Pizza on Sixth Street and Campbell is now a Mexican restaurant called Momo's. Owner Mauricio Racano has crafted a menu of Sonoran staples as well as dishes from Mexico City, where he's from. In addition to tacos, nachos and Sonoran hot dogs, you'll find a whole section of enchiladas with uncommon fillings like shrimp and Mahi Mahi. There are also burrito bowls and tortas, which you can get with something called Cabo meat: a mixture of chorizo, ground beef and green chile. They also serve beer, and make their own aguas frescas!
Hours: 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily
Monster Sonoran Hot Dogs
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Tucson, meet the #birria dog ... This #SonoranHotDog comes with two bacon-wrapped wieners and half a pound of birria on top. We got a footlong version they call the Big Monster Dog. Make sure to get a side of birria dipping juice to soak up that beautiful red bun. This new truck @monstersonoranhotdogs just started serving 3-10 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday outside of Menlo Park Liquors. It’s their opening weekend, so expect to wait. But it’s worth it! 🌭 #tucsonfood #thisistucson #sonoranfood
This new food truck takes Sonoran hot dogs into uncharted territory. Not only are these babies wrapped in bacon, but they're also slathered in a juicy mound of birria. Monster Sonoran Hot Dogs makes two sizes, a six-inch and a footlong Big Monster Dog, which is tucked into a bright red bun from Alejandro's Tortilla Factory. It's a BEAST. Make sure to get yours with a side of "dipping juice" aka jugo. You can attempt to dip the massive dog in there, or just drink it straight like I did. Can't say no to meat juice!
Hours: Wednesday through Sunday 3 to 10 p.m.
I was crying spicy chile broth tears when Impress Hot Pot closed last year. But Tucson has a new Chinese hot pot joint, and it's, gasp ... in another stripmall just up the street! With its minimalist interior and fancy menu items, Potwhale is a little sleeker than its predecessor. But the basic concept is the same: Cook your own meats, noodles and veggies in a pot of boiling broth at the center of your table.
Potwhale swims that extra mile by letting you choose from several different broths. Make sure you get the Yuanyang base, which allows you to choose two different kinds. We had an epic meal here last week, and I heartily recommend getting the mushroom sampler as well as the shrimp paste which you can form into balls that cook in the broth. We also went a little nuts with the spicy and numbing beef, which was literally caked in dried peppers. There were more than a few expletives muttered when this one came out.
Hours: 4:30 to 11:30 p.m. daily
Selena's Salvadorian Restaurant
You may know Selena's from such roles as ... the pupusa people! They upgraded from their successful farmers market stand this month by opening a full-service restaurant on Grant and Campbell. The new spot serves all the pupusas, but it will also give you an introduction to the cuisine of El Salvador. We stopped by for lunch last week and smashed down some tamales wrapped in banana leaves, pastelitos (Salvadoran empanadas) and this colorful sandwich that goes by the name panes rellenos. Oh yeah, we also got a 12-inch long pupusa stuffed with green loroco flowers. I adore this place and I wish it all the success. Read more about Selena's pupusas here.
Hours: Tuesday through Friday 11 a.m. to 9 p.m., Saturday 10 a.m. to 8 p.m., Sunday 9 a.m. to 7 p.m.
On the horizon
• We spotted a "coming soon" sign for a new poke bowl spot called LemonShark Poke at 2501 E. Grant Road in the Culinary Dropout shopping center. The chain was founded by guitarist Tobi Miller from The Wallflowers, and prides itself on using sustainable seafood.
• Downtown brewery Pueblo Vida is planning to open a second location in the Five Points neighborhood, according to an article on the TIBO blog. The spot will be called The Station and will include a taproom as well as a restaurant/cafe space.
• JA Ramen just pushed back its grand opening, and will announce a new date on Facebook soon. The restaurant in the former home of Hoki Poki on Campbell will serve ramen and Japanese curry dishes.
• Tucson's first Brazilian steakhouse Churrasco de Brasil is currently hiring. It plans to open this fall, according to a Facebook post.
• The eastside breakfast joint Le Buzz Caffe leased a space in Plaza Palomino, 2930 N. Swan Road, for a second location, according to Real Estate Daily News.
• A new restaurant called Sonoran Brunch Co. is opening in the original Poco & Mom's space at 1060 S. Kolb Road. They plan to announce an open date soon, according to a Facebook post.