Somebody's getting crabby! But I don't blame you, I'd be crabby (or shrimpy, or corny) if I saw this photo on the Internet too. The adjectives are endless. But enough of this dilly dally, let's get some food in you ...
Where should you eat during the first weeks of 2020? There's no better way to embrace the "new you" than to try a brand-new restaurant. (Okay, I guess you could move out of state or join a troupe of horse yoga enthusiasts, but that seems excessive.)
Luckily, there are plenty of awesome places to begin this journey. You can go to an Egyptian restaurant and sip karak tea from a silver teapot. Or you can check out the iconic Club 21 space, which has been reimagined as a contemporary Mexican restaurant. If you wanna get real confused, you can slurp up Chinese noodles in a Middle Eastern joint, or try a Vietnamese roast beef sandwich. I know I vaguely mentioned the Mexican-Cajun crab boil spot, but yeah, there's that too.
Oh sorry, you're getting hangry now. Well read this and get out there! Life is too short to eat Red Lobster.
Two engineering students at the University of Arizona are bringing the cuisine of Egypt to North Stone Avenue. Their restaurant, Alexandria's Pearl, recently moved into the large building that had been home to a number of restaurant concepts in the past, including Classic Steakhouse. Brothers Mahmoud and Ragy Elkanany have brightened up the space with ocean blue tablecloths and murals of Egyptian iconography in the main dining room. (There's also a carpeted space in the back where you can dine on cushions.)
The menu features popular dishes from across the Middle East, and also includes quite the burger selection, surprisingly. But you'll find a nice assortment of Egyptian staples in the Alexandria's Traditionals portion of the menu. A highlight is the Egyptian comfort dish koshari, a mound of pasta, chickpeas, lentils and rice topped with crispy onions and vinegar/chile sauces. The restaurant is currently in its soft opening phases, with a grand opening Jan. 17 at 4 p.m. There will be a ceremony, live music and dance and more.
Hours: Monday through Thursday noon to midnight, Friday through Sunday 10 a.m. to 2 a.m. Hours subject to change.
This year's Iron Chef Tucson winner Wendy Gauthier has had a successful catering business for a number of years (she actually ran it out of the Arizona Daily Star cafeteria), but this month she finally got to open the doors of her own restaurant. The east side spot is in a funky midcentury modern building that most recently housed Holy Smokin' Butts barbecue.
Chef Chic serves breakfast, lunch and grab-and-go meals, with a menu of casual sandwiches and salads like a cobb with iceberg lettuce, blue cheese, avocado and more. They also do an interesting roast beef sandwich with a hoisin vinaigrette that's vaguely reminiscent of Vietnamese pho. Chef Chic's grand opening is Jan. 23 at 3 p.m. Read more.
Hours: Monday through Friday 6:30 a.m. to 6 p.m., with weekend hours coming soon
El Chinito Gordo
This contemporary Mexican restaurant just opened in the Oracle Road space that held Club 21 Mexican food for 73 years. Unlike its predecessor, El Chinito Gordo is going for a Central Mexican vibe with dishes like chile en nogada and tortas ahogadas. They also have some trendy food mashups like a Mexican quinoa salad and a meaty burger that's bursting with sloppy chorizo. They also make their own aguas frescas, and have a tantalizing cocktail menu with spicy blood orange margaritas.
I stopped by for a quick lunch this week and tried some enchiladas off their lunch combo menu. The dish was on the healthy side, with a hefty dose of spinach. You can also opt for calabacitas instead of rice, which made all the difference. The restaurant is a sister business to Bamboo Terrace, an iconic Chinese restaurant on the southwest side that's been open since 1983.
Hours: Sunday through Thursday 11 a.m. to 9 p.m., Friday and Saturday 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.
Copper Rock Craft Eatery
Changes are afoot at the DoubleTree Hilton at Reid Park. Their restaurant, Javelina Cantina, just got an overhaul and is now Copper Rock Craft Eatery. The name is quite literal: It refers to an almost-3,000 pound copper rock that sits at the front of the restaurant. (Restaurant owner Allan Norville is a major player in Tucson's yearly Gem, Mineral and Fossil Showcase.)
The new kitchen is headed up by Miraval alum Alan Lambert, who's elevated the menu with eclectic dishes like a New York strip steak tostadas and a Greek Fattoush salad with feta cheese, artichoke hearts and herbed croutons. The bar menu looks pretty tasty here: They've got ahi nachos and portobello mushroom French fries. (?!)
Hours: 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. daily
You used to be able to count the restaurants making their own noodles on two hands. But here comes another noodle joint, bringing the grand total to 11. The interesting thing about Just Noodles is that it's technically inside of a Middle Eastern restaurant. Owner Xin “Niki” Xu has set up inside Alibaba on Speedway, preparing a separate menu of handmade noodle soups from the Shandong region of Northern China.
During our visit, the customer base seemed to be an even split between the two concepts. There was a bottle of soy sauce on every table, and we were able to sit anywhere we wanted. The chicken with fresh mustard greens dish really hit the spot, with a light broth and doughy wheat flour noodles. My lunch partner Samantha really enjoyed her ground pork with bean sauce noodles, which were topped with fresh carrots, cucumbers, cilantro and green onions.
Hours: 10:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily
Pirata Luchi is a Louisiana crab boil restaurant where servers unload a piping hot bag of shellfish directly onto your table. But unlike your regular Angry Crab seafood spot, this restaurant does the whole thing Mexican style. Servers greet you in Spanish, asking if you'd like a side of lime to squeeze on your spicy seafood. My pound of shrimp and snow crab (pictured up top) came smothered in a chunky chile oil that they just call "salsa." It was crazy addicting, with a nice vinegary bite that reminded me of Sichuan sauce. Order a side of avocado and tostadas for the full experience.
This kinda food can only come from a place like Texas, where owner Greselda Espinoza's uncle is from. (He actually runs a couple of these restaurants in Fort Worth.) In addition to the seafood boil, La Pirata Luchi also serves enchiladas, quesadillas, fish plates and more. The Luchi in the name is short for luchador.
Hours: 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday, Wednesday and Thursday, Friday and Saturday and Sunday 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.
On the horizon:
• A former Quick Stop at 1002 W. Congress St. is now sporting colorful murals and a sign for La Chaiteria by Tumerico, as well as an Ashtanga Yoga studio.
• Angry Crab Shack at 1365 W. Grant Road is reopening Jan. 10 with new franchise owners, longtime employees Matthew Prentice and Josh Arnold.
• Phoenix-based wine bar Postino is holding a hiring fair starting Jan. 13 for their first Tucson location at Grant Road and Tucson Boulevard. Those interested can text the word "RAD" to 832-998-8555 to set up an interview.
• Southside food hall American Eat Co. is introducing three new tenants for the new year: Pops Hot Chicken, Monster Sonoran Hot Dogs and Mariscos el Bochas. The three new concepts are expected to open this month, writes Cathalena E. Burch in the Star.
• A Bisbee Breakfast Club, Serials Grillers and Chuy's Mesquite Broiler are all coming to Marana in 2020, writes Cathalena E. Burch in the Star.
• Tucson's first cider house Bawker Bawker will move into a 3,200-square-foot space on Fourth Avenue and Seventh Street next spring, writes Cathalena E. Burch. The cider house will serve 10 taps of hard cider, as well as another 10 taps of local beers.