Where Local and Global Appetites Collide

5 Tucson restaurants to try

Caesar salad at Nichols Restaurant in Marina d...
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5 Tucson restaurants to try

When it’s hot, I don’t like to be in the kitchen. Lately, I’ve eaten out a bit more than usual…

Pastiche – Steak Night (Tuesdays)
You cannot beat a $15 steak and the night I was there, the joint was jumping. I enjoy seeing a full, thriving restaurant.
We shared a great bottle of wine – Four Vines Zinfandel. My steak was tender, smothered in a creamy horseradish sauce (my father would’ve been proud – he loved his horseradish) with roasted veggies and potatoes.

DOWNTOWN Kitchen & Cocktails
A few Friday nights ago, there were throngs of people buzzing at Janos’ downtown restaurant. On that particular sweltering evening the wait person told us that Janos was on vacation in Colorado. I’m happy that Janos can still manage to go on vacation with three restaurants under his toque. Whoever was managing Downtown was doing a fine job.

I loved the salads – the Laotian green papaya salad popped with flavors and the grilled Caesar greatly improves the over used traditional Caesar salad. Grilling romaine leaves is such a bright idea.  The roast trout plate had many flavors and textures – fried oysters, spinach filling, date chutney, salted matchstick potatoes. Amazingly, it all worked. Although my friend’s paella was lacking chorizo and she felt there needed to be a greater seafood ratio.

For dessert we shared the strawberries, crème, and thyme pound cake parfait. What a sweet ending.

After the movies, my friend and I stopped at Zayna’s in Feast’s old digs on Speedway between Columbus & Alvernon. Zayna’s occupies the older Feast space not the old expanded Feast’s space. There’s now a wall so the square footage has diminished. On a Wednesday night, the tiny space was almost filled to capacity. Servings were generous and modestly priced. I liked my chicken shwarma and my friend who is very picky liked her gyro but not the tabbouleh. She said the tabbouleh was too lemony; I didn’t taste it.  I’ll be back…

Brio Tuscan Grille
I rarely to never go to the Tucson Mall but since I was meeting a friend from Marana it seemed like the right place to meet. Brio is the new kid on the block and shares prestigious space at that Tucson Mall along with the Cheesecake Factory and California Pizza Kitchen although it’s far more quiet and more elegant than the Cheesecake Factory. My friend and I shared the iceberg lettuce wedge with bacon & creamy Parmesan dressing, vegetarian flat bread, and pan-fried halibut with roasted veggies. The best part of lunch was when our waiter who couldn’t have been more than 23 years old asked to see Cindy’s I.D. (She’s 43. She looks younger but not that young!) Is that some kind of marketing ploy? If so, it works.

V’s Fine Thai Dining
Vila Thai goes upscale by going downtown. I love Thai food and know I will like it even more here. Vila finally created the glam spot she deserves. If you enter from the Congress side, you walk through an artful metal sculpture garden into a hip gauzy bar that is reminiscent of South Beach without the beach. The dramatic entrance is indeed a feast for the eyes. I cannot wait to go back to the bar and sip cocktails on a balmy night.

Chile Verde formerly occupied the space but now it’s more grownup but still casually nuanced. Peek into the private wine room where small private parties are held. We shared an Ahi tuna salad and chicken rama – chicken on a bed of sautéed spinach swimming in peanut sauce. My only complaint is more wines should be available by the glass and the wine list needs prices.

The address on the website says 9 N. Congress. Congress runs east & west. V’s Fine Thai Dining is on the southeast corner of Congress & Stone. Look for the red V.

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