A Tasty Line Up
The Dutch Apple Pie at The Dutch Eatery & Refuge
The Dutch’s Arizona Flat Iron Steak
Pasco’s Street Taco
Agustín Kitchen’s Vegetable Fettuccine Alfredo
As the University of Arizona area and downtown Tucson steadily continue to grow, regenerate and renew themselves, it’s easy to lose track of all the new dining spots to try out. It seems as if every other month, another handful of eateries crops up. If only there was a way to move through this new hub of culinary activity with a front row seat to people watch. Oh, but there is — just hop aboard the Sun Link streetcar!
University of Arizona District
The Dutch Eatery & Refuge | Stop 15
Right on the corner of University Boulevard and Park Avenue, just a few steps from a Sun Link stop, is a relative newcomer to the Main Gate neighborhood. The Dutch Eatery & Refuge opened last June, and already has made quite an impression on the area with its European take on New American fare. Chef/owner Marcus van Winden was born and raised in The Netherlands, and his wife Nicole is a Tucson native and UA alum. Both ended up working on the Holland America Cruise Line, where they first met. “A chef from Holland met a Wildcat from Arizona, and the rest is history,” he jokes.
After working in various resorts in and around Tucson, then leaving to run the Holland Hotel in Alpine, Texas, the pair decided to strike out on their own, opening The Dutch in the heart of the UA campus bustle in the space that formerly housed Wilko. Their proximity to one end of the Sun Link route is a benefit not lost on van Winden: “The streetcar is a great way to explore everything without the hassle of parking. Just hop off to explore all the new places popping up and, of course, some old favorites.”
At The Dutch you’ll find traditional gastropub offerings with a decidedly European twist. “I believe food should have a sense of heritage,” van Winden points out. “My background is classic French cuisine, so I use classical techniques in the kitchen, and have mixed a few of my favorite Dutch items in the menu.”
Making as much from scratch as possible, the restaurateurs utilize local farmers, ranchers and produce whenever they can into their Netherlands-inspired menu. Look for Dutch dishes like broodje kroket (beef croquettes), poffertjes (fluffy mini pancakes), patat oorlog (french fries topped with mayonnaise, onion, sambal and peanut sauce), or Chef van Winden’s brunch recommendation — uitsmijiter (the Dutch breakfast with ham, eggs, tomatoes and Gouda on multigrain bread).
Other menu items for your must-try list include the jalapeño popper grilled cheese sandwich, the Arizona flat-iron steak, a slow-braised duck gratine, or the pork belly stamppot andijivie (a traditional Dutch dish with mashed potatoes and escarole).
943 E. University Blvd., (520) 792-6684,
Streetcar Stop: Use stop 15, at University Boulevard and Tyndall Avenue, walk east to address.
Pasco Kitchen & Lounge | Stop 15
In the midst of a busy UA block filled with all manner of restaurants, in a quaint 1909 building complete with creaky wood floors, Pasco has offered farm-to-table fare since opening in 2011. A set of hotel-suites-turned-cottages, the home-like building is flanked by a deep patio, and is a fantastic spot for people watching.
Head Chef and Owner Ramiro Scavo is intent on using ingredients available locally whenever possible, which is why you’ll see his menu peppered with goods from farms, bakeries, and ranches in our region, such as Small Planet Bakery, Adkins Family Ranch, or Larry’s Veggies.
In fact, after working in other local restaurants and seeking out area farms and ranches for ingredients, Scavo decided to open up his own place to showcase his passion. The menu has something for everyone, from the albondigas (meatball) soup to the fettucine made with Sonoran wheat berry.
If you’ve never been to Pasco, you’ll want to pay close attention to its signature dishes: Pork nachos with local tortilla chips, or the Big Boy Burger (grass-fed beef patty with braised pork belly, house-made hollandaise, and a fried egg).
The cocktails are made with just as much attention to detail as the food, so make sure to try the signature award-winning Father Kino — a tequila-based drink with muddled cucumber and cilantro, fresh lime juice, jalapeño-spiced agave nectar, and a chile-tamarind rim.
820 E. University Blvd., (520) 882-8013, pascokitchen.com
Streetcar Stop: Use stop 15, at University Boulevard and Tyndall Avenue, walk west to address.
Lindy’s on 4th | Stop 12
This creative hamburger spot has made quite a splash in Tucson since opening 12 years ago, enough to draw the likes of the Travel Channel for an episode of Man Vs. Food. Part of the fun at Lindy’s on 4th is reading through the menu, with wild burger offerings like the Blue Suede Cow (peanut butter, bacon, pepper jack cheese), Kush (raspberry preserves, bleu cheese, bacon, green chiles), and the Hawaii Five O (pineapple, teriyaki sauce, Swiss cheese).
“I have six children, and they are all creative cooks,” Owner Shannon Cronin says about their menu. “Lindy is my oldest, and he has such a creative mind. We kick around our ideas and create unique menu items.” One of the most popular burgers, according to Cronin, is the Mac N Cheese, topped with creamy mac n cheese, cheddar, lettuce, tomato, onion, and Lindy’s sauce (think Thousand Island with chipotle).
For those of us who love a good French fry, ordering a side to accompany your burger may be just as fun. First choose fries, tater tots, or onion rings, then select add-ons like gravy, bacon ranch, cheese, chile cheese, or garlic Parmesan. If you’re feeling feisty, try your hand at the OMFG challenge burger: six patties piled high with a pound of cheddar and Swiss cheeses.
Lindy’s recently moved to the other side of Fourth Avenue to a larger space, so you can choose to sit indoors or out on the patio. The family will soon re-open its doors at the original Lindy’s on 4th location as a new venture, appropriately called The Old Spot, offering what they’re calling “scullery cuisine.”
500 N. 4th Ave., (520) 207-6970, LO4th.com
Streetcar Stop: Use stop 12 on 4th Avenue at 6th/7th Streets, walk north to address.
Bison Witches Bar & Deli | Stop 12
A longtime Fourth Avenue favorite, Bison Witches is a go-to locale for loaded sandwiches and a laid-back atmosphere. Although they have expanded their space over the years — adding on a large outdoor patio with its own bar — this spot has handily maintained that small neighborhood hangout feel. “We’ve always considered ourselves a bar without the standard bar food,” Owner Tom Partridge explains.
Bison Witches’ menu covers all manner of sandwiched offerings, all of which are steamed, toasted, or heated in some way. In between thick, Texas-toast-style bread, some of the most popular sandwiches are the Wildcat (thinly sliced roast beef and turkey, melted Gouda with spicy Russian mustard), the Cally (turkey, avocado, cream cheese and sprouts on a croissant), and the Green Turkey (turkey, avocado, bacon, cream cheese, sprouts, mayo and house salsa).
Having found a formula that works, the offerings have stayed consistent over the years. “We’ve kept to pretty much the same menu since we opened in January of 1995,” says Partridge, “besides the addition of a few salads, the grinder and pastrami sandwiches.”
Depending on how hungry you are, you can opt for a half or whole sandwich and pair that with a large bread bowl filled with cream of broccoli, cream of potato bacon, Wisconsin cheese soup, Boston clam chowder, or chile. Several substantial salads also are available, from a classic Cobb, Greek, an Italian-style chop, chef salad, and a tortilla chicken salad, to name a few.
326 N. 4th Ave., (520) 740-1541, www.bisonwitches.com
Streetcar Stop: Use stop 12 on 4th Avenue at 6th/7th Streets, walk south to address.
Nook | Stop 8W
After meeting in culinary school, husband-and-wife team Matt and Nikki Thompson worked in many different restaurants, as well as starting a catering company, but their real dream was to open a place of their own. Through their catering business — 2 Hearts, 1 Kitchen — they met Todd Anderson, who so believed in their culinary vision that he became a partner in Nook. They opened their doors in 2015.
Nook serves up breakfast, lunch, and brunch à la New American cuisine. Nikki Thompson notes, “We put an international twist on traditional American favorites.” The breakfast menu includes several folded egg dishes with interesting ingredients like the dill and gravlox, and the jalapeño, scallion and bacon options. Specialties range from breakfast tamale pie; to a hanger steak and eggs with smoked chimichurri; to cinnamon roll griddlecakes; to biscuits with chorizo gravy.
But the standout signature dish, according to Thompson, is the Godfather Benedict. “It starts with a house-made crumpet, topped with arugula and prosciutto di parma, then two perfectly poached eggs and hollandaise sauce finished with a drizzle of balsamic reduction,” she shares.
For lunch, you’ll have to make the difficult decision between inventive salads, like the winter salad comprised of roasted seasonal vegetables, apples, dates, quinoa, and spinach. Or go for one of Nook’s burgers made with Arizona beef — like the Aloha, with pineapple, Swiss, red cabbage and teriyaki sauce, or the Holla Peña burger, which boasts charred jalapeños, fried onions, burnt cheese and mayonnaise.
1 E. Congress St., (520) 622-NOOK, www.nookdowntown.com
Streetcar Stop: Use the 8W stop at Stone Avenue and Congress Street, the destination is on the northeast corner of the intersection.
Agustín Kitchen | Stop 2
At the western end of Tucson’s streetcar route in the Mercado District, sits Agustín Kitchen. After taking over several years ago, Sally Kane has ensured this New American eatery focuses on using local ingredients and choosing sustainable proteins for their menu. “We highlight incorporating regional and seasonal foods into a current context,” Kane explains. “For example, our current menu uses both the cactus pads and fruit, ancient local grains like Sonoran wheat berry, as well as tepary beans.”
Agustín changes its menu seasonally, while paying homage to the classics, like the longtime patron-favorite steak frites served with a whiskey bavaroise sauce; and Penn Cove mussels in house-made anise liqueur with garlic, shallots and thyme. Thanks to the open kitchen design, guests can relax in the stately leather banquette seats and admire the flurry of activity in the kitchen.
According to Kane, the culinary team is inspired to include wild game often. “Recently we had a Puerto Rican-influenced, slow-braised goat with pamplemousse sauce over a bed of smashed plantains and local greens. It was one of our best sellers!” she recalls.
100 S. Avenida del Convento, Ste. 150, (520) 398-5382, agustinkitchen.com
Streetcar Stop: Use stop 2 at Avenida del Convento and Congress Street, the destination is just across the street.
Charro Steak | Stop 9e
Less than two years ago, downtown’s dining scene saw a new addition from the Flores family, long-established Tucson restaurateurs who are the ones behind El Charro Café, Sir Veza’s, and Pub 22. Charro Steak offers diners a Sonoran ranch-to-table experience. That means you can expect local, all-natural ingredients in simple, flavorful dishes.
As Ray Flores, president of Flores Concepts, tells it, Charro Steak has been a long time in the making. “We refer to Charro Steak as being ‘inspired since 1922,’ because our founding family members actually opened another El Charro in Casa Grande back in the 1940s that featured steaks,” he shares. “So when we were deciding on our next concept, and having a personal health interest in serving grass-fed meats and cage-free chicken, Charro Steak came to be.”
On the menu you’ll find everything from prickly pear-glazed albondigas and mesquite-seared ahi tostadas, to grilled sustainable salmon and a natural Duroc bone-in pork chop. But with steak in the restaurant’s name, the cuts of meat offered are the standout. According to Flores, the must-try items are the one-pound T-Bone and the carne asada. “Make sure to try them estilo charro (charro style) with melted manchego and mesquite-charred chiles.”
Additional sides are available à la carte, and are large enough portions for two people. And these are not your average beans-and-rice style accompaniments — check out the chile verde mac and cheese, calabacitas (squash and chiles in cream sauce), brussel sprouts with white corn and cotija cheese, or sweet potatoes cooked in a sweet cinnamon and butter sauce.
188 E. Broadway Blvd., (520) 485-1922, www.charrosteak.com
Streetcar Stop: Use the 9E stop at Broadway Boulevard and 6th Avenue, walk east on Broadway to address.
Penca | Stop 8e
The fresh and bright menu of Penca is a departure from the local Sonora, Mexico-style fare. Owner Patricia Schwabe brings the rich flavors of central Mexico to her menu, which means more vegetables, elaborate sauces, and corn tortillas — which they make in house per order. “Our Chef Drew Burk has extensive knowledge of our traditional central Mexico cuisine,” Schwabe explains. “He is instrumental in the continuity of my original vision for the menu.”
Taco fans can choose from several options including carnitas, nopales (prickly pear cactus), braised turkey with chipotle crema, and braised beef cheek, to name a few. Other dishes range from braised turkey in mole poblano with pickled gray squash to grilled cabrilla served in a green mole sauce.
But if you ask Schwabe, she’ll likely recommend her favorite dish: “The chile en nogada is a beautifully roasted chile poblano stuffed with pork, dried fruits, plantains and spices, covered with a sherry and walnut sauce and pomegranate seeds.”
Penca opened in 2013 after an extensive renovation to a historic property, and it didn’t take long for the culinary world to take notice. Among other accolades, Food & Wine Magazine named it one of the “Best Bars in America.” And as Schwabe points out, that’s thanks to incredible knowledge of mezcal and traditional Mexican spirits that Beverage Director Bryan Eichhorst brings to the table.
50 E. Broadway Blvd., (520) 203-7681, www.pencarestaurante.com
Streetcar Stop: Use the 8E stop at Broadway Boulevard and Stone Avenue, walk east on Broadway to address.
By Sarah Burton | Photography By Thomas Veneklasen