Best Bets for Guests

The Pan-Seared Salmon from Tanque Verde Ranch.

Tanque Verde Ranch’s Cheesecake Tiramisu.

Best Bets for Guests

These five restaurants will offer your out-of- town guests a tantalizing taste of Tucson’s top culinary scene.

Maynard’s Market & Kitchen
400 N. Toole Ave., (520) 545-0577,
In a nutshell: A blend of modern and Old World culinary styles.
Must order: Barrio Bruschetta.
Price range (entrées): $16-$38.

A historic train depot (that sports paintings by the legendary artist Maynard Dixon) is the perfect setting to match the careful balance of old and new that Maynard’s Market & Kitchen consistently delivers. This locally owned eatery offers a dining experience that showcases Southwestern elements, including a wine list with a wide range of regional labels.

“We have a cultivated garden that produces local heritage plants, giving me access to an array of items unique to Tucson,” says Executive Chef Brian Smith. “This helped me realize my vision for the restaurant — a special place that brings the traditions of European techniques and plants with a Sonoran heritage together in a creative and seasonally inspired way.”

Entrées include classic dishes with a twist, such as house-made semolina and Sonoran-heritage white wheat pasta, a Riesling-braised lamb shank with braised greens, and bouillabaisse with fresh seafood in lobster-saffron broth. In order to get the full local effect, be sure to try the Barrio bruschetta, served with grilled baguette from local Barrio Bread, peaches, prosciutto, bourbon-burnt honey, and Boursin cheese.

And don’t forget the wine! Maynard’s encourages visitors to try one of their locally produced and bottled Private Label wines. The collection includes both red and white blends created in partnership with Willcox-based Sand-Reckoner. As Smith simply puts it: “This restaurant embodies the best of what we do here in Tucson.”

DOWNTOWN Kitchen + Cocktails
135 S. 6th Ave., (520) 623-7700
In a nutshell: American food with heavy international influences.
Must order: Something from the ever-changing Sense of Place City of Gastronomy menu.
Price range (entrées): $21-$26.

Janos Wilder, chef and owner of DOWNTOWN Kitchen + Cocktails, has seen a lot change in Tucson’s food landscape in the nearly 34 years since he opened his first restaurant in the historic Hiram Stevens House. And in each location, he has found masterful ways to blend local flavors and ingredients into his menus — which explains his having been honored as Best Chef in the Southwest by the James Beard Foundation in 2000.

His fifth restaurant, DOWNTOWN Kitchen, actually was one of the first businesses to move downtown in anticipation of the area’s revival. “We opened in 2010 in order to return to our roots. We’re proud to have been part of the area’s revitalization. Tucson is in our DNA, and we’re grateful and ardent supporters of the community.”

In the century-old building that houses the eatery, you’ll find exposed brick, local art, an open-kitchen concept, and large windows overlooking bustling sidewalks. The menu varies, but you can always count on finding local ingredients. “From our earliest days, our mission was to incorporate the flavors of Southern Arizona,” Wilder points out. “Whether working with local gardeners and small farms back in our formative years, or incorporating native produce that has grown here for thousands of years, we have always relied on Tucson ingredients as our touchstone.”

According to Wilder, the Sense of Place City of Gastronomy menu celebrates the history of Southern Arizona and Sonora through its food. The dishes may well become treasured memories for your out-of-town guests.

Tanque Verde Ranch
14301 E. Speedway Blvd., (800) 234-3833
In a nutshell: Southwestern cuisine at a historic cattle ranch.
Must order: Ribs at the weekly Cowboy Cookout event.
Price range (entrées/cookout): $35.

For your out-of-town guests looking for views and an authentic Tucson experience, dining at this old-time cattle ranch accomplishes that and more. Located adjacent to Saguaro National Park East, the ranch was established in 1868 under the protection of Tucson’s army patrols from Camp Lowell. “Next year we celebrate 150 years as a ranch, and stand as the oldest business in Tucson,” shares General Manager Rita Cote.

In fact, the ranch is the largest in the U.S., last year winning the coveted Conde Nast Traveler Reader’s Choice poll in the “#1 Resort in Texas and the Southwest” category.

For those looking for a quick snack and cocktail, the Dog House Saloon offers a small but fantastic bar-bites menu including pork posole cheese nachos and fried Brussels sprouts. The restaurant on site, led by former Miraval Chef Justin Macy, features everything from grilled Mexican snapper with a tomato-olive salsa to chicken tinga relleno with summer pico and cilantro crema.

For a truly Southwestern experience, the weekly Cowboy Cookout events in the ranch’s Cottonwood Grove include stunning views and all-you-can-eat classic barbecue fare such as steaks, ribs, cornbread, dessert and music to set the mood. “We always have live entertainment, making it the perfect outdoor experience,” Cote explains.

Flying V Bar & Grill
7000 N. Resort Dr., (520) 615-5495
In a nutshell: Inventive
Southwestern fare.
Must order: Tableside guacamole.
Price range (entrées): $18-$42.

A visit to the Old Pueblo is not complete without enjoying a meal while taking in a view of both our picturesque mountains and the city they surround. A longstanding go-to for such an experience is the Flying V Bar & Grill. Located at Loews Ventana Canyon on Tucson’s northeast side, the Flying V offers diners creative fare inspired by local culinary traditions, all from a perch in the Catalina Foothills.

Whether you find a spot in the stately yet comfortable dining room, or the weather affords you an alfresco experience on the patio, you can’t miss. “We offer one of the best views and patios in Tucson,” says Chef de Cuisine Tyler Lapotosky. “The restaurant overlooks the resort’s beautiful Tom Fazio golf course, water feature and lush desert landscaping.”

The menu also boasts a truly Tucson experience, featuring regional tastes showcased in everything from the sushi-grade calamari and California grass-fed prime New York strip, to the house-made lavosh and green chile cornbread served with red chile agave butter. “Our local farmers deliver produce daily so that each dish is a seasonal representation of our amazing region,” Lapotosky explains.
Make sure your party orders a visit from one of the restaurant’s “guacamoliers,” who will bring fresh ingredients right to your table. “Our tableside guacamole and handcrafted margaritas are a must for any out-of-town visitor,” says Lapotosky.

Wild Garlic Grill
2870 E. Skyline Drive, (520) 206-0017
In a nutshell: A perfect fusion
of French and California-style
Must order: Rack of lamb crusted with Dijon and pistachios.
Price range (entrées): $13-$26.

Having created quite a loyal following upon opening in 2012, the talent behind Wild Garlic Grill moved the operation to the elegant Plaza Colonial, on the southwest corner of Campbell and Skyline. “The new spot is just a short drive north from our original location on First Avenue,” says Owner and Chef Steven Schultz. “It’s a fabulous venue with a comfortable, rustic feel that suits the spirit of our casual fine dining concept, with a quaint patio space to match.”

Schultz may be a native Tucsonan, but traveling around the world in his culinary career is what shaped the menu and concept at his eatery. The unique fusion is influenced by French cuisine (he was classically trained in Paris) and the flavors that take him back to the Annual Garlic Festival in Gilroy, California, every year. “If you enjoy French food, you’ll love the dynamic blend of the Southwest in traditional French dishes,” he points out.

The menu offers several dishes that celebrate garlic, such as Gilroy garlic Swiss fondue and roasted garlic chicken with Tuscan black kale and garlic mashed potatoes, as well as other inventive creations like a San Francisco-inspired seafood stew, spice-rubbed ribs, pork caldo (soup) with pasilla and poblano chiles, and a roasted Portobello mushroom salad with Willcox tomatoes and baked goat cheese.

But the standout, must-try dishes — according to the chef — are his rack of lamb with a pistachio and Dijon crust, and the Cabrilla sea bass. “We receive the fish every morning from the Sea of Cortez,” Schultz notes. “It’s grilled and served with an avocado and heart of palm tapenade and lemon-basil beurre blanc that perfectly captures our concept of California and French fusion, combined with Southwest cuisine.” tl