Several of the restaurants featured in Candlelight Madness have histories dating back decades, including the downtown Italian institution Caruso’s and the Arizona Inn near the University of Arizona, both of which got their starts in the 1930s.
El Corral, the rustic and charming Western-themed steakhouse on East River Road, came along in the 1940s and still maintains that Old West flavor more than 70 years later.
Caruso’s made it to the semifinal round of Candlelight Madness, losing a close contest (56-58) with finalist Cafe Poca Cosa, which has been a downtown institution nearly 30 years. El Corral lost in the first round of voting to Janos Wilder’s Downtown Kitchen + Cocktails, a restaurant that the James Beard Award-winning chef opened a few years ago. Wilder opened his first restaurant, Janos, on the grounds of the Tucson Museum of Art in 1983.
The Grill at Hacienda del Sol opened in 1997, and is housed in one of Tucson’s oldest resorts. Hacienda del Sol started in 1929 as a private ranch school for “daughters of society’s elite families,” according to a posting on the resort’s website. Twenty-one years and a major renovation later by renowned Tucson architect Josias Joesler converted the private retreat into a guest ranch with a cadre of 1950s and ’60s Hollywood stars (John Wayne, Clark Gable, Spencer Tracy and Katharine Hepburn )among its guests.
The Grill made it to the second round, losing to the Arizona Inn (64-58), which fell in the semifinal round to eventual champion Harvest (67-48).
Other longtime restaurants in the running included 22-year-old Kingfisher — edged out by Harvest in the second round (66-60); Doug Levy’s nearly 13-year-old restaurant Feast, which bowed out to Caruso’s in a Facebook tie-breaker (36-171) in the semifinals; and Flying V Bar & Grill at Loews Ventana Canyon, whose restaurants have been foothills destinations for three decades. Flying V was bumped by Caruso’s (89-92) in the first round.