Choosing a restaurant reminds me of the first few lines of the old Girl Scout song: make new friends but keep the old. New friends (i.e., places to dine) can easily be made with the help of various Tucson's polls, reviews in the paper and the best advertisement of all - word of mouth.
But for those restaurants that fit us almost like a comfortable slipper, it comes down to a certain vibe.
My faves all have very different personalities. But they all have one thing in common: The drive to get there is less than 10 minutes, somewhere between the time my stomach starts to growl and the time taking a bite out of my steering wheel begins to sound like a fine idea. All are on North Campbell Avenue, which I think could be dubbed "Tucson's Other Restaurant Row" (along with the original on East Tanque Verde Road).
You can find healthful options in all my favorite eateries. These include Starbucks (love its bistro boxes), Blue Willow (having lunch on the spacious patio is as relaxing as time spent at a mini-spa) and Vivace (its hot bread and homemade olive oil pesto are the prelude to a great lunch or dinner).
I asked a few other folks about their preferred places to dine.
• László Veres, music director and conductor for Arizona Symphonic Winds, Foothills Philharmonic and Tucson Pops.
I have been going to Mi Nidito restaurant (1813 S. Fourth Ave.) since 1963. I was looking for some good, authentic Mexican food and asked one of my college professors for a suggestion. He emphatically answered Mi Nidito. All these years later, I still take my family there as often as we can go! We love the food, atmosphere and friendly service; sipping on a margarita makes the wait for a table go by fast.
• Altha Jensen, owner, A K Jensen Apparel
One of my favorite restaurants in Tucson is Acacia (3001 E. Skyline Drive). I always refer out-of-town visitors there, knowing they will enjoy the great food, friendly staff and wonderful views of Tucson. The owner-chef, Albert (Hall), and his wife, Lila, are a pleasure, not only in the restaurant but in their catering, as well. I love to meet friends there for happy hour, pick something from the tempting menu and sip the best mojito in town.
• Chuck George, chief meteorologist, KOLD
I love the new Umi Star (2502 N. Campbell Ave.). The chefs are super creative. My favorite dish is the Umi Star Sashimi Salad, which includes mesclun greens, kaiware sprouts, maui onion, pickled cucumbers, avocado, spun red beets and a mix of sashimi fish. The salad is served with a cilantro-jalapeño cream dressing. Yum!
• Mark Sublette, president, Medicine Man Gallery
I have been eating at Eclectic Café (7053 E. Tanque Verde Road) for 20 years. My gallery used to be next door, but even after moving to Sunrise and Kolb, I make the trek down to Tanque Verde. The food is always fresh and reasonably priced. I also appreciate the friendly smiles, greetings and fast service. My favorite meal is Francisco's Salad, a combination of enchilada dowsed in a bed of salad with pico salsa.
• John Pedicone, superintendent of schools, Tucson Unified School District
Tavolino (2890 E. Skyline Drive) is a wonderful place to enjoy Northern Italian cuisine, which is consistently excellent. The subtle flavors and attractive presentation combine to create a memorable dining experience. Their Bolognese Tagliatelle originated in the mountains outside of Bologna. My wife's family is from that area; this amazing dish reminds us of her grandmother's recipe, which I tried in Chicago years ago. I highly recommend it.
Email Barbara Russek at Babette2@comcast.net