Fans of the Catalina Foothills restaurant Island Plate Lunch use the word "legit" to describe its Hawaiian bonafides, which is validation for Hawaiian-born chef-owner Renee Eder.
So much so that months shy of her Tucson Hawaiian restaurant's second anniversary at 5575 E. River Road, she is opening a second location.
Island Plate Lunch and Bakery is expected to open in two months in the Safeway plaza on East Prince Road and North Campbell Avenue. The new spot will borrow much of the menu from its sister location, but it also will have a split personality: half of the space and attention will be devoted to Hawaiian and Asian baked goods, items you'd be hard-pressed to find fresh made in Tucson.
The bakery returns Eder, who worked in restaurants for seven years in Las Vegas before coming to Tucson four years ago, to her passion. She is a classically trained pastry chef educated at Le Cordon Bleu in Vegas.
The bakery will specialize in yeasty malasadas and poi doughnuts, Japanese polo buns filled with sweet azuki beans, dobash cakes and guave chiffon cake.
Island Plate 2 also will be the exclusive distributor of Hawaii's famous Samurai soft serve ice cream that comes in flavors including coconut, passionfruit, mango, strawberry and blue vanilla.
When it opened in late 2016, Island Plate Lunch joined veteran Hawaiian food purveyor Mama's Hawaiian Bar-B-Cue, which launched itself in 2010 with its flagship restaurant on East Speedway near the University of Arizona. That restaurant was demolished earlier this summer to make way for new student housing.
Mama's moved its UA location into the Hub At Tucson student housing complex, 1011 N. Tyndall Ave., last spring. It has seven locations including at the Premium Outlets mall off Interstate 10 and West Twin Peaks Road in Marana; in Sahuarita at 15990 S. Rancho Sahuarita Blvd.; and in the Anthem community north of Phoenix off Interstate 17.
Tucson's other Hawaiian eateries include the two-year-old Solid Grindz at 2027 S. Craycroft Road.
45 new restaurants and bars that have opened in Tucson in 2018
Bombolé — 100 N. Stone Avenue
You can smell the Indian food as you're walking down Stone Avenue. The rich scent of toasted spices only gets stronger as you step through the doors of the Pioneer building, into a small room with rows of baked goods on display.
At first glance Bombolé seems like it might be an Indian bakery of some sort, but those aren't samosas on the counter. They're empanadas, though not the sweet kind you might see at a Mexican panaderia. This new lunch spot fills its moon-shaped turnovers with Indian curries like butter chicken and the spiced potato aloo matar.
7 Ounce Korean Steakhouse — 4699 E. Speedway
7 Ounce Korean Steakhouse opened on July 5 at the former Sir Veza's location.
The menu for 7 Ounce, where you cook your meat on a tableside grill, includes everything from ribeyes to short ribs, pork belly to chicken bulgogi, baby octopus to fresh shrimp and lobster, and surf and turf combo platters that serve two.
Alloro D.O.C. Italian Trattoria and Chophouse — 7600 E. Broadway
A familiar face has taken over the kitchen in the Hilton East's gourmet Italian venture Alloro D.O.C. Chef Virgina "Ginny" Wooters of The Abbey is now at the helm, and is putting her signature panache into the modern Italian classics like high-quality steaks and fresh pasta. At the grand opening, chefs mixed up some Fettuccine Alfredo inside a giant wheel of Parmigiano Reggiano, so let's hope for similar theatrics in the future.
American Eat Co. — 1439 S. Fourth Ave.
American Eat Co., which opened April 3, is already expanding the culinary horizons of South Fourth Avenue, a stretch of South Tucson ruled by its popular Mexican food offerings.
The new concept, which opened in what had long been the American Meat Company, sports six restaurants with cuisine ranging from ribs to poke and sliders.
There's a beer and wine bar with the latest craft selections, a coffee shop and even a butcher. Sit at a communal table or cozy up in one of the booths available in the dining area.
Arizona Wine Collective 4280 — N. Campbell Ave.
In early February, St. Philip's Plaza added a new wine bar that focuses on wines from across this great state. Arizona Wine Collective is owned by Jeanne and Pete Snell, who cut his teeth working at the tasting room at Sonoita's Callaghan Vineyards.
The cozy spot in the former Scordato's Pizzeria has eight wine taps, six beer taps and bottles from 11 different local wineries.
Beaut Burger — 267 South Avenida del Convento
Beaut Burger is breaking a whole lotta boundaries from its little kitchen inside a repurposed shipping container. This new westside concept specializes in vegan burgers, making everything in-house, from the patty to the slow-fermented English muffin bun. (Gluten free options available!)
The plant-based restaurant is the culinary anchor at the Mercado San Agustin's new hyper-local upscale shopping center, the MSA Annex. The spacious lot west of the freeway has a minimalist vibe to it, embracing rustic browns and desert aesthetics you wouldn't think of when you hear the words "shipping container.
Berry Divine Acai Bowls — 245 E. Congress St.
Is it breakfast? Lunch? Or something in between ... Acaí bowls are everything you want them to be, and now you can grab them downtown thanks to this new family-run shop that opened in mid-January downtown.
In addition to the colorful acaí smoothie bowls you've probably seen all over Instagram, Berry Divine also makes its own soft-serve sorbet out of the frozen berries it imports from Brazil.
Besties Fish and Burger — 14 W. Grant Road
Kade Mislinksi is at it again with what he says is his final restaurant, Besties Fish and Burger. The midtown joint pays homage to the titans of fast food in what he calls "Long John Silver's meets White Castle." The specialty here is steamed burgers like they have back east in Connecticut, where Kade spent summers as a kid. Pair that with some French fries, hush puppies and battered fish and you've got the restaurant's signature combo, the BFF.
Cans — 340 N. Fourth Ave.
The owner of TallBoys on North Fourth Avenue has cooked up a new restaurant concept in the old home of U.S. Fries down the street.
In early May, Ben Schneider along with his friends and business partners, Parker Arriaga, Frank Bair, Gabe Rozzell and Simone Stopford, plan to launched the downtown concept.
The restaurant serves meaty sandwiches (pastrami, corned beef, turkey), salads, latkes, some Middle Eastern fare and soups, including Cans’ own take on traditional matzo ball soup.
Also, since Schneider is a long-time musician, expect there to be lots of live music.
Caravan Grill 2825 — N. Country Club Rd.
The midtown shop formerly occupied by Za'atar has been taken over by the neighboring Caravan Market, who developed a Mediterranean lunch menu with various falafel plates, gyros and chicken shawarma.
Caravan Grill still has its beautiful stone oven, which produces Iraqi Samoun breads as well as delicate Syrian pastries.
Casa Marana Craft Beer + Wine — 8225 N. Courtney Page Way
Marana’s newest homage to craft beer started pouring in June.
Casa Marana Craft Beer + Wine, 8225 N. Courtney Page Way off Interstate 10 and North Cortaro Road, has 35 brews on tap alongside a trio of wines.
The cooler is filled with 480 varieties of canned and bottled craft beers and 50 wines for package sales.
Chocolate Iguana — 431 N. Fourth Ave.
After losing its home of 28 years, The Chocolate Iguana has reopened on Fourth Avenue, less than a block from its original spot. With its crisp new paint job and colorful candy jars, it's hard to believe the space used to serve three-pound hamburgers.
A partnership with Lindy's on Fourth owner Shannon Cronin saved the Fourth Avenue candy shop about a week before they were forced out by their landlord, said chocolate Iguana co-owner Alexya Simpson. After vacating March 31, the candy shop reopened inside the original Lindy's location at 431 N. Fourth Ave. in late May.
Cobra Arcade Bar — 63 E. Congress St.
Phoenix-based Cobra Arcade Bar officially opened Friday, June 29.
The bar, which pairs classic and hard-to-find arcade games with alcoholic beverages, inhabits the 5,000 square feet of space at 63 E. Congress that was once home to JunXion Bar at the Congress and North Scott Avenue intersection.
More than 50 arcade games and pinball machines are spread across two levels, Cobra’s regional manager Topher Bray said in an interview in April, including titles such as Street Fighter II, Mortal Kombat, NBA Jam, Galaga and Frogger.
El Charro, Beyond Bread at TIA — 7250 S. Tucson Blvd
A second outpost of Beyond Bread opened in mid-March at Tucson International Airport, one of four new restaurants added to the culinary lineup of the airport’s $28 million “A Brighter TUS” project.
The second Beyond Bread is along Concourse B, which also welcomed Bruegger’s Bagels and Built Custom Burgers — two of three national chains coming to the airport; Dunkin’ Donuts is in the wings — and El Charro Cafe, making its return to the airport after a 20-year absence.
El Patron — 4579 S. 12th Ave.
There's a new bar and grill next door to Rollie's Mexican Patio on South Twelfth Avenue. The space used to be a Mr. Baja Fish, but now it's El Patron Bar and Grill which serves a wide range of Jalisco-style meat and mariscos dishes, with an emphasis on the bar and live mariachi. The restaurant is part of the Taco Giro name, but these guys do delivery within a square mile of the restaurant.
Halfwheel Coffeehouse — 1832 E. Sixth St.
This new coffee counter, which opened in March, is actually part of a bike shop called Re-Cycle, which recently took up residence in a former Bernie Sanders campaign office.
Halfwheel serves Exo Roast coffee and La Estrella Bakery pastries in a bright but homey space on Sixth and Campbell.
Peak around the corner and you'll see a full-service bike shop flanking the back of the store.
Harbottle Brewing Company — 3820 S. Palo Verde Road
A brewery years in the making, Harbottle launched in early February and is the last new brewery on the books slated to open in 2018 (not counting the Borderlands/Sentinel Peak collaborative effort known as Voltron Brewing).
The brewery can be found in a strip mall on the southwest corner of East Ajo Way and South Palo Verde, next to Chopstix Chinese restaurant. It is a short drive from the cluster of breweries that reside on and around East 44th Street, including Copper Mine Brewing, Green Feet Brewing, Nimbus and, for a little while longer, 1055 Brewing.
Michael Figueira, Andy Shlicker, two figures of note on the local craft beer scene, are the brains behind the operation and run a tight ship with a casual atmosphere.
Play a round of shuffleboard between pints, or watch the bustle of traffic roll by on Ajo with friends.
Hoki Poki — 6501 E. Grant Road
This shop from Bin An that opened in the end of April lets you choose your own poke destiny.
Hoki Poki's bowls are more substantial than An's downtown venue MiAn Sushi, because you can pile on ingredients like spicy tuna, seaweed salad, mandarin oranges and more.
Indian Twist — 4660 E. Camp Lowell Drive
Open since early January, Indian Twist replaced the short-lived Twisted Tandoor on East Camp Lowell Drive.
The restaurant, affiliated with JAM Culinary Concepts, is run by Jimmy Aujla, who got his start in Indian cuisine in the mid-1990s, working for his family's eatery in Washington state.
Indian Twist has a daily lunch buffet and a bar that includes beers from India.
Insomnia Cookies — 345 E. Congress
College students with the midnight munchies have another place to score sweet treats, thanks to the opening of Insomnia Cookies on East Congress Street.
The cookie-delivery spot is located next to Hi Fi Kitchen & Cocktails and is open until 3 a.m., if you are up that late studying (and we are sure that's exactly what you are doing.)
The chain started at the University of Pennsylvania in 2003 and now has more than 100 shops throughout the country.
The Tucson Cookie Co. on East Sixth Street also delivers.
Isabella's Ice Cream — 267 S. Avenida Del Convento
Isabella’s Ice Cream was set to open its third location on Wednesday at the MSA Annex downtown, the shipping container sidebar to the popular Mercado San Agustin on West Congress Street.
The shop is one of the final tenants of the Annex, a hyperlocal upscale retail center that opened in May next door to the Mercado.
One of the first businesses to open in the Annex was Kerry Lane’s Beaut Burger, a vegan burger joint that she and her husband, Ari Shapiro, have been working on for several years.
Izumi — 3655 E. Speedway
Izumi, which opened in March in an old Denny's on East Speedway, kicks the Asian buffet concept up a notch with crab legs and oysters on the menu, in addition to the usual mix of chicken, pork, beef and veggie dishes.
The fancier offerings up the price of admission to $25 per person, which will also get you all-you-can-eat access to sushi rolls, nigiri and yummy ramen.
Izumi fills a void in midtown, says owner William Cheung, who owns Hana Tokyo on South Calle Santa Cruz and Wok and Roll Asian Buffet on Wes Ina Road.
“It’s just a good location on Speedway. I think they’re lacking,” Cheung said.
Juice Envy — 1980 W. Orange Grove Road
Next time you're making a noodle run, check out the spot next door for some healthy juices and smoothies. Juice Envy opened in July inside the Orange Grove shopping center anchored by Lee Lee International Supermarket.
Formerly a Subway, the space is now owned by Tucsonan K.C. Roff and managed by his daughter Kandice Roff, who developed the menu herself.
"I know a lot of people doing yogurts and added sugar concentrate," she said. "I wanted to be so different — completely fresh — where the customers can see us make everything right in front of them."
Just Breakfast — 2510 E. Hunt Hwy
The popular Home Plate restaurant and sports bar in Marana opened a breakfast spot in mid-February.
The idea is that it serves, as its name implies, just breakfast — omelettes, eggs, pancakes, waffles and breakfast sandwiches with nothing priced over $10 — and leave the lunch and dinner to Home Plate.
Kiss of Smoke — 663 S. Plumer Ave.
Tucked back into a residential neighborhood south of Broadway, Kiss of Smoke serves wood-fired barbecue dishes like pulled pork and mesquite-smoked chicken.
Brandi Romero and her family originally started out as a competition barbecue team, but transitioned into a popular food truck and now a brick and mortar restaurant.
Kogi Korean BBQ — 4951 N. Grant Road
Kogi Korean BBQ opened in June is in the space that was once Seoul Kitchen at 4951 N. Grant Road.
Seoul Kitchen, meanwhile, moved to 6255 E. Golf Links Road, where it's becoming popular for its daily lunch buffet.
Le Cave's — 3950 E. 22nd St.
After more than 80 years in business, Le Cave's Bakery is leaving Tucson's south side and will move into a building known for serving up burgers and fries.
The new owners of the longtime Tucson institution are remodeling the former Jack in the Box building at 3950 E. 22nd St., near South Alvernon Way, and hope to open by early fall.
“We are really excited to continue on the legacy and keep that going in the community," said Naomi Pershing, who with her husband Chris bought Le Cave's several months ago from owner Rudy Molina Jr.
Lindy’s off Fourth 8995 — E. Tanque Verde Road
East-side residents can now get their Blue Suede Cows without having to travel to Fourth Avenue.
Lindy's opened a second location on Tanque Verde in April in the former home of Great American Steakburger.
The "offbeat" burger menu remains the same, but the space is substantially bigger and roomier, and sports a full bar area with eight beers on tap.
Monsoon Chocolate — 234 E 22nd St.
Monsoon chocolate, located on East 22nd Street, opened in May in the spot of the former La Buena Mexican Food.
They have an array of chocolate beauties that are locally made in Tucson, including some made with local chiltepin and Whiskey del Bac. But don't let the name fool you: it's not just a fancy chocolate cafe.
The menu has a hodgepodge of trendy California cafe foods and nouveau Mediterranean, like from the vibrant pages of an Ottolenghi cookbook. There's smoked avocado toast that's littered with lots of funky pickled fennel (as if it's a challenge). And then you see Mediterranean yogurt all over the place, like in the radish toast that's studded with beautiful purple cornflowers.
Nekter Juice Bar — 2905 E. Skyline Drive, Suite #167
A juice bar just opened this week next to the Apple Store at La Encantada mall. Nekter is a California chain that serves cold-pressed juices, healthy smoothies, acai bowls and gourmet soft serves with mostly vegan ingredients. My menu favorite was the Green Apple Detox juice with cucumbers, lemon, kale, fennel and ginger. It wasn't too sweet; mostly tart and spicy with a fresh taste from the cucumber.
Nick’s Sari Sari Store — 2001 S. Craycroft Road
As of April, this Filipino market now has a separate cafe with buffet-style dishes at the front counter.
Nick's Sari Sari Store is doing all the specialties like lumpia egg rolls, pork adobo and crunchy sisig, and maybe most importantly, Halo Halo, which is shaved ice with fruit jellies and purple yam ice cream.
Nomico Healthy Dessert — 595 E. Wetmore Rd.
At Nomico you'll find some Instagrammable street food, like "bubble waffles" and raindrop cakes.
But at the healthy dessert spot that opened in January, you'll also find some very unique offerings like butterfly tea and, wait for it ... cheese tea?!
It's a franchise store that originated in Hong Kong, and the only location in the United States is this one in the Old Pueblo.
Noodleholics — 3502 E. Grant Road
Noodleholics opened in midtown Tucson toward the end of April.
The restaurant is bringing homemade noodles and regional Chinese flavors to Tucson, and it's doing it in a contemporary but casual atmosphere on Grant Road.
Despite its humble Grant Road location, Noodleholics feels like some place you'd see in suburban Los Angeles, food writer Andi Berlin writes.
The trendy clipboard menu is made up almost completely of noodles, mostly from Guilin and surrounding region of southern China.
Persian Room — 9290 N. Thornydale Road
The northwest side is about to get its first Persian restaurant that will insert itself into a culinary landscape dominated by fast-causal chain restaurants, mom-and-pop Mexican and pizza joints and one of Tucson’s oldest steakhouses.
Persian Room, a sprawling 5,600-square-foot restaurant that will seat as many as 175, is expected to open in early June at 9290 N. Thornydale Road, about a quarter mile from Cortaro Farms Road. It’s the second outpost for the upscale Scottsdale-based Persian eatery, whose menu includes various kabab entrees in beef, lamb and chicken ranging from $13 to $15.
Pizza Luna — 1101 N. Wilmot Road
Tucson has no shortage of pizza places, even on the east side where culinary options — while not completely absent — fall way behind the vibrant food districts that surround downtown.
Pizza Luna, one of east Tucson's newest pizza spots, replaces Cup it Up's original location in the Trader Joe's shopping center, at 1101 N. Wilmot Road.
They serve what's called "neo-Neapolitan" pizza, according to This is Tucson's Andi Berlin.
"The dough here is cold fermented for 72 hours, which is a pivotal step in creating that perfect pizza crust with a slightly sour flavor," Berlin said in her story about Luna. "If this restaurant has any funk, you're gonna see it in the pizza itself as well as the interesting toppings; not necessarily in the atmosphere."
Queen Sheeba — 5553 E. Grant Road
Tucson's first official Eritrean restaurant launched in February on Grant Road near North Craycroft, across town from the Ethiopian restaurants with which it shares many of its traditional dishes (Eritrea and Ethiopia share a border on the horn of Africa.)
Expect the types of plates that you might find at places such as Zemam's and Café Desta, with "Eritrean style" twists.
Raijin Ramen — 2955 E. Speedway Blvd.
There's a universe of ramen to explore at Tucson's first ramen house — that's if you can get a table.
Even though this specialty ramen spot opened in January, oftentimes there are still lines around dinner time to get a seat at this restaurant.
With nine varieties of ramen on the menu including white miso and black roasted garlic tonkotsu, it's easy to see why Raijin has become a hit.
Ren Coffeehouse 4300 — N. Campbell Ave.
Another coffee shop has opened its doors at St. Philip's plaza.
Ren Coffeehouse also has a lunch menu of paninis, simple salads and a gorgeous avocado toast with perfectly poached egg on Barrio Bread.
Rollies Mexican Patio — 4573 S. 12th Ave.
While we have yet to see how the outdoor dining experience known as Rollies will fare in the intense summer heat, the brand new restaurant on South 12th Avenue has been downright pleasant in its first few months in business.
Rollies sports a casual patio atmosphere and a menu that includes rolled tacos, vegetarian tortas, flat enchiladas and ice cream sandwiches using conchas (Mexican sweet bread). And OK it technically opened days before 2018, but we're including it in our list.
Its unique approach to popular Mexican dishes separates it from the sea of Mexican restaurants on Tucson's south side.
Series 19 — 13 N. Stone Ave.
Downtown Tucson's newest cocktail bar Series 19 pours local spirits from across Arizona. It's an offshoot of Three Wells Distilling Company, which produces prickly pear spirits and more from a warehouse on Tucson's south side. The cocktail menu showcases the Three Wells line, which now includes two gins, agave spirits, vodka and even bourbon. We enjoyed the Sonoran Margarita on a recent visit.
Smokey Mo Barbecue — 2650 N. First Avenue
A Kansas City-style barbecue restaurant is breathing life into the former Shari’s Drive-In on North First Avenue.
Smokey Mo, a smoked meats and barbecue concept that also serves burgers, opened in mid-July in the old building that had been boarded up since Shari’s closed in July 2008.
“It’s all about smoked meats,” said owner Telahoun Molla.
Tamarind — 7265 N. La Cholla Blvd.
An Indian food restaurant has recently opened up its doors at the Foothills Mall.
Tamarind has a large menu of dishes from all over India, including the burrito-like kati rolls and a whole category of "Mystic Masalas." Oh, and most importantly, they have a lunch buffet.
The Buffalo Spot — 760 N. Tyndall Ave.
A California-based chicken-and-ribs chain has opened its first spot in Tucson, launching in the former home of Cup It Up near the University of Arizona.
The Buffalo Spot, at 760 N. Tyndall Ave., started in Long Beach, California, in 2013 and has locations throughout Southern California, with one in Georgia and one in Phoenix, that opened last summer.
Buffalo Spot’s menu includes Kansas City-style ribs, traditional and boneless wings, and the chain’s signature Buffalo fries, which appears to be a pile of fries topped with a pile of chicken, covered in a wing sauce of your choosing.
The Frozen Cactus — 5769 E. Speedway
RJ's Replays on Speedway was one of two local businesses featured on a TV show called "Bar Rescue," where a "nightlift expert" goes full-Gordon Ramsay on a failing bar.
The episode hasn't come out yet, but the joint is already sporting a new name, The Frozen Cactus Ice Bar and Flame Grill.
Westbound — 267 S. Avenida Del Convento
Westbound is the first food and drink concept to open at the MSA Annex, a shipping container shopping center just east of the Mercado San Agustin. (The other food concepts are still a few weeks out.) The folks at Tap + Bottle have brought in a taplist of 20 different beers, eight wines and four batch-made cocktails. (Try the gin-based Orange Cucumber Rhumba with spicy dehydrated cucumbers.) The mostly outdoor concept does have air conditioning and plenty of shade, plus a small bottle room at the front.