This month's list of Tucson restaurants took me by surprise ... Now that the season's over and the students/snowbirds have gone bye-bye, I expected quite a struggle finding enough places to fill this list.
But here we are, at the beginning of June with eight new dining options, including a local chocolate maker and a Jewish deli/music venue? Cool! But the most important development is just around the corner ...
Three new bars are set to open downtown in the next few months. Two of them — Iron John's and Ten Fifty-Five — are actually taprooms for established local breweries. (That's in addition to Series 19 that opened this month. It pours local spirits from Three Wells Distilling Company.) Is downtown becoming a full-fledged brewery district? And more importantly, what's with all these hazy IPA's?!!
The Buffalo Spot
760 N. Tyndall Ave., 520-398-4621
This Southern California-based chain restaurant specializes in ribs, buffalo wings and fries. The Buffalo Spot has more than a dozen wing flavors including pineapple jalapeño, teriyaki and Jamaican jerk. The store's signature item is a big basket of loaded buffalo fries topped with boneless wings. Check it out at Main Gate Square, in the former home of Cup it Up. Read more
Hours: 10:30 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. Sundays-Wednesdays, and until 1 a.m. Thursdays-Saturdays
340 N. Fourth Ave., 520-775-0226
This Fourth Avenue sandwich spot/music venue comes from the owner of TallBoys down the street. Cans is modeled after a Jewish deli, serving a host of meaty pastrami and corned beef sandwiches with housemade pickles. (There are also some genre-bending choices like pork belly? 😳) The back half of the space functions as a music venue where you can rock out to local acts like Vox Urbana. Read more
Hours: Restaurant hours 10 a.m. to 11 p.m. every day, bar hours 5:30 p.m. to 2 a.m. every day
The Chocolate Iguana
431 N. Fourth Ave., 520-798-1211
After losing its home of 28 years, The Chocolate Iguana 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 be the burger giant Lindy's on Fourth. The space is a bit smaller than the original location, but there's still the same candy selection, as well as pastries, espresso drinks and ice cream. Read more
Hours: 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays, 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. Fridays, 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. Saturdays, closed on Sundays for the time being
The Frozen Cactus
5769 E. Speedway, 520-495-5136
News of the month! 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? The new menu looks a bit more substantial, with dishes like the Spanish Tilapia with spicy fried potato sticks, $8.95.
Hours: 11 a.m. to 2 a.m. Mondays through Fridays, 10 a.m. to 2 a.m. Saturdays and Sundays
234 E. 22nd St., 520-396-3189
This southside spot is part artisan chocolate shop, part airy cafe with a trendy breakfast and lunch menu. Monsoon Chocolate specializes in bean-to-bar chocolate confections bursting with local ingredients like chiltepin peppers and Whiskey del Bac. Check out the breakfast toasts, which feature housemade bread and a mosaic of well-placed ingredients. Read more
Hours: 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. Wednesdays through Sundays.
Nekter Juice Bar
2905 E. Skyline Drive, Suite #167, 520-299-1950
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.
Hours: 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Mondays through Wednesdays, 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. Thursdays through Saturdays, 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sundays
13 N. Stone Ave., 520-303-1199
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. Read more
Hours: 4 to 11 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays, 3 p.m. to midnight Fridays, 2 p.m. to midnight Saturdays, and 1 to 8 p.m. Sundays
267 S. Avenida Del Convento, 520-867-8308
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.
Hours: Noon to 10 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays, noon to 11 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, noon to 8 pm. Sundays
On the horizon ...
— The Cobra Arcade Bar is finishing up construction at 63 E. Congress downtown
— The Persian Room is expected to open in early June at 9290 N. Thornydale Road
— Ten Fifty-Five Brewing recently moved its barrels to the new downtown location, expected to open this summer
— Iron John's Brewing released a floorplan for its upcoming tap room at 222 E. Congress
— With reporting by Cathalena Burch and Gerald Gay