If Tucson, the second-largest city in Arizona, was previously known as Scottsdale’s less sophisticated little sister, it’s turning that reputation on its head with trendy new hotels, a funky downtown and a closeness to nature. Restaurant newcomers downtown offer a mix of Tex-Mex cuisine and fresh takes on Southwestern fare.
“A lot of places have great food, but our great food feels like Tucson,” notes Dan Gibson, director of communications at Visit Tucson. Making it official, UNESCO designated Tucson a World City of Gastronomy in 2016—and it was the only U.S. metropolis to make the list. Incorporate these items into menus to add local flavor.
Prickly Pear Syrup
The magenta-colored syrup, produced from prickly pear cactus, is incorporated into everything from lemonade and margaritas to candy and barbecue sauce.
Executive Chef Ken Harvey, who leads groups on foraging expeditions around Loews Ventana Canyon Resort, practices what he preaches. He incorporates Arizona-native tepary bean into hummus on the resort’s poolside menu.
Sonoran Hot Dog
A hot dog is wrapped in mesquite-cooked bacon, grilled and then topped with pinto beans, grilled and fresh onions, tomatoes, mayo, mustard and jalapeno salsa. Serve on a bolillo roll (the Mexican riff on a baguette) with a side of roasted chili peppers.