After golf, dine in at one of Tucson's best restaurants
Tucson has a strong dining scene full of Mexican and Southwestern tastes, as well as locally sourced and organic restaurants. Here are some favorites to visit after playing golf in Tucson.
TUCSON, Ariz. -- Small and concentrated compared to Phoenix-Scottsdale two hours up the road, Tucson is also older and full of Sonoran desert culture, which is reflected in a strong dining scene that puts its own twist on Mexican and Southwestern staples.
It's a bit more of a low-key affair in Tucson compared to the big city to the north, but that doesn't mean they're not trying here. You'll find some delicious plates here as well as some unique presentations you may have never seen elsewhere.
So call it: Winner of the foursome on the golf course gets to pick the dinner joint for the night, and here's where to start around Tucson ...
El Charro Cafe
El Charro Cafe (www.elcharrocafe.com) is a Tucson institution, staking claim as the longest-running single-family-owned restaurant in America, dating back to 1922.
El Charro features a large menu with all the usual Mexican suspects, but it puts a Tucson spin on it. Its specialty is the Carne Seca, a sun-dried, spicy angus beef served in a variety of ways, but start by ordering the Carne Seca enchilada.
You don't have to be downtown to visit El Charro Cafe's flagship restaurant (which moved to the present location in 1968 and still air-dries its Carne Seca on the roof to this day). Today there are three more locations, including its newest to the north near the foothills on Oracle Boulevard that is convenient after golf at Omni Tucson National or El Conquistador Golf Club.
Flying V Bar & Grill at Loews Ventana Canyon
You'd think the location in the Catalina foothills overlooking the desert and golf course would steal the show -- but at Flying J at Loews Ventana Canyon (www.flyingvbarandgrill.com), your eyes will be on its famous table-side guac.
Made from scratch right in front of you, the server whips up a generous helping with a variety of ingredients exactly to your specs. (Ever have spicy guac? They'll do it.) Just save room for a main course: Entrees are a mix of heavy meats such as baby back ribs, T-Bones, fish, scallop dishes and more.
Some simply come to Flying V for a drink and some live music, and the bar features many rum and martini mixes as well as seven signature margarita concoctions.
Opened in 2008, Harvest (10355 N. La Canada Dr., Tel. 520-731-1100) is the newest of the Market Group restaurants in Tucson, which also runs the popular Zona 78 Italian Kitchen.
Harvest features an ever-changing seasonal menu and sources organic ingredients from local farmers in a casual atmosphere. The warmer months lend to a menu heavier in fish such as halibut, while the winter brings in pot roast and dishes utilizing the cattle ranches to the north in Ora Valley.
Located north of Tucson near the foothills and near many of Tucson's top golf resorts such as Omni Tucson National, it has attracted a few PGA Tour players in town for the event -- and even more of their wives, possibly due to the extensive wine menu with bottles from around Arizona and well beyond.
J Bar at Westin La Paloma
Compared to Scottsdale, Tucson isn't much for "celebrity chef" restaurants, though one of the bigger names in the area is Janos Wilder, who runs Janos and the more casual J Bar (www.janos.com) at the Westin La Paloma Resort.
J Bar is ideal after golf at La Paloma Country Club. The restaurant is small and lively, featuring a covered outdoor porch, while inside is an open kitchen that cooks up a Latin-inspired menu with a dash of Caribbean tastes.
If you're in the mood for a burger, it boasts an item called "The Best #*!@ Burger" which is a 9 oz. sirloin topped with fois gras, cured bacon poblano chiles, manchego and mushrooms.
A new addition to the menu is the Alaskan Halibut fish tacos served with pineapple rice and jicama orange relish. I ordered them, the guy next to me at the bar ordered them –- suffice to say, they should stick around.
Bob's Steak & Chop House at Omni Tucson National
What separates the new Bob's Steak & Chop House at Omni Tucson National Resort (2727 West Club Dr., tel. 520-877-2377) from the flagship restaurant in Dallas? It's its porch setting overlooking the famous 18th hole of the Catalina course complete with two large ponds and fountains, making for quite a setting at sunset.
Bob's serves up an array of prime Midwestern steaks, from 9 oz. filets to the 28 oz. Porterhouse. But some of its non-beef items are eye-openers. A jar of pickles and family-style bread loaf kick off the night, while steaks are served with the biggest carrots you'll ever see this side of Looney Tunes.
Tucson sports bars
If you're trying to catch a big game at night during your golf trip, Tucson has some good ones. Omni Tucson National recently revamped its sports bar to Legends Bar & Grill. On top of a large spirit list and tap beers, there is a cigar menu, plus shuffleboard and billiards.
Most of the best golf courses in Tucson are around the Catalina foothills. One bar within a close drive of Westin La Paloma and Loews Ventana Canyon is Skybox, home to big screens and smaller LCD TVs showing the action, plus a full menu of food. On weekend nights there’s live music and a packed atmosphere.
Or head down River Street and find Depot Sports Bar, where the walls are lined with HDTVs plus an enormous pub fare menu.
June 7, 2010