Why Tucson is a Foodie’s Paradise

Tucson’s food scene is barely talked about, and what a mistake that is! Coaxing a vibrant food culture in a sweltering desert may seem like an impossible feat, but Tucson boasts some of the finest cuisine around.

Being a great food city isn’t just about fancy, high-end restaurants. Tucson benefits from an incredible local community, a rich agricultural history, and a resourcefulness like no other, to produce some of the highest-quality, most soulful dishes and flavours around. Here’s what makes desert food the best kind of food.

#1 UNESCO’s seal of approval

What Tucson lacks in size, it makes up for in heart and soul. In 2015, Tucson was the first USA city to make the list on Unesco’s Creative Cities of Gastronomy (San Antonio, Texas was later added in November of last year).

Created in 2004, the Creative Cities Network now totals 26 cities of gastronomy around the world. It aims to promote cooperation and shared experience amongst culture-rich cities worldwide. The international agency began including food as a part of cultural heritage worth protecting, and Tucson’s delicious dishes made it a viable candidate!

#2 Our rich history

Tucson may be a dusty desert, but our rich culture of farming and ranching means that gastronomy runs deep. We love that Tucson is, and always has been, a melting pot of people- including Native Americans, Mexicans, Americans, Spanish and others – all with strong bonds to the desert lands.

Over a decade ago, architectural digs revealed evidence of irrigated crops dating back 4,000 years, giving Tucson the longest known agricultural history in the USA. We believe our rich agricultural history is a testament to the will of our people, and we couldn’t be more proud!

#3 Community love

The people of Tucson love this city, and it loves them back! Our passion for food goes well beyond the kitchen, and beyond fancy restaurants- it’s all in the community.

In the economic crash of 2008, the lines at the Community Food Bank of Southern Arizona nearly doubled. People from all walks of life came together to build community gardens in backyards, and throughout the city where they were needed most.

Tucson is devoted to creating livelihoods from its heritage foods, and everyone comes together and unites to create a bedrock for the future.

#4 Our local ingredients

At a first glance, Arizona’s deserts may seem like a wasteland. However, our locals have learned to make great use of local ingredients, and the results are pretty tasty.

Popular ingredients with chefs are agave, cactus pods, amaranth and a tiny wild pepper called chiltepin. Cholla buds are also a staple, with a vaguely similar taste to asparagus. These unopened flower buds are added to salads and salsas.

Our desserts are also delicious, as we pound mesquite pods into our cookies, and are spoiled for choice with quince, figs and white pomegranates. Our climate may be tough, but we’ve mastered the art of resourcefulness.

#5 Our rockstar chefs

It’s only natural that such amazing raw products be put to good use. From fancy fine dining restaurants, to hole-in-the-wall unique spots, Tucson boasts a unique and diverse palette.

In 1999, a group of restaurant owners formed Tucson Originals to promote the value of our city’s independent restaurants, and support Tucson’s culinary diversity. This alliance of more than 30 independent restaurant owners, purveyors and partners has helped many of Tucson’s signature restaurants survive and thrive. Despite the rapid rise of chain eateries, Tucson has kept its unique cuisine, and can boast some of the best Mexican food in the state.

We love exploring Tucson and it’s rich cultural heritage. If you are a local hoping to become a restaurant connoisseur, or are just a foodie enthusiast, you’ll soon find there’s a ton of great dining options, even where you’d least expect. If you need a place to stay on your culinary journey, Stargate West offers a variety of luxury apartments a hop and a skip away from many Tucson attractions. Get in contact today, or take a look at our floorplans here!