With local media hyping their lists of favorite businesses, we thought ADI readers might note a few that are generally overlooked, but well worth the attention of food lovers and food-for-thought folks. We write from personal experience, and have spoken to none of these about this story.
FOOD FOR THE BELLY:
— BREAKFAST: The Old Times Kafé, 1485 West Prince Road, Tucson; open 5:30 a.m. – 2 p.m. This 1940’s ranch house turned restaurant serves good food at a good price, with good service and good coffee, even the decaf. If you order before 9:30 there are several great specials with eggs anyway you like them, sausage or bacon, toast, taters, big biscuit & gravy, or a pancake that flops over the edges of the plate. Yum! https://www.oldtimeskafe.com/
— LUNCH: Luke’s Chicago Style, 6741 N. Thornydale (off Horizon Hills Drive), Tucson; Monday-Saturday, 11-8; Sunday 11-5: Italian-style sandwiches on the best Italian bread in town. Sausage, beef and meatballs are $7.50, plus Chicago dogs, ½ pound pastrami sandwiches, and more. Fries and onion rings are great too. A little extra to add hot or sweet peppers, or both, to sandwiches. Yum! http://lukeschicagostyle.com/menu.html
— DINNER: La Indita, 622 North 4th Avenue, Tucson; Monday-Friday: 11-2, 5-8:45; Saturday-Sunday: 11-8:45. This family-owned restaurant has great chicken and enchilada mole, and a less-fat Indian taco plate with red chile that is superb. Prices in the $10-13 range for full meals. Light and side orders available. Yum! https://lainditarestauranttucson.com/6842
— ANYTIME: BBQ4U: This outdoor-cooked Santa Maria-style tri-tip barbeque may be the best meat we’ve ever eaten. They set up often by the Safeway at Broadway and Houghton, but also come closer to town for events like the Folk Festival, 4th Avenue Street Fair, and SAHBA Home Show. Check their Facebook page for current offerings. A thick sandwich is $9 and a whole tri-tip is $30. They freeze well, and Bill and Sue include instructions on reheating. A whole one serves about six people. Yum! Yum! https://www.facebook.com/BBQ-4-U-TUCSON-304003531433/
— DESSERT: Amy’s Donuts, 101 East Fort Lowell (east of Stone), Tucson: 5 a.m. – midnight, 7 days a week except limited hours Thanksgiving and Christmas. This new independently-owned chain has only opened in Tucson, Colorado Springs and Columbus, Ohio so far, with Albuquerque and Spokane under construction. If taste is any gauge, they should expand fast, because these are gourmet donuts of more varieties than we ever knew existed, along with traditional. The fancy ones cost around $2.50 each and are worth every penny! And one is more than enough for most people. Some can be custard-filled upon request. Yumalicious!!! https://www.amysdonuts.com/
FOOD FOR THE SOUL:
BOOKS: Tucson has big box bookstores like Barnes and Noble, great independents like Antigone, used like Bookman’s, The Book Stop, Mostly Books, and Friends of the Library, but few have ever heard of: Remember Me Bookstore, 3032 North Country Club, Tucson. It is a non-profit set up to fund the Carol Walsh Cancer Foundation. Her widower, Mike Walsh, heads the foundation and runs the bookstore on Saturday and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. There is a great collection of low-priced used books of all kinds, all donated, and 100% of the proceeds go to the Foundation. Great books, great prices, great cause. https://www.facebook.com/RememberMeBookStore
THEATRE: Tucson has lots of great theatre, but the big surprise (and lowest prices) comes from Pima Community College’s Theatre Arts Program, Pima CC West Campus. Mixing classics with new works and always a big musical, this season’s productions include The Magic Rainforest: an Amazon Journey (aimed at a young audience), Moliere’s sardonic comedy Tartuffe, and Polaroid Stories, blending myth and gritty street life. The musical is the hit Mamma Mia, and if they do as good a job as they did with Spam-a-Lot, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and Priscilla, Queen of the Desert, it will be great. Visit their website for dates, prices, and tickets: https://www.pima.edu/community/the-arts/2018-19-images/arts-2018-19-season-calendar.pdf
— LIVE MUSIC: Tucson is a happening town for music, and there are many local favorites. While both Heather (Li’l Mama) Hardy (violin) and Alvin Blaine (guitar) play with several bands that cover it all – jazz, country, blues, rock, etc. – they also play as a duo and that is especially worth going out for. Heather Hardy’s violin and vocals swoop and soar and she is totally professional. Alvin Blaine is a great guitar player yet to be really discovered, especially when he goes electric. Then he is in a league with late and great musicians like Roy Buchanan, Duane Allman and Stevie Ray Vaughn. Check out Heather’s website for dates and places: https://heatherlilmamahardy.com/shows
— EARLY ARIZONA HISTORY: With the weather finally moderating a drive and some walking seem do-able. Driving out I-10, then south on 83 by Vail, watch for signs on the east side for Empire Ranch. A good dirt road takes to what was a working ranch into the 1950s, preserved so you can take a free self-guided tour. The location is by Cienega Creek, and that is worth a stroll as well. You might see a coatimundi! https://www.empireranchfoundation.org/
Then continue south on 83 until you see signs for Kentucky Camp on the west side. Take the usually-decent dirt road 5 miles in and park in the lot next to the gate. It’s a ¼ mile hike down (and then back up) to what was a placer mine operation. Dogs only on leashes. The office building is open, no charge, several other buildings are in the process of reconstruction by the Friends of Kentucky Camp. The manager’s house is now a Forest Service rental cabin, so don’t bother occupants. Placer mining used water cannons (and one is there to see) to blast the sand loose from hillsides and then run it through sluices to sort out the tiny gold. The history of this sort-of ghost town is interesting: For a summary visit: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kentucky_Camp,_Arizona
And if you get hungry, go back to 83 and drive 5 miles south to Sonoita and visit one of the local restaurants.
— EARLIER EARLY ARIZONA HISTORY: Before miners and ranchers, before conquistadores and occupation that killed 95 % of the indigenous population with force or disease, there were people with elaborate canal systems, villages spaced by design at prescribed distances along rivers; they had plazas and ball courts in their villages, and may have emigrated from the south rather than across the Bering Straits. The Huhugam, an O’odham word for “all used up,” became the Tohono O’odham, with the second-largest reservation in the US.
A visit to the Tohono O’odham Cultural Center and Museum, the Himdag Ki, will introduce you to a culture that has lived in our desert for thousands of years. Open Monday – Saturday, 10-4, but call in case it is a local holiday: 520-383-0200. Free admission. Take Route 86 West to Sells (61 miles from I-10), turn south on Indian Route 19 to Baboquiveri Mountain Road, 10 miles. You can’t miss it! And if you get hungry, there’s a good café in Sells that might have fresh fry bread! http://www.himdagki.org/about/