Dining In and Around Oro Valley
Here’s a little fact that will blow your mind - Tucson is one of only TWO cities in the United States designated a “City of Gastronomy” United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). Cities have to meet certain stringent criteria, and our "region's rich agricultural heritage, thriving food traditions, and culinary distinctiveness" helped it make the cut. But it isn’t just Mexican (namely Sonoran Mexican) fare that keeps Tucson’s restaurants full - we have cuisines ranging from Italian to German, French to Ethiopian, Cajun to Brazilian and much more. Here are some notable places to try! (Days and hours vary - be sure to check their websites for the updated hours of operation.)
For 100 years, El Charro has been delighting Tucson with its Mexican food - in fact, it is the oldest Mexican restaurant in the country that has continuously been operated by the same family since its 1922 inception. As of this writing there are four locations - one conveniently located in Oro Valley on Oracle Road. Another good Mexican restaurant in Oro Valley is La Hacienda, located just outside of Rancho Vistoso at First and Tangerine. Their homemade chips and guacamole are divine! Also in Oro Valley, close to First Ave in the same center that houses Home Depot, the Street Taco and Beer Company makes yummy tacos right in front of you. If you are downtown Tucson with a craving for Mexican food, Mi Nidito receives rave reviews from locals and tourists alike (in fact, their dining room is lined with photos of famous people who have dined there!)
If you are looking for fine Italian dining, Vivace on Campbell Avenue is truly exquisite! The food is incredible, service beyond compare, and the ambiance is wonderful. Big client, anniversary dinner, place to impress the mother-in-law—Vivace is the place to go. The owner, Daniel Scordato, also has an artisanal pizzeria simply named Scordato’s —and we are here to tell you that the pizza is excellent. (Also be sure to try the chicken wings, the chicken meatballs and the very generously sized Caesar salad!) YUM! In Oro Valley, Caffe Torino on La Canada is my favorite place for Italian food. This restaurant offers a full bar, patio and also serves breakfast on the weekends. Charred Pie in the Oro Valley Marketplace serves up some pretty cosmopolitan pizza choices, and you can draw your own beer in Z Pizza’s restaurant and Tap Room while you feast on pizza, pasta, salads and more made with ultra-fresh ingredients. Want the most delicious chicken cannelloni? Eggplant parm? Neopolitan pizzas? Guiseppe’s Ristorante Italiano on Oracle between Orange Grove and Rudasill Road has some many good dishes that you will need to return more than once!
You wouldn’t necessarily think of Tucson as a place where you could have some fabulous seafood—but Kingfisher on Grant will change your mind! Everything we have tried there has been absolutely delicious. This is a perfect date night restaurant or a place to take your guests when they visit. Be sure to leave room for some dessert as their talented pastry chef whips up some impressive sweets as well!
Hands down my choice for this category is the ultra- popular restaurant, The Parish, located on Oracle Road. Hush puppies, shrimp and grits, gumbo and specialty dishes like the Drunken Angel (burgundy angel hair pasta, shrimp, crawfish, lobster broth, saffron red pepper cream sauce, fresh parmesan—YUM) are featured on their menu along with all sorts of other Southern delights. The Parish also offers beers on tap, an incredible cocktail lineup and even a few extra special “mocktails” (you won’t miss the alcohol!). This restaurant has won several awards, and its co-owner and chef Travis Peters even took home the first place prize on Guy Fieri's competition show on the Food Channel. Dine in or order to go—you won’t be disappointed.
Located in the same plaza as Caffe Torino is one of Oro Valley’s most popular restaurants — Harvest. Basing their menu on local and seasonal fare, this restaurant also boasts some amazing desserts courtesy of co-owner and pastry chef Lisa. Try one of their delicious orange juice based margaritas while you dine al fresco on the patio portion of the restaurant. Just across the street, Noble Hops Gastropub is another favored spot that also offers a great patio. Beside their drink lineup, Noble Hops in Oro Valley has elevated the concept of classic pub fare with a mouthwatering menu suitable for a leisurely lunch or dinner. Another excellent option for date night dinner (or lunch) is Wildflower in the Casas Adobes Plaza at Ina and Oracle (same plaza as Whole Foods). Although the menu is not a large one, the food is varied and all the selections we have tried have been exceptionally good. In addition, they have a noteworthy cocktail menu with hand crafted libations and a patio area protected from the elements. Another favorite of ours is the Wild Garlic Grill, located on Skyline. Family-owned, this restaurant serves up from a set menu paired with an array of daily specials. The food is really, and I mean, really, good—we have not had a bad dish there yet.
The are several excellent options for Asian food in and around Oro Valley. GMG Chinese Bistro has consistent high reviews and is conveniently located on La Canada, just around the corner from Noble Hops. Noodleholics on Oracle Road (in the same shopping center as Trader Joe’s and Marshall’s) is newer to the area but already extremely popular. Another new addition to Oro Valley is Tuk Tuk Thai, located in the Oro Valley Marketplace (where San Carlos Mexican Grill used to be). We recently brought home take out and it was delicious! In Rancho Vistoso, Dragon Village (located in the Safeway plaza at Rancho Vistoso Blvd and Tangerine) offers family bundles and catering in addition to their dine in and take out service. At the other end of Rancho Vistoso, at Rancho Vistoso Blvd and Oracle, Grain River Asian Bistro serves up Pan Asian fare. For sushi, sashimi and Japanese cuisine, Sushi Valley in the Rooney Ranch Shopping Center (where Target, Fry’s, Planet Fitness and Ross Dress for Less are located) touts high quality fish and tamanishiki (a premium short grain rice from Japan) on its menu.
There are a couple of posh steakhouses in Tucson that always make the cut—Fleming’s Prime Steakhouse & Wine Bar and Sullivan’s Steakhouse. Both of these places are suitable for an upscale dining experience. In Oro Valley, the popular Canadian restaurant chain The Keg Steakhouse + Bar (located in the Oro Valley Marketplace) has been a staple for several years.
For vegetarians or vegans, several of the restaurants mentioned on this page have many delightful options! For Indian food, check Flavor of India and Saffron Indian Bistro ( a personal fave of ours—everything we have had has been spectacular) in the same shopping center as Sprouts and El Charro on Oracle Road. In the mood for Mexican? Most Mexican restaurants have vegetarian options, but we really love the vege (and gluten-free) options at Charro Vida. I have heard that Zpizza on La Cañada has a mean veggie pie, and there are several options down the street at Harvest.
If you are up for driving a bit further, Lovin' Spoonfuls Vegan Restaurant on Campbell and Blacklidge, Govindas Natural Foods Buffet a bit further on on Blacklidge have rave reviews on Google from hundreds of customers each. Looking for vegetarian food downtown/U of A area? Swing by Urban Fresh on Pennington and see why they have a stellar 4.8 Google rating.
Also located in the Safeway Shopping Center in Rancho Vistoso, Flavor of India is open seven days a week for lunch and dinner. They have a popular lunch buffet that has an array of dishes, including several vegetarian options. For an Indian dining experience with a chic ambiance, be sure to visit Saffron Indian Bistro in the same shopping center as Sprouts and El Charro on Oracle Road.
Greek and Middle Eastern Food
Worth the quick little drive up Oracle to Catalina, It's Greek To Me has earned lots of rave reviews. It is in the same plaza as the Golden Goose Thrift Store (quite possibly my favorite thrift store on the planet 😊). One of Jay's go-to lunch places is Pappoule's at Foothills Mall—he absolutely loves the gyros there.
Garnering an amazing 4.9 stars on Google is Oro Valley's own Just Kabab. In addition to many Middle eastern selections, this restaurant has also put a fun spin on their "Humble Fries" —french fries with their own Middle Eastern signature spice mix.
Gluten Free Dining
As I have recently been diagnosed with a gluten allergy, trying to find food that won’t make me ill has been a challenge. Cue in the Gourmet Girls Gluten Free Bakery and Bistro to the rescue! Open daily until 2 pm and located moments from Oro Valley on Oracle Road, offerings include breakfast served all day (including treats like chicken and waffles!) salads and many sandwich options. In addition, the Gourmet Girls bake up all sorts of different items from French baguettes to pie crust, cakes, cookies, muffins and much more. If you or a loved one has a sensitivity to gluten—you must try this place. Two of my other favorite places for gluten free options are Saffron Indian Bistro and Charro Vida—we regularly order take out from both. Tuk Tuk Thai has some great GF options as well, including their summer rolls—YUM.
Many restaurants in the area have at least a few gluten-free options on the menu (for instance, MIchaelangelo's has gluten-free pasta available to sub in, as well as a gluten-free salmon dish with olive risotto that is delish).
Looking for a beautiful birthday cake in Oro Valley? It’s hard to find ones as gorgeous as the creations from the Village Bakehouse. Also offering breakfast and lunch dining on their large patio, the Village Bakehouse is located on Oracle Road in the same shopping center as Marshall’s and Trader Joes. Next to Harvest and Caffe Torino in Oro Valley is Breadsmith, where you can find daily traditional bread favorites as well as daily specials (hint—don’t miss the apple pie bread to warm up for breakfast—it’s awesome). For exclusively gluten-free bakery treats, the Gourmet Girls Gluten Free Bakery and Bistro, further down Oracle Road has delicious bakery items that won’t inflame those with gluten sensitivities.