We can't say how honored and proud we are that Metal Mark is contributing to the publication that puts out the Best Of Tucson every year. He is having a lot of fun and thanks for reading his stuff.
Okay, enough of the pleasantries...let's get down to the brass tacks here.
Every year the Best Of's come out and every year we go "No! Are you kidding? That place over the other one? Come on Tucson. You're killing us Smalls..."
Thing is, the publication has very little to do with the choices. It's the good people of Tucson that do most of the voting. So this is on you T-town. You brought this on yourself.
While most of the arts and entertainment, kid's stuff, home and garden winners we are fine with but when it comes to the food part we always slap our collective foreheads with disinclination and slight horror at some of the choices that run away with the trophies. Sure, a good portion of the winners and runners up are great but there are always a few that we can't get on board with. It's as if the polls went out in the late 90s and never got changed.
So this year we are going to do our own Best Of and we hope you can agree with some of the things we agree on.
Lets do this.
PS: We are not in the business of pissing anybody off; this is purely for entertainment and just our own dopey opinions...that's all. So apologies to anyone that gets mussed up about our preferences. Cheers.
Their pick: Dickman's Meat and Deli
Tucson Homeskillet's pick: The Sausage Shop
C'mon man. The Sausage Shop wasn't even mentioned. This place rules.
Dickman's is cool but in our humble food opinion the little deli that could, that being the Sausage Shop, just plain dominates.
The bajillion different styles of sandwiches are all amazing, their meat counter selection is incredible and if you bag a deer or accidentally run over a bear just bring that beast in and they will break it down for you for an agreeable fee. No really. These guys know their meat and in such a small space they do the deli game a big favor.
Anyway, not to dis on Dickman's but if you haven't been to the Sausage Shop please do yourself a favor and do so. It might change your mind to switch your vote for Best Delicatessen next year. It might.
|Gaze upon the glory that is the Sausage Shop|
Best Place To Get A Sandwich
Their pick: Beyond Bread
Tucson Homeskillet's pick: Sausage Deli
Okay, we didn't want to dote on the Sausage Shop too much but we will drool over the Sausage Deli for a bit.
It looks as if we just love sausage...don't we?
Beyond Bread is great but we went for a single stand alone place for our sandwich spot pick. The Sausage Deli is awesome, they have a fun bar with a great craft beer selection and the layout is more cafeteria style than an open forum of scattered tables. The Sausage Deli just has this East coast 'get in here, get your sandwich, eat it then get on with your life' feel to it, which we like.
If you want to laze about and sip coffee and click on your laptop for hours then, yeah, Beyond Bread is totally made for that. And the sandwiches there are good...we just like the Sausage Shop's sandwiches a bit more though.
Which brings us to the next category:
Their pick: The Cheesesteak at Frankie's
Tucson Homeskillet's pick: The Omar from Sausage Deli
Here's the thing: We frikkin LOVE Frankie's. It is one of our neighborhood go-to places for a cheesesteak sandwich but, here's the thing...you can get a cheesesteak at a lot of places. Not as good as Frankie's most likely, but if you go to Philly they are all over the place.
But the Omar? That is a Sausage Deli original.
It sounds pretty basic when you break it down: Turkey, salami, Swiss cheese with bell peppers, onions, pepperoncinis, mustard and house Italian dressing on an onion roll (we prefer the sub style though), but when you eat it the Omar takes on a whole new sandwich dimension.
We love the Omar so much that we even did an ode to it a while ago. Remember that one? We sure did.
The Omar didn't even place this year and that is a weird and crying shame.
Go to the Sausage Deli, get an Omar, vote for it next year and we can all live in some kind of syncopated serenity all thanks to a sandwich.
It can be done!
Best Greek Food
Their pick: Opa!
Tucson Homeskillet's pick: Either Pappoule's or Greek House
Opa! is awesome. We know the family that runs it, its near the compound, its always a delight....nothing bad to say about Opa!.
But have you had the gyros at Pappoule's? Yeah, pretty righteous and apparently very authentic. When we are in that neighborhood we always make a plan to grab some Pappoule's to go. It has yet to disappoint. See, a true Greek gyro should have very little on it, especially no lettuce, and a lot of Greek restaurants insist on putting a bunch of crap on your gyro. Just give us the gyro bro! Hold the stupid lettuce! Hold it between your knees!
Pappoule's didn't even place for Best Of and we just wanted to shed some light about their food, which is great and as close to the real deal as you can get.
Next up is going to be the fairly new Greek House restaurant. It wont be long until that starts winning some votes. Watch. You watch.
Best Vegetarian Restaurant
Their pick: Lovin' Spoonfuls
Tucson Homeskillet's pick: Renee's Organic Oven
With the expanding culinary scene here in Tucson the choices for vegetarian and vegan establishments continues to grow and grow. We bet by next year there will be another good dozen or so places to get non-meaty, non-animal based dishes to satisfy your belly and conscience.
Unfortunately Lovin' Spoonfuls always wins Best Vegetarian because a lot of folks just think that's the only option in town.
Its not. By a long shot.
We personally love Renee's Organic Oven. Their Italian inspired items that can be gluten free if you need are really tasty and fresh. Their black bean hummus that goes with a lot of dishes is innovative and a bit tangy. You just need to get out there and try for yourself. It's a little place on Sabino Canyon and Tanque Verde so it might be slightly out of the way for some of you (as it is for us) but it is well worth the trip.
Plus Renee is really cool and she's there a good amount of time so, there's that.
Their pick: Guadalajara Grill
Tucson Homeskillet's pick: Rosa's Mexican Food
Okay, Guadalajara always wins Best Salsa because they make it fresh right there at your table and, yes, it's pretty darn good.
But, c'mon now...the house salsa at Rosa's is the best thing ever.
It is spicy, it is flavorful and best of all it is garlic-tastic. Every time we have even have a hint of a cold we b-line it to Rosa's and order up something hot and steamy then smother it with their salsa. It is a cure all and we're sure it is what keeps us looking good and smelling even better.
It's the garlic.
Rosa's salsa is just necessary and a Tucson treasure.
But they wont make it table side because then you'd find out what their secret ingredients are.
We know what one ingredient is.
Yeah. Its the garlic. We just said that.
Weren't you reading?
|Rosa's salsa = Yum|
Their pick: Blue Willow
Their pick: Prep and Pastry
Tucson Homeskillet's pick for both: Baja Cafe
Blue Willow is great for when the folks are in town. Its that kind of a spot. Its good but its not blow your socks off great. It's fun and clean. Your parents like that.
Prep & Pastry continues to dazzle but we feel they are a bit heavy with the pork belly. We like pork belly its just that...you know. In moderation.
Then you have the plethora of other options that are always a delight: Bobo's, Frank's, Mother Hubbard's, Robert's, etc, that we love and will always love but there is one (well two now) place that we just can't get enough of.
Baja Cafe just slays for breakfast and brunch. The benedicts are really hearty and fanciful, the pancakes are incredible and everything else is just plain awesome. The thing is is that Baja only serves breakfast and lunch and closes at 2pm, so you gotta get there early. And we highly suggest getting there a bit early. The place fills up fast.
A word of warning: Don't go on Sundays unless you wanna wait an hour for a table! No, for real, both locations are packed on Sundays so we are there most days but. Unless you like waiting a while for eggs and corned beef.
Well, it is worth it so...its up to you.
Plus Baja has a full bar too. Did we mention that? Well now we did.
Put another gold star by their name for that addition.
|Yep, these are one of the benedicts. Yep, they are amazing.|
Their pick: Sushi Garden
Tucson Homeskillet's pick: Anywhere but...
|The Beardown Roll at K Sushi|
Sushi Garden? Really Tucson? Really?
Look, maybe at one point long ago the Garden was the spot for raw fish wrapped in seaweed and covered in rice but the sushi game in the T-dizzle has changed son.
At this point Sushi Garden is a sports bar that serves Japanese "inspired" meals but it is far from being the best sushi in town.
Sorry to harp on the place, we don't mean any disrespect, but places like Kazoku, Sushi Ten, Samurai, Shogun, K Japanese, Ikkyu, Obon and so on and so on literally destroy the factory like flavor at Sushi Garden. You kids need to get out there and sushi explore for yourself. This one just feels as if you looked on your ballot from the last ten years and went "Oh, yeah, that place. It's fine."
Which it is. Sushi Garden is fine. Good bar, comfy patio, decent lunch buffet, all that, but the wizard-like ingeniousness that is coming from tucked away locations by chefs that have honed their craft and continue to push the flavor envelope further and further is what we are focusing on here. Just awesome family run businesses that are serving up amazing food.
It's up to you Tucson! Now get out there and get you some sushi. Some real sushi.
|The Passion Roll at Kazoku|
Best Neighborhood Bar
Their pick: Tap and Bottle
Tucson Homeskillet's pick: Danny's Baboquivari Lounge
Tap and Bottle is awesome. But here's the thing:
It is not a "bar" and it is not located in a real "neighborhood".
This win just feels like people just see the name of the place in the paper and went "Oh yeah. They serve beer. That's a bar. Whee!"
A real neighborhood bar is in a real neighborhood and the corner of 6th Avenue and 7th Street isn't exactly a "neighborhood", its more of a destination when you are shopping and eating up on 4th or getting some supplies at Miller's across the street. Not a lot of homes in the vicinity.
And a "bar" serves liquor and mixed drinks as well. Tap and Bottle is just craft beer and select wine service, so it can't be officially labeled as a bar. See where we're getting at here?
Our vote, as usual, goes to Danny's Baboquivari Lounge; a real bar in a real neighborhood.
Danny's placed for Best Dive Bar this year but it is far from a dive. It's cozy, relatively safe, great staff, good beer selection, honest drinks and above all it is in a neighborhood. Yes. There are homes surrounding the place, there are regulars, heck...WE are regulars. We're at Danny's like 4 to 5 times a week. We love this place.
And we also love that Danny's won Best Jukebox in Tucson. Anything that holds old school Metallica, 70s yacht rock and classic hip-hop we are so down with.
So on any given night (not too late because we're old and have to get up early) you might find the Homeskillet crew nestled at the bar with some of our good friends and, yes, neighbors, enjoying a stiff drink and eating from some of the diverse food trucks they get on a regular basis.
Cheers on that!
|That would be Metal Mark on the far right with some pals at Danny's|
Best Beer Selection
Their pick: Tap and Bottle (again)
Tucson Homeskillet's pick: Old Chicago
Yes, Tap and Bottle gets some really amazing craft and small cask beers. Yes. On any given day you can drink from around the world or just up the street. They get some fantastic brews and we applaud them for that.
So does the Tucson Hop Shop. And we love them as well.
But check this out. None of the local places has a selection of 110 beers at any given moment. That's one hundred and ten...beers! For that you're going to need some corporate backing and Old Chicago on Campbell Avenue has that.
Sorry, we know you are reading this and sticking your nose up at a fairly large chain concept, but Old Chicago is about as un-corporate-y as you can get and their selection of beers is astounding.
Why we pick them over, say, the Yard House or something like that is because the people that work there love what they do and do a darn fine job getting some hard to reach beers and near impossible ales from around the globe. With their World Beer Tour (which we have tried and failed at...now that's a lot of beer!) you can even earn rewards like free food just because you love drinking beer. Drink beer, get free stuff. Done.
Look, please please support local businesses such as Tap and Bottle and the Hop Shop but don't forget to sneak into Old Chicago to see what's new on the board. You'd be surprised.
We always are.
Which brings us to our final category and pick:
Their pick: Barbacide Trujillo (Club Congress)
Tucson Homeskillet's pick: Sherra Stewart (Old Chicago)
Now here is where things might get sticky, and we apologize in advance:
Barb Trujillo is awesome. We love her, she is a Tucson tradition and institution and we have nothing bad to say and will never have anything bad to say about her. This isn't personal. At all.
Thing is...there are other amazing bartenders out there.
Jana at Danny's, running around like a crazy squirrel (even now when she's super pregnant) is one of the best ever, or Kimmy or Jerica...we just love everyone at Danny's. We're a bit biased.
But we pick Sherra Stewart at Old Chicago because she is able to create relationships and be creative within a "corporate" environment and it shows that she really enjoys and loves what she does.
Sherra's influence gets us regular barrel taps from local and international breweries, she cooks food for events and kickoff parties, she travels around the US training other Old Chicago bartenders to try and be as awesome as her (wont happen, she is too awesome), she invented her own spicy Bloody Mary mix that got her front page recognition, she has a loyal fan base, she's funny, she's brash and she always has a big smile on her face.
And she has been there for over 12 years now. That's a dedication in which we can support and we totally love.
What we are trying to say here without making anyone upset or burning bridges is that there seems to be a pattern with the Best Ofs year after year. Changes are rare it appears with the winners and runners up and with us scooting around town trying new and different restaurants and bars, we come across so many amazing servers, dishes, chefs, bartenders and the like and it'd be nice to see some diversity. That's all. Tucson is just chock full of awesomeness and we just wanted to give some recognition to some of the good people, and food, and drinks, that we personally love and admire and we hope you will visit them sometime soon to see, and vote, for yourself.
|Sherra and her award winning Bloody Mary...so spicy and good|
And another thing!
Nico's was voted Best Burrito in Tucson. Umm...not too sure about this one. There are just far too many options out there right now that destroy Nico's (although we do love us a Pollo Asado now and then) so this one felt like it was phoned in. You need to get out there for yourself to see, and eat, all of the incredible burrito options this city has to offer.
We prefer Sher-E-Punjab over Saffron for Indian food. But that's just us.
Still waiting on some real down home, kick butt BBQ. Red's is doing well as are a few small food trucks but the continual winner in this category has never impressed us. Sorry, just saying.
We really like what the kids over at Pueblo Vida Brewing are doing with seasonal ales and lagers. The winner and finalists in the Best Brewery are fine but we just have a taste for Pueblo Vida.
Don Guerra of Barrio Bread makes the best bread in the universe. He came in second...sorry but wrong. Our man shuts down any bread making business but thanks for trying.
Not too sure if Serial Grillers is even doing a food truck anymore now that they are opening up a second brick and mortar. So our vote will go to American Flying Buffalo where chef Eddie takes you on a culinary ride through Asia, the south Bronx, the deep south and, of course, the Old Pueblo. Really good stuff.
But we are totally stoked that Yoshimatsu got best Japanese and Boca Tacos Y Tequila got, yes, best tacos. So cheers on that.
Okay, enough ranting.
Let's do this again next year shall we? See you then...
Uploads, Typing and Opinions:
"Metal" Mark Whittaker
A Few Days Before Election Day, 2016