Inspiration Destinations USA 3 Reasons Why Arizona Needs to be Added to Every Food-Lover's Bucket List

3 Reasons Why Arizona Needs to be Added to Every Food-Lover's Bucket List

July 3, 2023
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From award-winning restaurants to notable wineries and artisan distilleries, Arizona offers a variety of culinary experiences that make it worthy of a place on every food-lovers bucket list.

While it might be best known as The Grand Canyon state, Arizona has so much more to offer than this impressive natural wonder. Home to some of the oldest documented food traditions in North America, Arizona has cemented itself as a worthy destination for lovers of great food and wine.

Local farmers in the area still grow more than 160 varieties of the same heirloom fruits and vegetables that were introduced over a century ago. Heritage ingredients including prickly pear cactus and mesquite, which were previously used out of necessity, are now adopted by chefs in award-winning restaurants who are creating new takes on traditional recipes.

The good news? Located close by to Las Vegas and Los Angeles, Arizona is easily accessible via plane, bus, or car — making exploring the extraordinary dining scene a breeze. From the celebrated wines of the Sonoita Elgin region to prickly pear margaritas in Scottsdale, there’s more than one reason why Arizona is a foodie’s dream destination.

1. It Boasts a UNESCO Recognised City of Gastronomy

Located in the heart of the Sonoran Desert and only an hour from the Mexico border, Tucson is home to a rich and culturally layered cuisine that tells a story dating back more than 4000 years. With strong American Indian, Spanish, Mexican and American ranch-style influences, the history of the region has been preserved in traditional recipes. In 2015, Tucson’s culinary experience was officially recognised when it was named a UNESCO City of Gastronomy — the first of its kind in the USA. Embark on a culinary journey that honours the timeless flavours of the desert and discover why Tucson is worthy of its place as an official City of Gastronomy.

Must Try:

Tito & Pep

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Credit: Ulises Escobar

If there’s one venue that encompasses the true spirit of Tucson, it’s Tito & Pep. This contemporary bistro champions mesquite-wood-fired cuisine and one-of-a-kind cocktails in a bright upbeat venue. The distinct menu is proudly Tucsonan, with a selection of flavourful dishes like steak skewers with chipotle tomatillo salsa, grilled Baja striped bass with roasted sunchokes and mesquite-grilled pork chops. Be sure to save room for the decadent dark chocolate ganache with dulce de leche and candied orange – a perfect end to your culinary adventure.

Tito & Pep
4122 East Speedway Blvd, Midtown Tucson, Arizona

Boca Tacos

While tacos, salsa and tequila might sound simple, the experience at Boca Tacos is anything but.  Tacos are served with your choice of house-made flour or corn tortillas, along with a selection of gourmet fillings and the freshly made salsas are an eclectic and delicious mix of colour and flavour. Each visit to this vibrant eatery is a gastronomic journey through age-old Mexican recipes enhanced with a modern twist.

Boca Tacos
533 N 4th Ave, Tucson, Arizona

Whiskey Del Bac

Discover the magic of Arizona’s first mesquite wood-smoked whiskey. This award-winning distillery produces a single malt made using the traditional Scottish method, with malt smoked over mesquite for a distinctly southwest flavour. From the flagship single malts – Classic, Dorado and Old Pueblo – to Distiller’s Cuts and limited releases, Whiskey Del Bac offers a range of ‘grain-to-glass’ whiskeys that visitors can sample in a fun environment.

Whiskey Del Bac
2106 North Forbes Blvd, Suite 103, Tucson, Arizona

The Grill at Hacienda Del Sol

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Located within the sprawling Hacienda del Sol Guest Ranch Resort, The Grill showcases Tucson’s rich gastronomic offering. With a focus on New American cuisine, the stunning venue combines captivating mountain views with innovative dishes crafted using organic ingredients from the resort’s garden and select local producers. Enjoy the house-made lobster fettucine paired with a glass of award-winning wine as you enjoy all the southern charm of Hacienda Del Sol.

The Grill at Hacienda Del Sol
Hacienda del Sol, 5501 N Hacienda Del Sol Rd, Tucson, Arizona


Sand Reckoner Vineyards

Experience all the beauty of Tucson and the surrounding region at Sand-Reckoner Vineyards’ tasting room. Each tasting experience is led by knowledgeable staff and allows you to sample Sand Reckoner’s full line-up of terroir-driven wines. From full-bodied reds to crisp whites and floral roses, there’s a generous supply to choose from. Don't miss the star of the vineyard, the Malvasia Bianca which is an aromatic white wine with notes of elderflower, citrus blossom, tropical fruit and crisp peach. Between drinks, enjoy the stylish tasting room, located in the bustling Warehouse Arts District of Tucson.

Sand Reckoner Vineyards
510 N 7th Ave #170, Tucson Arizona

2. Scottsdale Is the Perfect Place to Sip on a Prickly Pear Margarita

Widely recognised as the culinary heart of Arizona, Scottsdale is a must-see destination for food lovers. Located just a 20-minute drive from Phoenix, Scottsdale has risen to fame due to its high-end resorts, luxury day spas and lush golf courses. In recent years, the culinary scene has taken off, particularly in the vibrant Old Town, which is home to award-winning restaurants, cocktail bars and speakeasies. Start with a prickly pear margarita, a drink that embodies the very essence of the city, before visiting one of the recommended institutions below.

Must Try:

Arcadia Farms Café

Experience Scottsdale

No visit to Scottsdale is complete without a stop at the region’s favourite brunch venue – Arcadia Farms Café. This boutique café is built on a simple philosophy – that good food brings people together. Whether you’re after one of Arcadia Farms’ signature omelettes, a fresh organic salad or a selection of house-made pastries, this hidden gem offers something for everyone. Alongside the gourmet menu, guests can savour champagne cocktails, French wines, artisanal spirits and locally roasted coffee from the café’s rustic interior.

Arcadia Farms Café
7025 E 1st Ave, Scottsdale, Arizona

The Canyon Suites at the Phoenician

Experience Scottsdale

You won’t have to go far for notable dining options with a stay at The Canyon Suites at the Phoenician. This luxury resort is a culinary mecca, with an impressive line-up of bars and restaurants including the relaxed Mowry & Cotton which serves seasonal American fare along with The Phoenician Tavern, which is a hotspot for polished pub grub and views of the resort’s lush golf course. For a more sophisticated dining affair, the award-winning J&G Steakhouse serves grilled meat and world-class seafood in a refined dining room with city views.

The Canyon Suites at the Phoenician
6000 E Camelback Rd, Scottsdale, Arizona

The Mission

Experience Scottsdale

Seamlessly blending old-world charm with modern elegance, The Mission has exceptional Latin American cuisine in the heart of Old Town. Blending influences from Spain, Mexico and Central and South America, the menu features options like hand-pressed tortillas, house-made salsas and a selection of meats cooked on a plancha (Spanish griddle) or a grill over pecan and mesquite wood. Enjoy a candlelit dinner by the restaurant’s glowing Himalayan salt block wall, pairing your meal with a glass of wine or a selection of tequilas from the impressive drinks list. 

The Mission
3815 N Brown Ave, Scottsdale, Arizona

The Americano Restaurant

European hospitality meets Italian-inspired dining at The Americano Restaurant –a contemporary bistro-style venue serving elevated steakhouse classics and Mediterranean-inspired small plates. Take a seat at a cosy booth or sink into a rich leather chair and order a selection of entrees, while enjoying a front-row seat in the open kitchen. For the main course, indulge in a house-made pasta dish or seared steak fresh from the wood-fired grill, paired with an inventive cocktail.

The Americano Restaurant
17797 N Scottsdale Rd, Scottsdale, Arizona

3. It’s Home to Pristine Wine Country Unlike Anywhere Else: Elgin Wine Trail

Approximately a one-hour drive south of Tucson, you will find the pristine Elgin Wine Trail – Arizona’s first federally recognised wine region. With an altitude of 4,500-5000 feet (or 1,371—1,1524 metres), the numerous wineries in this region are some of the highest in the USA. Given the elevation, as well as southern Arizona’s warm climate and mineral-rich soil, the region is well-suited to Spanish and Mediterranean-style wines like Tempranillo, Grenache and Graciano. Explore the pristine wine country of southern Arizona with a self-guided journey through the sister towns of Sonoita-Elgin – a breathtaking landscape of vineyards, rolling hills and impressive mountains.

Los Milics Vineyards

Credit: Bruce Racine

Your first stop on the picturesque Elgin Wine Trail is one of Arizona’s fastest-growing emerging wineries – Los Milics Vineyards. Run by passionate husband and wife duo, Pavle and Ita Milic, Los Milics Vineyards produces a variety of lesser-known wines from the rocky, mineral-rich soil including Monastrell, Montepuciano and Graciano. Visit the vineyard and architectural tasting room to try the range and learn first-hand about Ita and Pavle’s passion as winemakers. With views over the vines and nearby mountains, LMV is a beautiful place to while away an afternoon.

Los Milics Vineyards
423 Upper Elgin Rd #824, Elgin, Arizona

Callaghan Vineyards

As the second oldest winery in Arizona, the award-winning Callaghan Vineyards boasts an excellent tasting experience in the heart of the stunning Sonoita-Elgin wine region. Established in 1990, the 25-acre vineyard is largely focussed on Mediterranean and Spanish varietals such as Grenache, Tempranillo and Mourvèdre. With a focus on depth and complexity, Callaghan Vineyards' wines have received glowing praise from some of the most respected wine critics in the USA and have been served at the White House on four separate occasions.

Callaghan Vineyards
336 Elgin Rd, Elgin, Arizona

Rune Wines

Credit: @arizonawineguide on instagram

Located next on the beautiful Elgin Wine Trail is Rune Wines, a unique off-grid vineyard where you will find award-winning wines that highlight the unique terroir of the region. Powered entirely by solar energy, Rune Wines focus primarily on Rhone varietals like Viognier, Grenache, and Syrah, with a selection of unique blends such as Brigand Posse and Wild Syrah on rotation. The tasting room allows guests to experience the desert landscapes while enjoying expertly crafted wines that tell a special story of Arizona.

Rune Wines
3969 Highway 82, Sonoita, Arizona

Dos Cabezas

Enjoy a tasting experience at award-winning Dos Cabezas in Sonoita. Situated in the rolling hills, Dos Cabezas produces a variety of handcrafted fine wines – from crisp whites like Roussanne and Viognier to full-bodied reds like Aglianico and Graciano. Gaining a reputation for using sustainable viticultural practices, Dos Cabezas wines have been praised by critics across the world. Visit the Sonoita tasting room and work your way through the impressive list of wines while enjoying views over the vines and peaceful grasslands.

Dos Cabezas
3248 Hwy 82, Sonoita, Arizona

Ready to eat and drink your way through Arizona? Discover our collection of Arizona offers here.

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