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What to Eat in Pima County: A Food Lover’s Tour of Arizona’s Culinary Gems

If you are looking for some delicious and unique dishes to try in Arizona, you should head to Pima County, where the cuisine is a rich blend of the desert’s bounty, Native American heritage and Mexican influence. The county offers a variety of iconic or must-try foods that reflect its climate, location and culture, and that will delight anyone looking for novelty and flavor in their next meal.

Arizona Burritos


A burrito is a flour tortilla wrapped around a filling, usually consisting of meat, cheese, beans and salsa. But not all burritos are created equal. Arizona burritos are a meaty treasure that keep it simple with just a scoop of meat, such as carne asada, carnitas or spiced pork adobada, and perhaps a little cheese or guacamole. You won’t find rice, sour cream, lettuce or other ingredients packed in, because Arizona burritos reflect the ones brought from the northern Mexican states of Sonora and Chihuahua in the 1900s by migrant farmworkers who needed a protein-packed, filling meal to get them through a hard day of work. You can find Arizona burritos at any of the 24-hour Mexican joints in Pima County, such as Filiberto’s, Riliberto’s, Aliberto’s or Los Betos. Just make sure you’re hungry and don’t forget to order a side of hot salsa.



A chimichanga is a deep-fried burrito that is crispy on the outside and soft on the inside. It is usually topped with cheese, sour cream, guacamole and salsa. The origin of the chimichanga is disputed, but several Arizona restaurants claim to have invented it, including Macayo’s in Phoenix and El Charro Café in Tucson. According to the legend at El Charro Café, founder Monica Flin accidentally dropped a burrito into the fryer one day and began to mutter a famous Mexican curse word, but stopped herself and said “chimichanga” instead. Whether this story is true or not, chimichangas are a central part of the menu at most sit-down Mexican restaurants in Pima County. You can try them at El Charro Café, which is Tucson’s oldest – and arguably the oldest in the U.S. – Mexican restaurant that also serves air-dried carne seca, enormous chimichangas and a host of margaritas1.

Sonoran Hot Dogs


A hot dog is a grilled or steamed sausage served in a sliced bun. But a Sonoran hot dog is something else entirely. It is a bacon-wrapped hot dog topped with beans, onions, tomatoes, mayonnaise, mustard and jalapeño sauce. It is served in a soft and fluffy bolillo roll that resembles a baguette. The Sonoran hot dog originated in Hermosillo, the capital of Sonora, Mexico, but has become a popular street food in Tucson and other parts of Arizona. You can find Sonoran hot dogs at many food carts and stands around Pima County, especially at night. One of the most famous places to try them is El Güero Canelo, which has three locations in Tucson and one in Phoenix. El Güero Canelo also offers other Sonoran specialties such as carne asada tacos, quesadillas and tortas.

Navajo Fry Bread


Fry bread is a flat dough that is deep-fried until golden and puffy. It can be eaten plain or with various toppings such as honey, powdered sugar, cheese or meat. Fry bread is a staple food of many Native American tribes, especially the Navajo people who live in parts of Arizona, New Mexico and Utah. Fry bread was created by the Navajo people during their forced relocation by the U.S. government in the 1860s, when they had to make do with the rations they were given such as flour, lard and salt. Today, fry bread is a symbol of both resilience and oppression for Native Americans. You can try fry bread at many places in Pima County, such as Indian Twist, which offers Indian-Navajo fusion food such as chicken tikka masala fry bread; Tohono O’odham Swap Meet, which has several vendors selling traditional fry bread with sweet or savory toppings.

Prickly Pear Margaritas


A margarita is a cocktail made with tequila, orange liqueur and lime juice. But a prickly pear margarita is something more colorful and refreshing. It is made with prickly pear syrup or juice. Prickly pears are the fruits of certain cacti that grow abundantly in Arizona’s desert landscape. They have a taste similar to watermelon or kiwi and are rich in antioxidants. You can find prickly pear margaritas at many bars and restaurants in Pima County that serve Mexican or Southwestern cuisine or cocktails. Some examples are Casa Vicente, which offers authentic Spanish tapas and live flamenco music; The Cup Café, which serves breakfast all day and has an award-winning bloody mary bar; and Hotel Congress, which is a historic landmark that hosts live music events and parties.

These are just some of the iconic or must-try foods in Pima County that you should not miss if you are visiting or living in this area. There are many more delicious dishes to discover and enjoy in this diverse and vibrant county. Bon appétit!

Source: Prima Pulse