TRIPS Committee Taste of Tucson Downtown Tour I & II

Joyce Shumate

The Quail Creek TRIPS committee took two groups on the Taste of Tucson Downtown Tour, as the first one was so popular it sold out so quickly. The participants had a unique experience of Downtown Tucson food, culture and history. The two tours had a total of 31 participants, lasted slightly more than three hours and covered 2.5 miles both walking and riding the Tucson’s streetcar through historic Downtown.

Taste of Tucson Downtown is the creation of two enterprising ladies Lysa Crum and Sherry Weiss. Lysa led both of our tours.

We experienced tastings at five locations. The chef at each restaurant prepared a pre-selected tasting for the group. Either the chef and/or owner shared the inspiration and philosophy behind their particular cuisine.

Both tours started at the Agustin Kitchen at the Mercado San Agustin. They had already prepared our long table for the sampling, which included garlic toast with four smears served seasonally. The assortment included smoked steel-head rillettes, ricotta and shallots, honeyed bitter citrus preserve and chopped chicken liver pate’. Plus a Brulee made with local goat cheese with ginger. All excellent! As with all of our tastings this one lasted about 20 minutes and we were off to board the streetcar in search of our next adventure.

Disembarking the streetcar at Broadway and Church, Elysa led us through the historic Courthouse and over to El Presidio San Agustin de Tucson, founded in 1775 to protect our little Spanish village from Apaches. Occasionally we would stop and hear something of historic interest, but never got bogged down in minutiae—you know—the level of historical detail no one can remember. The historical narrative was both interesting and instructive.

Some restaurants visited were:

Elliott’s on Congress, where they served us a duck slider with crisp onions, pepperjack cheese with a citrus chipotle BBQ sauce and a side of jicama coleslaw.

Nook Urban Kitchen, where we shared samples of spicy edamame, crispy charred soybeans with garlic, ginger and soy, green corn tamale pie, house-made sweet masa, fire roasted chiles and cheese on tomatillo salsa and cabbage salad.

At La Cocina Cantina the group sampling was an exquisite chile relleno, a cornmeal crusted, cheese stuffed Anaheim, served on green and red sauce with sour cream and avocado was promptly presented. Jo is the owner and chef. She knows how to serve up good food and good fun. This is how locals living in this godforsaken place in the 1870 and 80’s experienced a good time respite from a truly hard life.

The last stop was at Maynard’s Market and Kitchen for the final tasting of special dessert and coffee.

Most of these restaurant offer gluten free options.

Lysa had given each of us Tucson’s Modern Streetcar day tickets at Agustin Kitchen. We were now free to continue exploring Downtown on our own, then hop on the streetcar and take the leisurely ride back to the Mercado where the cars were parked.

To find out more about the Taste of Tucson Downtown visit the website at