Dining Out

Seasonal menus welcome Mother’s Day, spring flavors to local restaurants

Spring is a time of renewal for the earth. And it’s traditionally a time for a change in the flavors of the fare we eat, taking advantage of fresh and local vegetables with lighter flavors for the season. Here’s a look at what our local restaurants are incorporating in their spring and Mother’s Day menus.

Café Poca Cosa, downtown on Pennington Street near Scott Avenue, has a menu that changes twice daily. “It allows us to use ingredients that are in season,” says Suzy Crockwell, business manager.  “For example, in spring we offer cold salads such as salpicon and ensalada de pollo con pepitas. Come in and ask about our vegetarian and vegan options.” Every dish is infused with passion in a Mexican fine dining atmosphere. Open for lunch at 11 a.m. Tuesday through Saturday, with dinner through 9 p.m., and 10 p.m. weekends.

Tavolino Ristorante Italiano features simple, classic Italian fare. New items on the happy hour and dinner menus use fresh spring produce such as artichokes, fava beans and stone fruit. “Spring brings the best tomatoes and berries, and some of my favorite lighter dishes such as Tuscan style panzanella (bread salad), grilled artichokes and aioli, and fresh salads with baby lettuce and ricotta salata,” says Chef Massimo Tenino. Tavolino is on the southwest corner of Skyline and Campbell. Open daily 11 a.m.-9 p.m., Friday and Saturday until 10 p.m.

“We are excited to now have our gluten free products on the shelves in all Natural Grocers in Tucson and throughout the Phoenix area, including convenient grab and go items (sandwiches and salads), mixes and breads,” says Rebecca Wicker, owner of Dedicated: A Gluten Free Bakery and Coffee Shop. Located at 4500 E. Speedway Blvd., Dedicated has extended hours on Fridays as it hosts Unscrewed Theater’s improvisation shows for the coming months. For graduation, cakes and cupcake pull-apart cakes are a specialty, in school colors, for four to 400 friends. “We are focusing on light fruity flavors, with lots of lemon and other citrus-inspired goodness!  Our new angel food cake is perfect for strawberry shortcake. Light and fluffy, just like you remember, only gluten free,” Walker adds.

Saffron Indian Bistro fuses modern cooking techniques with the grand tradition of classical Indian cuisine, says the bistro’s owner, Saurabh (Mintu) Sareen. The results are meals that are both delicious and appealing to the eye, a feast for the senses. There’s a daily lunch buffet from 11 a.m. until 3 pm. Special additions to the annual Mother’s Day Buffet include stations for Indian street food, a salad bar and dessert station. Daily dining hours are 11 a.m. to 10 p.m., closing at 9 p.m. on Sundays, at Oracle Crossings, off W. Suffolk Drive.

The folks at Mama’s Famous Pizza & Heros, with three city locations, find guests are now more interested in a proper diet. Having healthful options or ways to modify existing menu items is increasingly important, says operations manager Liz Biocca. They’ve upgraded salads, replacing iceberg lettuce with mixed greens and adding bright, flavorful, ripe tomatoes. “Vibrant colors and eclectic flavors continue to gain ground,” says Biocca. “We’ve introduced pasta primavera, using bright, crisp vegetables, onto our catering menu to take advantage of these trends. We try to balance and stay true to our roots with our brick oven pizza, however you will find us occasionally running specials where we venture into ‘outside the box’ territory.”

Eclectic Café, 7053 E. Tanque Verde Road, features a new Arizona Burger, made with grass-fed, free-range beef from a Prescott farm. The cattle have thousands of acres to roam and enjoy a stress-free life, says the café’s managing partner, Jason McCarty. “We complement the third-pound patty with a fresh baked brioche bun from Sun Rise Baking Company, located here in Tucson.” Transitioning to spring, McCarty sees a lighter fare — salads and fruits — in demand. “But we still have that comfort food on the menu like our grilled Reuben.”  Jackson Bar + Eatery, nearby at 8864 E. Tanque Verde Road, will augment its Sunday brunch menu with specials for Mother’s Day — served 9:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. The Sunday dinner special of two-for-one entrees will be served from 5 to 8 p.m., with reservations accepted at 347-6373.

Fire N’ Smoke Wood Fired Pizza & BBQ, a new East Tanque Verde Road favorite at #6502, is introducing sangria for the summer season, along with weekly drink specials. Happy hour is 3-5 p.m., Tuesday-Friday. Barbecue tacos are new on the menu, says owner Tim Healy, and smoked tri-tip is a menu favorite. As Fire N’ Smoke’s tagline promises, the pizza is hot and fast, but the barbecue is low and slow. Open from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m., and 10 p.m. on Friday and Saturday. Closed Mondays.

Gourmet Girls Bakery/Bistro specializes in gluten-free, award-winning cuisine and cocktails. “For Mother’s Day try our organic prickly pear mimosa, made from locally harvested fruit prepared by Chef Mary Steiger,” says co-owner Susan Fulton. “Pair it with our delicious Greek yogurt, berries and house-made granola.  Enjoy a complimentary dessert with your breakfast, brunch or lunch.”  Reservations accepted for dining, 7 a.m. to 3 p.m., 5845 N. Oracle Road.

For Mother’s Day, Claire’s Café & Art Gallery always offers “two fancy breakfast selections and a fancy lunch special,” says owner Claire Johnson. New and traditional American breakfast and burgers, seafood, vegan and vegetarian fare are on the fresh menu, along with Mexican selections. Open daily for breakfast and lunch, 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. at 16140 N. Oracle Road.

Tempura fried avocado is a specialty at Desert Diamond Casino Agave Restaurant in Sahuarita, which features casual indoor and al fresco dining on the patio. American-inspired menus with Sonoran flavors are served for lunch, 11 a.m.-2 p.m., and dinner 4-9 p.m., and 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday. Closed Monday and Tuesday. Two-for-one specials and an Agave Diamond Dinner chef’s choice are popular.

El Cisne Cocina de Mexico serves a variety of fine Mexican food with Sonoran, Oaxacan and Sea of Cortez flavors as well as favorite traditional dishes, specializing in seafood and steaks. Wild caught seafood is a house specialty. The weekend brunch, in the modern contemporary setting, is served 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. The Black Swan Tequila Bar features one of the largest selections of fine tequilas and mescals in Tucson. Enjoy Cinco de Mayo specials and live music, at Sunrise and Swan.

The newest additions to Harvest Restaurant’s menu include saffron turmeric pasta, steak salad, and fried chicken dinner served on Wednesday and Sunday nights, says owner Reza Shapouri. “Our emphasis as always is on scratch cooking to control every aspect of every dish we make, taking advantage of what’s available as seasons change.” New cocktails to transition to summer include blueberry lavender drops, melon martini, the berry wise mojito, cucumber spritz, rhubarb Streisand and mango colada sangria. Harvest has two locations, at River at Craycroft, and La Canada at Lambert, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.

Ragazzi Northern Italian Restaurant offers a taste of Northern Italy with a variety of dishes with signature northern Italian sauces, fresh seafood, homemade bread and a complete list of Italian, domestic, and other international wines. Each dish is made with the best and freshest ingredients, representing a passion for food. There are locations at 7850 N. Oracle Road, Green Valley and Nogales. Call for reservations or Mother’s Day, 567-7221.

Ginza Sushi & Izakaya Japanese restaurant and bar serves tapas-style food and drinks. In Japan, izakaya restaurants are popular places for friends and family to come together and relax over a sampling of small dishes and good beer and sake. Traditional izakaya staples include sashimi, salads and tempura. Cold noodles with sashimi is a new menu addition. Open Tuesday to Saturday for lunch, 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m., and dinner 5-9:30 p.m., until 9 p.m. on Sunday, 5423 N. Kolb, south of Snyder Road.

Coffee X Change recently added delivery service from its location at 6841 E. Camino Principal, says owner Keya Tehrani. A second location is at 8501 E. Broadway Blvd. New on the menu, says Tehrani, are Mediterranean chicken tacos and cold blended drinks inspired by candy bars. Both locations offer drive-through service and patios.

Villa Peru Modern Peruvian Cuisine, at 1745 E. River Road, offers six varieties of ceviche — the perfect hot weather dish, says co-owner Frida Hunt. Additional “ceviche festivals” occur when specialty fish are available. Villa Peru’s menu also features pisco sours and other refreshing cocktails made with Peruvian pisco, a type of clear brandy. Unique to Tucson, they serve lucuma ice cream — lucuma, a delicately flavored tropical fruit, was called the “Gold of the Incas.” Open for lunch and dinner Monday-Saturday; closed Sunday.