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Congress Street Award

Accolades or Kudos for Congress Street Award in Tucson, Arizona.
Accolades or Kudos for Congress Street Award in Tucson, Arizona.

Congress Street Award

A view of Tucson's beautiful sunset down Congress Street to Church Avenue. Photo courtesy Steven Meckler.
A view of Tucson’s beautiful sunset down Congress Street to Church Avenue. Photo courtesy Steven Meckler.

Again, another accolade for Tucson, Arizona. Recently, Congress Street was awarded Great Street by the American Planning Association. Congress Street was a happening place back in the day. However, due to a skyrocketing population and increased car traffic, it ever so gradually became less friendly to the pedestrians walking on the street. This was a huge problem. The city planners wanted to address the situation head-on which ended up labeled from the American Planning Association as a 2017 Great Street Award.

In early 2000s, city planners, Tucson officials, and engineers planned out a series of inventive plans to breathe new life into the local economy and restore its commercial opalescence. Since then, Congress Street, has had several makeovers to try bringing mode-sharing back to the street.

Congress Street Award: Renovations Since Early 2000s

  • Reduced the street from three lanes to two
  • Sidewalks widened to encourage more pedestrian activity
  • Trees planted to help with the relentless Arizona heat
  • Bike parking added for cyclists
  • SunLink, a modern streetcar added
  • Restoration of the Rialto Theatre and the Fox Tucson Theatre

Congress Street Award: By The Numbers

Congress Street is a major cultural hub for Tucson and hosts an array of events, including the annual Tucson Jazz Fest every January. Photo courtesy Steven Meckler.
Congress Street is a major cultural hub for Tucson and hosts an array of events, including the annual Tucson Jazz Fest every January. Photo courtesy Steven Meckler.
  • 67 new businesses have opened along the street since 2008
  • 25 restaurants are currently operating along Congress Street, 16 of which are in historic buildings and 22 of which are locally owned or Arizona based
  • 40 years is how long the Fox Tucson Theatre sat empty before it was revived as a significant community resource
  • 12 historic buildings have had facades restored with private investment matching public funding at a ratio of 6:1
  • 4 of SunLink’s 23 stops are along the street

Congress Street Award: The Designated Area

The designated area for Congress Street extends 1.63 miles from Toole Avenue on the east, which serves as a gateway to downtown, to Silverbell Road on the west, home of the historic Menlo Park Neighborhood and the Mercado District. The street’s commercial corridor runs about four-tenths of a mile between North Church Street and East Toole Avenue.

In conclusion, I truly hope that you get a chance to take a trip downtown and checkout the newly planned and reconstructed Congress Street. There are so many things to do and plenty of fun businesses to take your money. lol 😉

Have a great day! 🙂

Tony Ray Baker & Darren Jones

The Condé Nast Traveler

Condé Nast Traveler Logo
The logo of the Condé Nast Traveler Magazine
We all know Tucson is pretty amazing but, it’s always nice to see others recognize it too. In April Tucson received some well-deserved attention from Condé Nast Traveler. If you don’t know what the Condé Nast Traveler is or why we should care let me tell you.

The Condé Nast Traveler

This worldwide magazine is filled with high luxury and lifestyle as well as hard reporting. Originally the magazine was originally bought by Condé Nast in 1987 and has gone on to win over 25 National Magazine Awards. It’s kind of a big deal to be mentioned by them. They published a list of 11 must-see destinations around the world. Taking that into consideration we think that makes this honor even more prestigious.

What They Said

It goes without saying that Tucson is known for its food. We have tons of accolades and it’s no surprise that most of them revolve around our food. There’s a reason we were UNESCO’s first city of gastronomy. So, it is no surprise to us that the very first thing they mentioned was our food.
Image of 2 Sonoran Hotdogs
Condé Nast Traveler mentions sonoran dogs.
Specifically, they mentioned the hotdogs of El Güero Canelo which won the coveted James Beard Award back in 2018. If you are wondering what is so special about a Sonoran Dog? Well, for starters, it’s wrapped in BACON! From there you pile on beans, sour cream, caramelized onions… No words we have will do this hotdog justice. If you ever find yourself in the Old Pueblo you simply must try one.
Image of the Saguaro National Park
Condé Nast Traveler tips its hat to the Saguaro National Park.
Condé Nast Traveler also mentioned the Saguaro National Park, highlighting the majestic cactus and the abundance of beautiful wildflowers we see every spring. You may think you’ve seen flowers in spring before but the blooms of cacti and succulents you will find here are truly spectacular.
Boldly colored Tucson sunset
Condé Nast Traveler mentioned our beautiful sunsets.
And lastly, they rounded out the article mentioning our sunsets. We can’t blame them, it would really be a shame to not mention them. In fact, we’d wager that we have the most dazzling sunsets in the 50 states. Come to Tucson and find out for yourself!

Best City for Creatives, Writers and Artists

Tucson Voted Best City for Artists and Creatives
Tucson Voted Best City for Artists and Creatives

10 Cities That Creatives Should Move to That Are Not NYC or L.A.

With lush areas, that cater to rich people and a happening downtown attracting young adults in groves,  you’d never imagine it, but Tucson, Ariz. is becoming a great place for up-and-coming creatives to live.

Home to one of the country’s most fun party schools, that is paradoxically studious– The University of Arizona has been attracting the best and the brightest creatives to Tucson for years. Artists of all types who are catering to younger crowds are flourishing. But the city is also slick with wild wild west, cowboy, gunslingin’ desert history perfect for the budding mystery novelist. While the sun is down and the co-eds are at play, the thriving downtown music scene wherein artists like Calexico were born offers cheap amenities to up-and-coming bands plus primo weather for open-air shows and lugging gear back-and-forth as you please.

Located so close to L.A., San Diego, Las Vegas and Phoenix, Tucson has become a must-stop destination for all the big name musicians traveling through. Imagine seeing your favorite artist or DJ in an intimate venue with your closest friends? A luxury, a small, big city like Tucson can afford.

Tucson is quickly establishing itself in the technology world

Collaborative work spaces, trendy internet cafes, hole in the wall gems decorate the thriving, growing downtown area where you’ll find artist studios, galleries and performance venues. The magic of building community is a blossoming value to be discovered. There’s a reason they say Tucson is a small town in a big city.

Ramshackle mid-century hotels line the downtown streets and create an air of playful adventure. The historic, local favorite, Hotel Congress comes packaged with a story about being John Dillinger’s hide-out, a venue, and diner vibes near the trendy 4th Avenue.

Just imagine that Phoenix is like Dallas and Tucson is like Austin, only in a much cooler area, because, hello? Road trip to SoCal, and Las Vegas!

Complex.com’s list of the 10 Cities That Creatives Should Move to that aren’t LA or NYC:

  1. San Juan, Puerto Rico
  2. New Bedford, Mass.
  3. Providence, R.I.
  4. Tucson, Ariz.
  5. Athens, GA
  6. Hartford, Conn.
  7. Santa Cruz, Calif.
  8. Santa Fe, New Mex.
  9. Louisville, KY
  10. Big Sur, Calif.

Tucson Awarded City of Gastronomy

Tucson UNESCO Award for Creative City of Gastronomy
Tucson UNESCO Award for Creative City of Gastronomy

UNESCO Awards Little Ol’ Tucson as Creative City of Gastronomy

Darren and I have been saying it for years; Tucson has Outstanding, Amazing, Spectacular, Delicious, Unique, Hard to Find Anywhere Else, Marvelous, Take Your Breath Away, Extraordinary Food! Thanks UNESCO for agreeing, sort of.

UNESCO recently awarded Tucson with the highly prestigious honor of being the first and only city in the United States to earn the title of, “Creative City of Gastronomy.” Tucson has made the New York Times!

What is Gastronomy?

Gastronomy – gas·tron·o·my – ɡaˈstränəmē/ (noun)

No, it is not a hybrid of gas and astronomy. It’s true you can see the stars very clearly here from Tucson especially from Kitt Peak National Observatory which houses the largest and most diverse gathering of astronomical instruments in the world, and it’s also true we love our beans in Tucson– beans beans the magical fruit… very funny. No, GASTRONOMY is the practice or art of choosing, cooking, and eating good food and the cooking of a particular area.

After living here for most of my life, I have dined out a lot and here’s what I can tell you about Tucson food.

Tucson Food

We Love Calle Tepa, a Great Mexican Restaurant in Tucson, City of GastronomyFilled with mom and pop shops, one-of-a-kind eateries and unique hole-in-the-wall cafes, Tucson is a Foodie’s Paradise. This is especially true, if the delicious, hard-to-find-elsewhere, Southwest, Mexican culinary style lights you up! There’s no doubt about it, Mexican food is a specialty and treasure in the Sonoran Desert. The rich history of this area lends itself to many homemade restaurants (and Food trucks) that showcase traditional family recipes.

If that’s not enough, a surplus of quality places and a community of people who appreciate food has inspired people to be creative and innovative. No matter what preference, traditional or adventurous, all pallets can be satisfied in Tucson.

You can try all kinds different dishes here, many of which, explode with flavor from all the different kinds of chili peppers. Some of them are strange like eating nopalitos aka cactus and some of them are mouthwateringly bold and unique like our famous Sonoran Hot Dogs.

Note:

Do not try a Sonoran Hot Dog if you want to enjoy hot dogs the “ballpark way” again, these bad boys are wrapped in bacon, grilled and loaded with beans, grilled jalapenos, sour cream, salsas and I don’t even know what else but they are something to be experienced.

But that’s not all, you can pair your food with local off-the-beaten-path tequilas and agave-derived liquors or with wine from the nearby vineyards in Soniota, AZ just minutes South of Tucson.

As a whole the Mexican food in Tucson in unparalleled with any part of the country including Southern California, New Mexico and Texas, Sorry other states but Tucson does Mexican food like no other! As good as it is, Mexican food is not the be all–end all for this little foodie mecca. There are many other food styles to be enjoyed from a wide array of different styles of Asian Cuisines, a plethora of Indian food places, BBQ, nice Sushi Restaurants, Italian food, Steak Houses and some vegan and vegetarian places as well.

The UNESCO City of Gastronomy Award

Tucson has always been a city of gastronomy but it was officially designated a World City of Gastronomy by the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), and is the first city in the United States to receive such a designation.

There are eight Cities of Gastronomy worldwide—

  • Popayán, Colombia
  • Chengdu and Shunde, China
  • Östersund, Sweden
  • Tsuruoka, Japan
  • Jeonju, South Korea
  • Florianopolis, Brazil
  • Zahle, Lebanon
  • Tucson, United States

Some of Our Favorite Restaurants in Tucson

There are so many brilliant places to eat here and these are just some of our favorites:

We Love North, a Charming Restraunt in La Encantada Mall in Tucson, City of Gastronomy

ZinBurger

ZinBurger is one of the most happening restaurant development groups in town and all of their restaurants are wonderful. Specializing in burger sandwiches you can build your own creation with options such as organic beef, bison, chicken, ahi tuna and veggie burger served with french fries, sweet potato fries, fried zucchini and more. Everything here is yum and there are multiple locations around town!

Penca

Penca is one of my favorite fancy Mexican food places to eat. The food here is so creative and fresh. Homemade chips and 4+ different varieties of fresh salsa daily. Penca has all of your traditional dishes with a twist and the cocktail menu is amazing as well featuring fresh squeezed juices and homemade beers and sangria to delight.

Cafe Poca Cosa & The Little One

This family owned restaurant has 2 locations that are both downtown a few blocks from each other. I recommend the chef surprise dish which is a random sampler make of three of the chef’s nightly dishes. The Little One is a cash only breakfast and lunch cafe featuring some of the favorite menu items off of Cafe Poca Cosa’s menu.

Urban Fresh

Stop into Urban Fresh and be sure to try their freshly squeezed juices. Also, try the salads and wraps. Most of the food, if not all of it, is organic. Check out their rotating lunch special; always delicious. You could also grab a fancy salad or healthy wrap to go.

Ermanos

Ermanos is a wine and beer bar that also specializes in locally grown fresh foods. Everything on the menu is so fresh and mostly local. The wine and beer menu is expansive and it is right on 4th Avenue and open late!

Tucson wasRecently Named the First UNESCO City in North America for GastronomyThe Hub & The Hub Ice Creamery

The Hub boasts a diverse menu of homes style cuisine making this  a great selection for families, large groups or even a first date. After dinner enjoy as scoop of some of the best ice cream in town; it’s homemade!

Martines

Another of my favorite Mexican food restaurants featuring secret family recipes. This place is so charming and delicious. Filled with beautiful art, this place has some seriously cool vibes and it’s BYOB! I recommend trying the veggie tacos or veggie mole burrito but everything is mouth watering.

Time Market

Time market is a great coffee shop and small grocery store filled with healthy, hard to find items. The pizza and salad are to die for and so is everything else.

5 Points Market

This is a go to breakfast and lunch spot for us. Everything here is good: the salads, the sandwiches and the coffee. Plus, there’s a small healthy grocery market in the back with specialty selected items. It’s located downtown near the Ice House Lofts on Stone and 17th Street.

BK Tacos

This is one of our go-to’s for Sonoran Hot Dogs and tacos. This authentic taco shop features a ginormous, help yourself salsa and salad bar with every kind of salsa and taco fixing you could imagine. They also have homemade sangria and a fantastic drink menu. They are open late and it on 1st Ave just North of the University of Arizona.