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Tucson Guide

Author: Monica Surfaro Spigelman
Issue: January, 2015, Page 54
Photos by Tom Spitz

A Portuguese Colonial wood statue, “Santo,” Goa India circa 1800s found at Colonial Frontiers on South Park Avenue exemplifies the treasures in Tuscon.



This southern city offers an impressive array of shops and restaurants for longtime residents and first-time visitors alike

Eclectic describes Tucson’s shopping scene, both in where you will find great stores and in the types of goods within them. Broadway Boulevard, as well as Campbell and 4th Avenues are places you will want to explore, but give yourself time to browse out-of-the-way spots, too.

Hotspots to Shop
Native Seeds SEARCH: 3601 N. Campbell Ave. (nativeseeds.org). A Sonoran showcase of native crafts, foods and plants is why Native Seeds SEARCH is a favorite go-to shopping haunt. Gifting the desert is celebrated here, from local mesquite cutting boards and mole spices to heirloom vegetable seed packs and wildflower revegetation mixes of desert marigolds, creosote and globe mallow.

Bon Boutique: 2033 E. Broadway Blvd. (bon-boutique.com). Intriguing treasures will be discovered at Bon Boutique, where everything in this unusual nook is exquisitely curated by a mom and daughter team. Many shopping options include French pocket mirrors, soaps and hand-stitched tea towels, as well as garden decor, jewelry items and a lovely children’s gift and apparel selection.

Yikes: 2930 E. Broadway Blvd. (yikestoys.com). Just steps away from Bon, you can double-dip with more perfect picks and endearing pop culture at Yikes. This toy store with attitude includes tin windups, super-cute pull toys and science amusements, and offers hand-tooled items for adults as well as kids.

Picante: 2932 E. Broadway Blvd. (picantetucson.com). Right next door is Picante, a shop stocked with quirky Mexicana, adorned nichos, home decor and other folk-art ephemera.

Too Strong: 4th Ave. (toostrongusa.com). The high styled and functional are found at Too Strong, a downtown sewing studio that makes salvage denim jeans, shirts, jackets and luggage replete with Arizona copper rivets. Chunky leather messenger bags are a favorite, and, since 2012, Too Strong aprons have been commissioned by some of the best bars in San Francisco, Dallas, LA and Tokyo, to list a few. Appointment-only shopping: Check the website for offerings that include rare, ethically-sourced European brands. Then connect via email to arrange a visit to the studio/showroom.

Popcycle: 422 N. 4th Ave. (popcycleshop.com). There is one-of-a-kind locally-made booty at Popcycle. Glittered-up visual art, on-trend fashion, kitsch jewelry and unusual home goods are offered for the romantic, upcycled bohemian in all of us. Most of the free-style funk is one of a kind: Cyclops robot desk caddies and reclaimed wood Alice in Wonderland trays were found on a recent browse.

MAST: 100 S. Avenida del Convento.(ilovemast.com). If modern is more your thing, a hip spot of both local and international talent is found in the Mercado San Agustin’s MAST shop. Locally hand-forged utensils and buckles, high-fashion accessories, hand-sewn leather wallets, restoratives and candles, artisan jewelry and upscale paper goods as well as local art are available for edgy shopping.

Desert Vintage: 636 N. 4th Ave.(shopdesertvintage.com). Vintage-lovers will find inspiration at Desert Vintage, where unexpected elements turn up daily. Handwoven ethnic folkwear, chic designer samples, hats and button-downs for both sexes, benches of boots and fancy footwear are finds for a collector’s dream closet. It’s a great place to find Native American jewelry, including an impressive collection of Fred Harvey sterling-and-turquoise cuffs.

Just a hint of the many treasures you will find in the shops on South Park Avenue in Tucson—
a mesquite wood bench by Bart Young at Petroglyphs and a dainty French manicure sink at Hollo Collection.
 
Vital Vittles
A crop of worthy chefs elevates Tucson into the ranks of top, trendy eating towns. Here are seven new eateries placing their stamp on the city’s creative cuisine scene—from Phoenix transplants to gourmet gastropubs and resort rustic. All choices offer legendary desserts and lively libation menus.

Penca: 50 E. Broadway Blvd. (pencarestaurante.com). Mexico City cuisine satisfies the palate in this buzzy establishment that exudes both proper elegance and friendly, industrial sleek. Its memorably-filled taco selection will woo you, as will its fresh ceviche, relleno, house-made salsas and assortment of small plates.

Vivace: 6440 N. Campbell Ave. (vivacetucson.com). Be ready for addictive antipasto that mixes sumptuous pasta with stunning views in the new foothills digs of Vivace. There’s a hearty, traditional menu in this old-school Italian restaurant, where the kitchen executes beyond red sauce with full-bodied fish stews and savory goat cheese ravioli pockets.

Downtown Kitchen & Cocktails: 135 S. 6th Ave. (downtownkitchen.com). In this flavorful farm-to-table place, celebrated chef Janos Wilder serves up fresh and beautiful artisanal foods. A hyper-seasonal menu of the tangy-spiced to the richly roasted makes each meal a special, satisfying eating event that showcases local ingredients.

Pizzeria Bianco: 272 E. Congress St. (pizzeriabianco.com). A patient wait will snag a table at the hottest addition to downtown’s Congress Street entertainment district: Pizzeria Bianco. In addition to the handcrafted pizzas which have earned Phoenix-based pie master Chris Bianco his superstar international status, there are ever-rotating organic-inspired main dish specials, from tender braciole to wood-fired shank.

The Coronet: 402 E. 9th St. (cafecoronet.com). This friendly brasserie tricks out an on-point ploughman’s lunch or a steelhead gravlax, along with buttery pâté and cheese flights. It offers hearty dining of main dishes like lamb legs or marmalade-glazed chicken in a classic English cafe atmosphere.

Hacienda del Sol: 5501 N. Hacienda Del Sol Rd. (haciendadelsol.com/dining/the-grill.htm). We are reminded about why we eat out when indulging in rustic feasting at Hacienda del Sol. The ambience of the resort’s historic hacienda is part of the charm, as you retreat into this well-appointed foothills space for succulent or smoky dining classics, always beautifully dressed and expertly paired.

The Dish: 3131 E. 1st St. (dishbistro.com). Walk through the excellent mid-town Rumrunner wine and cheese shop to dine at The Dish, which has been serving creatively-crafted, standout cuisine for years. Meals in this petite Tucson bistro range from fusionary stews to pan roasts, crusted fishes to marinated grills, all served in an intimate, urban vibe. There’s bonus shopping for small-batch spirits, gourmet tins and confections in the adjacent market.

Recommendations and Recounts
Phoenix Home and Garden staff members share some favorite insights, experiences and finds from Tucson. We hope they inspire you to plan a trip to this wonderful city just two hours south of Phoenix.

DESIGNERS CRAFT, LLC: 3006 E. Grant Rd. (designerscraft.com). This is one of my favorite places to visit whenever I’m in Tucson. With its rustic interiors and one-of-a-kind offerings, this small shop has ambience to boot. Filled with a constantly changing mix of antique and repurposed furnishings, architectural elements and accessories from far away places, this is where you’ll uncover those hard-to-get statement pieces. And it’s no wonder, since owner Michael Midkiff frequently travels abroad to find inventory, including Colonial furnishings produced by the British, Portuguese, Spanish, Dutch and French, plus items from his favorite places in China, India and Thailand. This is also the place to discover architectural moldings, doors, shutters, windows and balcony rails, and furniture made from such durable woods as teak, rosewood and mahogany.

ZÓCALO FINE COLONIAL FURNITURE & STUFF: 3016 E. Broadway Blvd., (520) 320-1236. Whenever I drop by this shop, I feel like a kid in a candy store. At 10,000 square feet and loaded from top to bottom with an astonishing array of Mexican Colonial furnishings and accessories, Zócalo is just about as fun as it gets. Here you’ll come across everything from hand-painted furniture, colorful Otomí fabrics, punched-tin stars and Talavera pottery to oversized ceramic pineapples, funky folk art, unusual lighting fixtures and rustic iron furnishings.

Robert Stowe started the business almost two decades ago with the intention of specializing in authentic Mexican design. Today, his store is filled with many one-of-a-kind items as well as custom furnishings that he designs and then has constructed by his carpenters in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico. He also travels to central and southern Mexico for unique works of folk art.

BEYOND BREAD: 421 W. Ina Rd., 3026 N. Campbell Ave. and 6260 E. Speedway Blvd. (beyondbread.com). If the aroma of freshly baked bread doesn’t draw you in first, a local Tucsonian (thanks Victoria) will surely point you in the direction of one of Beyond Bread’s three locations when asked, “What’s for lunch?” With classic breads made from scratch daily, the bakery also whips up specialty loafs on certain days of the week. From Wednesday’s Ancho, Chipotle & White Cheddar loaf to Saturday’s Fig Pistachio bread, the crusty lineup is varied and impressive.

The establishment drew a surprisingly large lunch-time crowd when I was there, especially for a Tuesday, as the cafe portion of Beyond Bread worked to churn out mile-high sandwiches. Piles of golden loaves are stacked on floor-to-ceiling shelves behind the counter, with chalkboard signs announcing each type. Large windows allow in plenty of sunshine to add further warmth to the contemporary space. Moody, coffee shop-esque lighting made the experience intimate as fellow patrons and I waited in line, flirting with the menu.

I would have found waiting in the door-to-counter-long line slightly annoying if not for a standing platter of cut-up bread samples (with butter no less) that greeted me halfway to the register. Cold and hot sandwich options abound, each sporting a personalized name such as Annie’s Addiction and Santiago’s Sonoran. Max’s Muffalotta, a medley of Italian meats, artichoke hearts, roasted red peppers, olive spread and vinaigrette on a toasted Ciabatta roll, sent me home perfectly full with an entire half earmarked for dinner.

Despite chowing down on the type of sandwich Dagwood himself would be proud of, fruit-laden tarts, cheesecakes, cannolies and nutty brownies beckoned from their lit display cases, and made it almost impossible to behave. And the menu doesn’t stop there. It also includes hearty salads for the carb-fearing, soup du jour (served in warm bread bowls, of course), breakfast options including omelettes and french toast, and a full espresso bar. The local eatery went well beyond bread and my expectations.

Recommendations and Recounts
Our round-up of Tucson wouldn’t be complete without a visit to the well-known South Park Avenue enclave. While traffic was light in early November, the shops were packed to the rafters with tantalizing goods for the upcoming season. Here are a few highlights from my tour:

Colonial Frontiers: 244 S. Park Ave.(colonialfrontiers.com). If you enjoy discovering just the right piece in a mass of furniture, accessories, pottery and textiles, then this locale won’t disappoint. The perennially changing shop is bazaar-like with items from around the world, with Mexico and South America being well represented. It was a piece from Portugal, however, that caught my eye. The early Christian art depicts a plant resembling a flowering cactus. (On page 54.)

Petroglyphs Tucson: 228 S. Park Ave. (petroglyphstucson.com). This shop showcases the work of contemporary artists and artisans from the Southwest and beyond. The collection is eclectic: Massive outdoor furniture and industrial-style lamps made from recycled gas tanks mingle with fanciful blown glass and etherial paintings. It is also fluid, as the shop often transforms into a gallery for a featured artist. One such artist with an upcoming gig is Bart Young, who fashions sculptural, but functional pieces from fine woods, like the bench below.

Hollo Collection: 208 S. Park Ave. (holloantiques.com).You’ll feel magically transported to Paris or Brussels at this shop. An atelier mix of fine antiques from Europe, handmade custom furniture with Old-World quality and restored pieces from a variety of vintages is enhanced by the slightly dusty setting created by the workshop that’s at the rear of the light-filled space. I fell in love with a petite porcelain sink on metal legs (below) that I learned was a manicurist’s sink from France.
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