Tucson City of Gastronomy Names 2021 Certified Restaurants, Artisans

The non-profit Tucson City of Gastronomy, which manages the UNESCO City of Gastronomy designation for metro Tucson and Southern Arizona, has selected its 2021 Certified Restaurants, and the first representatives of the new categories of Certified Food Artisans and Beverage Artisans. 

Through an application process, a total of 25 locally owned, independent restaurants and 15 local food and beverage artisans were selected from among more than 50 applicants. They will be specially promoted by Visit Tucson, the Pima County Visitors’ Center, TCoG and its partners.  

2021 Certified Restaurants and Food and Beverage Artisans are located throughout metro Tucson and Southern Arizona and represent a diverse sample of our vibrant food scene. A few of the restaurants certified last year have closed during the pandemic downturn, but the total has grown and includes nine local favorites certified for the first time. The inaugural cohorts of Certified Artisans include both well-recognized names and entrepreneurs just getting started. Spanish-language outreach helped fill out these lists with local stars reflecting Tucson’s diversity. 

“We are inspired by the resilience of the restaurants and artisans who applied even during this challenging time for the culinary industry, and can’t wait to spread the word about how the 2021 selections are supporting our local food economy, taking extra care of their employees, giving back to the community, and keeping our food heritage alive,” said Jonathan Mabry, TCoG executive director. 

All of the 2021 Certified Restaurants and Artisans support the local food economy by sourcing ingredients from local producers, and most mentor and partner with other food businesses. Heritage ingredients are used in many of their menu items and artisanal products.

Every restaurant on the list does more for their employees than the minimum required, paying at least two-thirds of their non-tipped staffs above minimum wage, and most provide health insurance and matches to retirement savings to all full-time employees. One offers zero-interest college loans. 

Environmentally friendly and ethical business practices are even more prevalent than last year, such as cooking with organic produce and hormone- and antibiotic-free meats and eggs; using compostable takeout containers; avoiding all uses of plastic and Styrofoam; recycling water, cooking oil, and food waste; growing ingredients on site; using urban-gleaned produce; ordering supplies in bulk to minimize packaging and carbon footprints; and sustainable and fair-trade sourcing ingredients such as seafood, chocolate and coffee. 

All of the 2021 Certified Restaurants and Artisans give back to the community in various ways, such as hiring people facing obstacles to employment, and donating or fundraising to support the Community Food Bank, soup kitchens, or women’s shelters. 

“We want these certifications to bring more customers to these uniquely local businesses that sustain our internationally recognized food culture, to help them survive the current extinction event happening nationally for independent restaurants and other non-chain food businesses,” Mabry added. TCoG President Janos Wilder sees the program as a way to showcase and celebrate some leading creators of Tucson’s Food Culture who are also setting the bar for how local businesses can connect with their communities. 

“Each of these restaurants and artisans represent our City of Gastronomy with their own unique Identities and perspectives of what it means to live, work, and cook here. Taken as a whole, they create a tapestry which showcases the flavors of our home while providing models of leadership in responsible stewardship of our land and culture.  Their employment practices are aspirational models of how modern, independent businesses can work to better their communities,” he noted.  

With the only certification program, Tucson is leading the way among the 36 UNESCO Cities of Gastronomy in 19 countries around the world.  The next call for certification applications will be announced this summer, and the program will be expanded in phases to include growers, retailers, and distributors of foods produced in southern Arizona. 

Tucson City of Gastronomy 2021 Certifications

Restaurants

  • 5 Points Market & Restaurant
  • Aqui Con El Nene
  • Aravaipa Farms Orchard & Inn
  • Barrio Brewing Co.
  • Barrio Charro
  • Blue Willow
  • Boca Tacos
  • The Carriage House
  • Charro Steak & Del Rey
  • Charro Vida
  • Cup Café
  • El Charro Café
  • El Guero Canelo
  • The Grill at Hacienda Del Sol
  • Little Poca Cosa
  • Mama Louisa’s
  • The Parish
  • PY Steakhouse
  • Rollies Mexican Patio
  • Seis Kitchen
  • Taco Fish
  • Tacos Apson
  • Taqueria Pico de Gallo
  • Tito and Pep
  • Tucson Tamale Co. 

Food Artisans

  • Arizona Baking Co.
  • Barrio Bread
  • Carlotta’s Kitchen
  • Cheri’s Desert Harvest
  • Chilttepica Salsa
  • Estrella Bakery
  • Maiz Tucson
  • Monsoon Chocolate
  • The Parish
  • Tucson Tamale Co

Beverage Artisans

  • Borderlands Brewing Co.
  • Callaghan Vineyards
  • Hamilton Distillers
  • Ten 55 Brewing Co.
  • Town Under Black Distillery
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