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Three great Tucson restauants

March 23, 2010

Bad blogger.  Baaaaad blogger.

Holy cow.  It’s been seven weeks since I’ve posted anything – anything at all.  What kind of a blogger am I?  Oh yeah, a bad one (see above).  So I’m going to try to get back into everyone’s good graces by getting out a few posts with some highlights of the recent past…  This post covers a few great recent dining experiences.

Zivaz carnitas burrito

Zivaz' carnitas burrito, salad & chips

Zivaz: I had preconceived notions about Zivaz.  I’m not sure where they came from, but I’ve always been reluctant to try them.  Then Mark had nothing but good things to say about them, and I resolved to try them next time I was out that way.

When I walked in, I thought I was in the wrong place.  I didn’t expect it to be counter service, or to be set up SO much like a PeiWei.  Nonetheless, I looked at the menu and decided on the special of the day: a carnitas burrito for $5.50.  Granted, that was the least expensive thing on the menu, but one of my preconceived notions was that they were pricey.  They do have some more expensive entrees (up to $14.95), but some inexpensive ones as well.

I placed my order, found a table, and sat myself down.  No sooner than I had read two emails a server came out with chips and two kinds of salsa: one a mild red and the other a slightly spicier tangy tomatillo.  The chips were fresh, and the salsas tasty.  My meal was off to a good start.  A few minutes later, my burrito and salad came out.  The salad was better than I expected, with crispy romaine and some mixed greens.  The vinaigrette was a little strong, but not so much so that I didn’t eat the whole salad.

Up next: burrito time.  The flour tortilla was fluffy, which isn’t a dealbreaker for me but I generally prefer mine paper-thin.  The carnitas were verrry tender and mildly spiced, allowing the natural pork flavor to come through.  It was nicely augmented with small additions of both kinds of salsas.  My meal, including iced tea, came out to about $8.00 – quite a bargain for a meal of this taste and quality.

As side notes, I also had Zivaz at a catered event a week later, and then again at the Tucson Festival of Books.  I enjoyed each of my three experiences with them, and look forward to going back for a dinner!

Pasta from Piazza Gavi

Pasta from Piazza Gavi

Piazza Gavi – I’d include a link but it looks like their domain expired.  Kristine took me here as a surprise one rainy evening.  I’d been to the Gavi on Broadway, but never this one.  It was a big, bustling space with a very eclectic decor.  And it was pretty busy – we had a short wait at the bar.  We were seated in the middle of the floor in a high-traffic area, right next to a large party of very drunk people.  Kinda distracting – especially for one of us…

Kristine had been here many times and knew exactly what she wanted.  She also knew that the portions are huge, and suggested that we split an entree.  She’s got pretty dang good taste in lots of things, so I was down.  We were brought out some bread and marinated peppers for the table – a nice way to start things off.

For our entree, we ordered the pasta serenata with shrimp (other options were salmon, scallops, or combinations of those).  This was perfectly-cooked pasta with perfectly-cooked plump shrimp (and overcooked shrimp is a pet peeve of mine), in a cream sauce with spinach.  This was rich.  And huge.  We didn’t need to finish the whole thing, but we sure did.

Service was good throughout the evening, and we left full and happy (the two of which often go hand-in-hand with me).

Razor's Edge Shiraz at Armitage

Razor's Edge Shiraz at Armitage

Armitage – I went to Armitage Wine Lounge a couple of weeks ago for a long-belated birthday happy hour.  I love the wood & leather decor, the comfy couches, and the great patio.  The food is good as well – we enjoyed the bruschetta sampler and the baked brie topped with thyme-sauteed mushrooms.  The mac ‘n’ cheese with bacon was the definition of comforting.

The thing that I didn’t much care for was the discrepancy between their website and menu.  The web promotes $5 glasses of some really nice wines (Hall Sauvignon Blanc, Rombauer Chardonnay, etc), but they actually have a list of reduced price wines – some of which are still over $10/glass and only $1-$2 off the regular price.  Granted these are good glasses of wine, but it wasn’t what I was expecting.  It takes more time to print new menus than to change web content, so was a little disappointed on that front.

But I still like them, and will be going back for more of that brie…

If you made it all the way through this post, you deserve a sneak peek at blog posts to come: Rocky Point adventures, A conversation with Rebecca Lee of Cutter’s Point Coffee, and My guilty food pleasures.  You can’t wait, can you?  Well I hope you can, and I’ll tell you you won’t have to wait another seven weeks…

Kevin

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5 Comments leave one →
  1. Maura Grogan permalink
    March 23, 2010 12:45 pm

    Kev, I too was pleasantly surprised by a trip Zivaz a few months ago and wish it wasn’t so far away. I’ll definitely go back, though. As an attendee at the birthday bash at Armitage, I agree about the pricey wine although it was tasty. I would rate the appetizers lower than you did. You forgot to mention our great server (Miranda?) and the dental product show in the back room which drew Kristine and me in to find out what the chess-set lookalike actually was. (It was teeth implant devices, ouch!)

    • March 23, 2010 12:52 pm

      Hi Maura! You’re right, I failed to mention Miranda’s excellent service and the surreal dental tool expo going on at the same time. How could I have overlooked those? As for Zivaz, I think they could do well with a slightly more westerly location…

      Thanks for the comment and the reminders!

      Kevin

  2. Morgan permalink
    March 23, 2010 1:51 pm

    The mac ‘n cheese at Armitage is so good!

  3. March 28, 2010 3:34 pm

    Hey, Kevin, glad to see you back hard at work (eating, drinking etc.)!

    I had the same initial reaction to Zivaz and then tried it for lunch some time ago. VERY nice experience. My food was . . . flavorful, not dull. Decent service. A little loud at times, but hey, it was busy.

    Must say I didn’t much care for their burrito at the Food Festival. Far too big and awkward to eat. The thing kept falling apart. BUT I will return to the restaurant. And I think I’ll try their Saturday happy hour. I believe their ‘rita is half price (have to check on that).

    • March 28, 2010 10:27 pm

      Hiya, Kate!

      It’s good to be back in the swing of things. I managed to keep eating & drinking, but time for that whole writing thing got kinda hard to find…

      Half-priced margarita, you say? Sounds like something I could potentially enjoy. It sounds like Zivaz might have re-tooled their ‘event burrito’ between the Food Festival and TFOB. The one I had there was a good size – not too big but still filling.

      Thanks for the note, and keep up the great work at tucsononthecheap.com!

      Kevin

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