The Old Pueblo ’s culinary scene is famously dominated by the ranchland comfort food available at the dozens of Mexican eateries in town, most of them serving classic variations of a cuisine formed in Mexico’s arid northern states and on the hot, dry coastlines of the nearby Sea of Cortez. While such home-style Mexican food represents one of the most popular cuisines in America, in Tucson  it has a kind of authenticity and diversity of taste that’s available nowhere else—except perhaps just across the border, about an hour’s drive from the city.
While you could spend a lifetime here eating carne asada, chiles rellenos, and enchiladas exclusively, you’d not only join the ranks of the obese but you’d miss out on sampling the work of some of the most creative, adventurous chefs and restaurateurs in the Southwest. The amorphous hodge-podge that is New American cuisine thrives in Tucson  through an impressive array of mid- to high-end locally owned “Tucson  originals,” many of which combine spices, flavors, ingredients, and crops common to the borderlands with American, French, and other culinary traditions to create a new hybrid that goes by the inexact term Southwestern.
To be totally honest, though, when you’ve got year-round outdoor patio dining—with gentle heaters when its chilly, and cold water-spitting “misters” when it’s hot—and the sky above that patio is ever blue and clear, and the views from that patio are of looming high mountains and sweeping desert valleys, the quality of the food in front of you often becomes a secondary issue. Whenever you can, barring something unlikely like rain or cold, ask to sit on the patio or in the Spanish-style courtyard—scores of restaurants here have them, and al fresco dining in, say, February is one of the great joys of desert living.