Sally Kane – A Tuk Tuk

Not every note is a love note.  Some are grocery lists.  Some are to-do lists for oneself or for another. Some just let you know the dishes are clean.

I love the love notes. “I packed you an extra cookie”  “Fed the dogs, see you later for wine.”  “You are my heart, you are my liver.”

For sure love notes seem unequaled, but there are also notes of promise.

“Do you like me? (Please check yes or no).”

Janelle Gleeson – Hoy Joh, Papaya Salad & Holy Basil Chicken

I went to Tuk Tuk Thai upon the recommendation of some good friends.  I sat outside waiting for my lunch date while sipping on my bottomless Thai iced tea and settled down to take in my surroundings. My first reaction to the music was that it was a weird choice for a Thai restaurant to be playing. When I really caught what I was listening to I settled in a bit more, and tuned into the Smiths song Sheila Take A Bow.  The end of chorus hook “Come out and find the one that you love and who loves you.”  is most assuredly a 90’s new wave note of promise.

Sally Kane – Tom Yum Goong

I crave Asian food pretty much all the time.  As the heat comes on here in the ole Pueblo, I want it even more.  Tuk Tuk Thai is surely crave worthy.  I have only been twice and already I’m dreaming of the Tom Yum Goong.  This soup was chock full of chunky oyster mushroom and shrimp.  The markrut lime leaves ping off of the savory shrimp paste and milky broth.  

Sally Kane – Larb

At Tuk Tuk, everything I had was really balanced.  Have the Larb! This classic minced pork shallot and mint dish was subtly spicy and super lime bright.

Sally Kane – Chicken & Pork Ping

The two times I went the servers were attentive, helpful, and really friendly.  One of the wonderful suggestions they made was the Ping.  One can choose chicken or pork.  We tried a combo and thought they were delicious, but the charred pork really sang with the tamarind chili sauce.

Janelle Gleeson – Sticky Rice – Eat it with Ping, Tom Yum Goong and Larb!

The Chef is Noy Sayso and her food is delicious.  She and her husband Bud opened a second location in Oro Valley just recently!  Also, I know Girl Power WHATEVER, but when I was there last all the chefs in the kitchen were women! I shouldn’t be so excited but that is still an uncommon sight these days in Tucson.

I admire the strength it took to not only persevere through this last year but to actually thrive and open a second location.

This is a love letter, but the promise note came from Tuk Tuk Thai street food.

Do yourself a favor and visit Tuk Tuk Thai. They are a part of our fabric. They are a family owned business. They are Tucson.

You can find Tuk Tuk at 2990 N Campbell Avenue Suite 130 and at 12125 N Oracle Rd Unit 169



Our time here on earth, at least for me, is marked by meals.  Meals with family. Meals with  friends. Meals with a beloved.  Meals alone.  There is pleasure in each of these dining experiences.  The ritual of each is similar as each share the simple joys of smell, anticipation, taste. There are times in our lives, when this ritual may be all we have or close to it.  When this joy and pleasure, this privilege of choice, becomes our sole comfort.

El Corazon Loteria – Sally Kane

I have been there in my life.  I have also been witness to it, at the end of life with loved ones.  And then, I have watched as even that, slips away and desire becomes the lack of desire.  It is this that makes a restaurant that brims with the joy of life, a priceless  thing.

La Chaiteria celebrates bounty one plate at a time.  Each offering bursts with so much color and freshness and love.  When I enter  1002 W Congress Street to order, I am always greeted with heart and made to feel truly welcome.  Chaiteria celebrates life and the fuel of life.

Chicken Mole – Sally Kane

I feel the same authentic care after I have sat, after my food has arrived, then throughout my meal right up until I leave. This is a testament to owner-chef Wendy Garcia.  I do not know her personally but can feel the drive behind every aspect of her business.  This is hard grueling work and yet the result looks effortless and sings with harmony.  Chaiteria is the third in her current restaurant trilogy which includes the flagship vegan restaurant Turmerico.

La Chaiteria is this omnivores dream.  Being an omnivore means I love and appreciate all food.  So I am delighted by the vegan and the non-vegan menu alike!

Their Jackfruit el pastor tacos, drizzled in cashew crema, is so plate licking good, I would say it easily rivaled the authentic barbacoa…but oooh the barbacoa!

Jackfruit Tacos – Janelle Gleeson
Barbacoa – Janelle Gleeson

Each plate is super loaded with the freshest of veggies. The offerings rotate.  One day the salad will have broccoli the next sliced beet and apple.  The rice is chock full of carrots, onions & green veggies.  Sometimes there is delicious guacamole, sometimes grilled onions and jalapeños, always an opulent array.  Are those turmeric onions nestled alongside my mole? Yes, thank you!  Perfectly browned tortillas and a delicious trio of salsas just add to the excitement of the experience.   

Agua Frescas – Sally Kane

The accompanying drinks are also designed to feed body and soul.  Highlights for me – Turmeric Lemonade, the Sweet Sunrise and the Pick Me Up.  Granted – those are the only ones I have tried.

 I totally forgot to mention the full and expressive espresso bar, the school bus kitchen, the tranquil back patio, the charming catering truck and the evolving and rotating menus.

Whether you are on a solo date – with or without a decent book, meeting a friend, sitting with your love, girlie dating your mom or entertaining out of towners I recommend La Chaiteria. 

This charming transformed mini mart in the heart of Menlo Park always feels worth leaving home for, each and every time.  La Chaiteria is woman owned, it is part of our fabric, it is Tucson. https://www.lachaiteria.com/



The owner’s son giving a shout inside

The Annex, home to Kukai, is a serene landscape of shipping containers housing a lovely array of small businesses. The Annex is part of the Mercado San Agustin shopping district just west of our downtown.

Kukai – revered Buddhist monk, poet, engineer, scholar. Kukai – a word for sky and sea. Kukai – the answer for my weekly Japanese food fix, especially in these times. Even pre-pandemic one orders through a window and is called back up when the food is ready. There are lovely well-spaced tables scattered about to enjoy your fare. Kukai is also well situated next to the broadly curated bar and bottle shop Westbound, making it easy to enjoy a great libation with your meal.

Kukai is owned by chef Michael McCormack in partnership with his father in law and restaurant veteran Kazuo Senda.  It is chef McCormack who runs and operates the shop.  I don’t know McCormack well, but he strikes me as a very rare bird.  He is truly eager and passionate about his work.  Michael’s eyes light up when talking about rice or broth.  I love this excitement!  I love where the focus is.

The star of each dish, the slow roast pork for the Hakata style ramen or buta don, the salmon in the sushi rolls, hand rolls and onigiri – they only truly shine like the stars they are when they are elevated by the foundation of each dish.

Trio of Rolls & Seaweed Salad. Photo – Janelle Gleeson

This attention and passion to the foundation play out in the poetry of details. The icy chill of the water in the ritual of the rinsing of the rice. The need to add actual ice to the rinse during our hot long summers (replete with perpetually warm tap water), so each grain is perfect. A slow 24-hour simmer on the pork broth, for me, the hallmark of a really great soup, untainted by additives.

Spicy Miso Hakata Ramen, Buta Don, Grilled Salmon Onigiri

Kukai is honest and simple. I am grateful each and every time I go, as that care is always evident. The delight the chef feels towards his little restaurant and its offerings shines through and nourishes.  I have come to depend on the regenerative and curative power of the ramen.

Kukai has only been around since 2019 yet it has woven its way into the fabric of our town, becoming a part of what makes Tucson so special and brimming with tasteful delights. It is now part of the story of who we are. It is a family owned business. It is Tucson.

You can find Kukai at 267 South Avenida del Convento #11, Tucson, AZ 85701



Roma Imports stands alone, and not just figuratively. It has been standing alone since 1984 in a corner of Barrio San Antonio amid other tucked away and dusty commercial and corporate enterprises. It is not too difficult to find, although one would never just be driving by it. This is a true destination. The current owner Lilian Spieth has steered this lone gourmet-ship since 1999, and she still has her hand firmly on the tiller.

Why should you travel this valley and go so out of your way to visit? For the very reason that it is a desert miracle. To have this Italian kitchen and import store here in our Sonoran desert is nothing short of extraordinary.

In 1998 I was driving to the far east side on the regular for what I thought was the best east coast Italian food in town. So good and so simple. I couldn’t get enough of their aglio e olio with rapini or the amaretto cheesecake. This old joint will go unnamed, as it was there I learned the secret of the homemade ravioli and sausage at Tucson’s favorite Italian restaurants. Perhaps not all, but most of them, got it all at Roma Imports.

I mean, they weren’t lying. It is ALL homemade. They just didn’t make it themselves. Today it is different. More fancy pants restaurants are making their own pasta, cheese, and sausage but I bet there are as many restaurants now as then that feature the homemade goods of Roma.

I was jumpingly excited way back when I first went into Roma Imports. This pre-cell phone era assured I was driving in circles for a while. Mamma mia, I am still so excited at each and every visit. The list is loooong of what you can procure.

Beyond their extensive house-made appetizers, desserts, pizzas, sauces, entrees, and sausage, they also have an abundance of deli items & imports – antipasti, oils, vinegar, and a copious array of other shelf treats.

Their frozen homemade to go section boasts 8 different lasagnas, 15 stuffed ravioli and pasta, 35 Italian and international entrees (solo and family-sized), did I mention the sauces?

Alongside all of this, they have an entire restaurant menu featuring (currently no dine-in during the pandemic) soups, sandwiches, salads, pasta, and desserts. They also do catering.

Yes, Lilian is often tired. This business is hard even pre-pandemic. Plate spinning and cats in a sack analogy aside, she is pushing through. Every time I go she is there, keeping an eye on the kitchen, the front of house, the warehouse, and the accounts. Now she is also having to monitor guest mask wearing and customer volume inside the space. She and her staff are not alone in needing our support, but when you visit you are assuredly not doing anyone any favors.

There is not one other place in Tucson like Roma Imports. With a bevy of frozen offerings, old school comfort food done right, and a consistently genial and well trained staff – it is a pandemic shoe in.

Do yourself a favor and visit Roma Imports of America to stock up your larder and icebox. They are a part of our fabric. They are a woman owned business. They are Tucson.

You can find Roma Imports at 627 S. Vine Tucson, AZ 85719


Cocteleria La Palma Mariscos Y Mas

Why did I keep driving by this Sonoran seafood food truck? Was it because we are 380 miles from the Sea of Cortez deep in the landlocked desert of Tucson? Was it because it is located at a busy, noisy intersection that is a gateway to the I-10 freeway.  Was it because right across the street is one of my all time favorite Sonoran hotdog carts Ruiz Hot Dogs Los Chipilones, so that every time (every time) I approach that intersection I am wondering if I have any cash on me to get a hot dog, wondering if I should really be eating a hot dog, rationalizing that the hot dog ain’t gonna eat itself… etc. So for literally years I was ignorant of my own backyard and was self deprived of the excellence that is Cocteleria La Palma Mariscos Y Mas.

Anyone driving by will have to admit that it looks super cool and is totally decked out as far as corner dirt lot food trucks go. They have a really styling truck & a large permanent concrete pad to set up the tables. They rig a good shade covering each day to keep us safe from our sun. This care and attention is wonderful, but what is really wonderful is the food!

Tostada de Jaiba – crab tostada

The tostada de jaiba is sublime. I know you think I am exaggerating, but I am not. Really. Every time I eat it I am overcome with how perfect it is. As with all of the offerings here, it is as fresh as fresh can be. I don’t ask how because I don’t want any delusions I have shattered. I imagine the crabs hitchhike each night from the sea and are waiting patiently each morning to be dropped silently into the boil. Shhh, nighty night crabbies.

Las Palmas opened 7 years ago and is lovingly owned and operated by Esther Romero, Mario Romero and Eddie Romero. You can taste the love this family puts into the slow cooked complex seafood broth of the caldos, the citrus forward brightness of the ceviches, in the homemade lemonade and horchata and in the enthusiasm and patience they show when asked questions or for suggestions.

Camaron Capeado – shrimp taco

I’m not going to spend a lot of time in these here posts intimately describing food. I love food, I live for it in the way that I think about it most of the time. If I am practicing yoga or hiking I am really just thinking about food and making up recipes. I lay in bed thinking about food, leafing through cookbooks and I spend my days playing restaurant…and even I can never make my way through even one food article. Ugh.

My goal is to get you to put it in your mouth. To help you find a groove bisecting your rut. A different path to support our town and bolster our Mom and Pops.

Do yourself a favor and visit Cocteleria La Palma Mariscos Y Mas. They are a part of our fabric. They are a family business. They are Tucson.

You can find Cocteleria La Palma Mariscos Y Mas at 1143 South 6th Ave., Tucson, Arizona