Is Tucson’s Owls Club Haunted?

 

My interest in the Owls Club was both sinister and typical. A recently opened cocktail bar located a little south of downtown Tucson’s main hub, I was curious to see what the new hot spot was like. But there were darker motivations, too.

The Owls Club is located in a renovated, former funeral home. On the day it opened, a friend told me that she had visited and joined a group on an informal tour, which included the former embalming room. Upon entry, she described feeling utterly creeped out—the temperature dropped and her chest felt heavy.

It was my mission to experience it for myself. Continue reading “Is Tucson’s Owls Club Haunted?”

Tucson: Welcome Diner

A much-loved Phoenix restaurant comes to Tucson—Welcome Diner has a fan in me.

I have to admit that I was a little sour on Welcome Diner when it first came to town from Phoenix. It took the place of Chaffin’s, a beloved breakfast spot of mine that served inhumane amounts of food for about $8 (their hash browns were the best—crispy, fluffy in the middle, yum!).

And then I tasted Welcome Diner’s mac and cheese. Oh, how quickly we forget.

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Mac and cheese at Welcome Diner in Tucson

Continue reading “Tucson: Welcome Diner”

Tucson: Romero Pools hike

One of Tucson’s favorite hikes, I write up my experience on a trek to the Romero Pools.

Name: Romero Pools

Location: within Catalina State Park

Total time: 3 hours, 30 minutes

Length: 6.5 miles to the pools and back

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The views along the trail to the Romero Pools will take your breath away—if you have any breath left, that is. Steep ascents remind you how out of shape you are, while flat spaces between climbs provide a welcome respite (and also keep this hike ranked a 3 on trailvoyant.com, a local Tucson hiking resource).

Fueled by breakfast burritos from El Güero Canelo, Rob and I headed out on a beautiful 70-degree morning for Catalina State Park. We paid $7 for a day pass (check the calendar to time your visit with an event and get the most bang for your buck) and followed the road to the trail head. Dogs are allowed for the first mile or so, after which the trail runs through Bighorn Sheep wilderness, which is strictly protected and dogs are strictly forbidden. From there, we walked a little more than 3 miles. I’d estimate 1.8 of those were pure elevation gains, baby.

Continue reading “Tucson: Romero Pools hike”

Maynards Market & Kitchen

Tucson Chicken
Tucson Chicken “Cheesesteak”—the subject of many of my dreams

I worked at an American Eagle Outfitters in the mall for two years while in college. The only thing that kept me going during six-hour shifts were these chicken cheesesteak sandwiches from Charley’s Grilled Subs, in the food court. I would hunker in the stock room, drowning annoying customer needs in cheesy goodness. I work in downtown Tucson now, with no mall in sight (good riddance). Lucky for me, the best part of the mall still isn’t too far away.

Continue reading “Maynards Market & Kitchen”

Tucson: NoRTH

*Note: This is a continuing series on dining in Tucson, where I live. My hope is to prevent visitors from asking, “What is there to eat here?”

Photo via official restaurant page: bit.ly/RzfiLM
Photo via official restaurant page: bit.ly/RzfiLM. I would take my own photos, but I’m too busy stuffing my face. This is The Pig pizza, another winner.

NoRTH is where my boyfriend and I go when we’re feeling fancy; it’s perfect for Date Night. It’s a little more pricey (entrée’s average about $22), but the nighttime views of Tucson below make it worth the splurge. NoRTH markets itself as a modern take on traditional Italian cooking, which is a little hard to define—there’s classic Italian appetizers, such as arancini and calamari; there’s pizzas, pastas and salads, as well as entrées.

Possibly the best meal I’ve ever eaten, in Tucson, was at NoRTH: Pork tenderloin served over creamy white polenta. It wasn’t easy to forget. The pork was perfectly colored, the polenta was swirled with a dark balsamic sauce that was just, ugh. It was so good. This is a pretty major statement, but if I knew that I was near the end of my life, I would order that damn pork tenderloin.

Unfortunately, it’s been substituted with a different version of pork tenderloin that I have yet to try (wrapped in prosciutto, mmm mmm mmmm). For now, I order the spicy shrimp pasta.

My recommendations: Now, LET ME TELL YA about the Salted Caramel Budino. It’s spectacular. Salted caramel’s overdone? Don’t care! It’s like a warm hug, with a pudding consistency, topped with course-ground salt that balances the sweetness. I don’t even LIKE dessert and I loooove this thing.

Tucson: Wings Over Broadway

*Note: This is a continuing series on dining in Tucson, where I live. My hope is to prevent visitors from asking, “What is there to eat here?”

An actual chicken wing from Wings Over Broadway. This really happened. It's like the Snitch in Harry Potter.
An actual chicken wing from Wings Over Broadway. This really happened. It’s like the Snitch in Harry Potter.

Wings Over Broadway probably got its name after a customer took a bite of a wing, died of love (or something), became an angel and went to heaven. The 15 sauce flavors range from child friendly to “oh my god, I’m crying in a restaurant and everyone can see me. Server, please bring me a bucket of ice water”: White Wings, Garlic Parm, Teriyaki, Sweet Heat Asian, Lemon Pepper, Honey Gold, Mild Buffalo, Honey BBQ, Honey Hot, Medium Buffalo, Cajun Spice, Golden Hot, Habanero Heat, Hot Buffalo, No Mercy. Their 40¢ Wing Tuesday specials pack the restaurant to capacity, with a line out the door. WOB is filled Wednesday through Monday, as well—I can’t imagine the volume of napkins they go through. Wash the sweet, the garlicky, the burning, down with a stein of beer for the ultimate party.

My recommendations: Lemon Pepper, Honey Gold and Cajun Spice

Tucson: Sushi Garden

*Note: This is a continuing series on dining in Tucson, where I live. My hope is to prevent visitors from asking, “What is there to eat here?”

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Tucson residents are bombarded with Sushi Garden commercials, but even their constant presence between drama on The Bachelorette isn’t enough to lessen my love. Now, this town is passionate about its sushi restaurants—I’m sure some people are upset by my decision to recommend Sushi Garden. It’s just, I know I’m not alone; Sushi Garden has multiple locations that often have a wait list, as well as good Yelp reviews. The fish tastes fresh, the recipes contain creative combinations and the ambiance is lively and bright. The best deal is the all-you-can-eat menu: this green sheet generously allows guests to order round after round after round of a huge selection of rolls, nigiri, sashimi and more for about $20 per person. The catch: If you don’t eat it all, you could incur a fee, so GO!SLOW! It’s torture, as well as a #firstworldproblem, finishing two more rolls when you’re already about to burst. Trust me.

Recommendations: Salmon and Albacore nigiri, S.G. Roll (Deluxe) and Spicy Yellowtail roll [pictured].

Tucson

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I used to be such a Tucson hater; I’m rolling my eyes just thinking about it. Tucson was just fine until I got to Arizona State University, then it became the place that failed in comparison to Tempe: University Drive, the lesser Mill Avenue; the University of Arizona? You mean the inferior version of Arizona State University? So dumb.

I was soooo crazily grossed out by Tucson that I didn’t even consider applying for a job there until I had been unemployed for three months, sitting at my parents’ kitchen table, always in the same pair of yoga pants as I hadn’t showered in DAYYYSSS. It’s totally the reason I didn’t blog for so long. Just kidding! I’m actually super lazy.

Tucson, I’m sorry I thought so little of you. One day in late 2012, I searched LinkedIn for jobs (in TUCSON!! The agonyyy!!) that dealt with travel writing. I’ve been working at my company, where I write and edit for travel guides, ever since. It’s particularly great because my blog (this one! The one that you’re reading!) helped me to get a job. My boss read a couple entries and called me for an interview after I submitted an application! Awesome.

In my time here, I’ve come to love The Old Pueblo and hate the Tempe-obsessed, anti-Tucson person that I used to be. Every city has its strengths! I’m here to argue in favor of Tucson, in hopes of both turning around even the biggest doubters and convincing some folks to visit. I’ll start with food.

Stay tuned. Stay hungry.

An Amateur at Accenture

A couple years ago, I babysat for a family in north Scottsdale. Their golden retriever’s name was Bogey. It took me three months of employment to figure out that Bogey was a golf term—and that’s about as much as I know about golf. Well, that and how to clap politely.

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But when your boss comes over to you and your coworker on an overcast Wednesday morning and asks if you want two VIP tent passes to Accenture Match Play (did I mention there’s unlimited free alcohol and food in that tent?), it’s an opportunity you don’t pass up.

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Accenture Match Play is a big deal in Tucson, an annual World Golf Championship that takes the top 64 players on the planet and pits them against each other through several single-elimination rounds. The champion wins more than a million dollars.

Tucson is a golf haven every winter. The weather, 70 degrees and a welcome polar opposite to the polar vortex, is only part of the attraction. The Old Pueblo has a collection of world-class courses, designed by the likes of Tom Fazio (Ventana Canyon), Arnold Palmer (Starr Pass) and, most recently, Notah Begay (Sewailo). You can see why people visit year after year, and many residents drive their golf carts more than their cars.

Accenture Match Play takes place just outside the city, at Dove Mountain in Marana, a Jack Nicklaus design. The crowd at Accenture seems to be a mixture of three groups: People who are die-hard golf fans, people who are there for corporate networking and people who are there because, “heck, Accenture Match Play is in Tucson, let’s go check it out!” I most closely identified with the last group.

This tournament was the first time I’d ever even stepped foot on a golf course. Needless to say, I had no idea what to expect (except a vodka tonic, please). If you’re in the same position, it’s totally ok—I didn’t know a damn thing about golf and I still enjoyed myself.

I texted (ok, bragged to) my golf-following friend as soon as Rory McIlroy hit a par 3, 16th hole in two swings. I think they call that a birdie? I watched as McIlroy’s posse of caddies and advisors loaded up and trekked on foot from hole to hole to hole to hole, wondering how long it took them to stop being mesmerized by his Northern Irish accent. Did they constantly force him to say aluminum? I quieted myself when volunteers, dressed in a beautiful teal shade similar to Tiffany blue, threw their hands in the air, clutching signs that said, “SILENCE: GOLF IN PLAY.” As soon as the signs went down, I resumed my conversation with my coworker about how beautiful the Catalinas looked today, how the saguaro cacti surrounding each hole and covering each mountain take about 40 years to grow to just four feet tall. Many reached with their 50-year-old (plus!) arms seven feet into the sky; all while tiny white golf balls flew 300+ feet past, over a green and manicured path.

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I think, even if I hadn’t had VIP tickets, I still would have enjoyed many of the same things I delighted in at Accenture Match Play: the people watching, the weather, Rory McIlroy’s accent. If the tournament returns to Tucson next year, I’m definitely going to consider going. If my boss decides to give me VIP tickets and parking again, you’ll find me at the Canyon Club, vodka tonic nearby, golf clapping when appropriate.

Tucson, Arizona

Maynards Market & Kitchen, one of many ways to enjoy Tucson

Click here to view all my photos from this excursion!

I grew up traveling to Tucson, Arizona a lot; the lack of an orthodontist, shopping mall, Target, and and other basic luxuries of a big city in my hometown made it necessary. I felt like I already knew a significant amount about the second largest city in Arizona, but my excursion there over Labor Day weekend, and what I discovered,  surprised me. My companion for this trip was, for lack of a better term, my “brother from another mother,” Andrew Urman, and we had a mission to accomplish –

Ivy: Subs are buy one get one free!!
Andrew: So naturally we’re getting two each
Ivy: Duh.

Our destination? Sausage Deli. A brown building surrounded by a parking lot on the corner of First Avenue and Grant Road that has been serving up delicious sandwiches since 1978, and thank goodness for it. For as long as I’ve known, I’ve always ordered the Italian Grinder (or its smaller counterpart, the Hoagie, if I’m feeling shy): a huge sub stuffed with a variety of meats, provolone cheese, lettuce, tomato, onions, green peppers and a special dressing to top it all off. Their lunch special includes two sides (try the jalapeno chips and yummy potato salad) and a drink. I always get lemonade, as it’s the perfect mixture of sweet and sour, and I love that they use crushed ice (which might be stupid, but this is my blog, damn it). Andrew ordered a Susie Sorority (*giggle*) and an Artichoke Reuben. Although I’m completely satisfied with my traditional order, it’s nice to know that if I ever get tired of it (I won’t), the Reuben is a fantastic alternative! Further proving how much I love Sausage Deli. Continue reading “Tucson, Arizona”