Kingfisher – A Tucson Treasure

Tomorrow night I will have the pleasure to dine at one of my most favorite Tucson restaurants: Kingfisher.

This year Kingfisher celebrates its 25th Anniversary. Congratulations, Good Wishes and thank you for the many wonderful meals I’ve had thanks to the fab team.

What follows is from my book, “Historic Restaurants of Tucson“:

Kingfisher– 1993

One of the greatest compliments a restaurant can get is when other restaurant people eat there. Kingfisher is just such a restaurant. In interviews, when local chefs are asked to name their favorite restaurants, Kingfisher comes up again and again and again. But the midtown restaurant is also popular with the regular diners, as evidenced by being named the ‘Best’ seafood restaurant in all major Tucson publications.

Jim “Murph” Murphy, Jeff Azersky, Tim Ivankovich and John Burke had worked together in various combinations at other places in Tucson. So, when they opened Kingfisher in 1993, they had a built-in crowd that followed, but they also attracted a larger audience who loved the casual atmosphere and the delicious American fare.

Murph had learned the ropes of seafood at Jerome’s and Azersky was a transplant from the South Shore of Massachusetts so there was plenty of knowledge and experience in that area. Ivankovich and Burke had years of experience in the front of the house. But the team knew they needed more than just great seafood.

Marianne Banes was the perfect choice. Banes had a stellar culinary resume and was hired to create desserts. Kingfisher introduced Tucson’s first late night menu. They lightened up the dining room. (In its previous incarnation, the building had been home to The Iron Mask which had the look of an old English tavern.) The bar, though, retained much of the same look including the original Iron Mask bar chairs. Murph talked about how when they moved a heavy refrigerator from the kitchen to behind the bar all went well until they had to lift the item over the bar. Somehow, the mission was accomplished, but it hasn’t move since.

In 1999, Burke left to open Fiorito’s, an Italian eatery nearby but the friends continued. In 2005, they opened Bluefin Seafood Bistro on the northwest side. That restaurant closed in 2015.

In 2012, Ivankovich died unexpectedly at the age of 54. The team felt the loss deeply, but they moved forward always with their friend in mind.

Aided by a team that has been with them for years, Murph and Azersky take turns in the kitchen and in the front of the house. On any given night, the dining room is full to capacity and people stand three-deep at the bar.

The regular menu always contains a choice of oysters from every coast and other fresh seafood options. Annual festivities include an Oysterfest, Fat Tuesday celebration and a summer-long Road Trip around America.

Murph credits the longevity to attention to detail. Tucsonans credit the longevity to a fine place to relax over great seafood, a couple of cocktails or a glass of wine from the American-centric wine list.oystersstoryville

Series 19 -A New and Very Sexy Addition to Downtown

A few years back in a tiny hard-to-find spot on Tucson’s Southside, two creative and thirsty guys joined forces and opened a distillery dedicated to making fine spirits using local ingredients.

Matt Montgomery and Chris Dudding opened Three Wells Distilling Company with the hopes of producing quality gin and agave spirits. Montgomery was trained as a distiller and Dudding was a chemist and together they had the knowledge and the passion to make a go of it. They also had a great source of water from the three wells on Montgomery’s property in Sahuarita and a secret source of juniper from Mount Lemmon.

Gold-Hard Way

The result was Mt. Lemmon Gin that was so good that people who scorned gin soon became lovers of the shimmering liquid.

This was followed by a full menu of agave-based liquors that have been won legions of fans. More recently they’ve added vodka and bourbon to their cupboard.

This week Montgomery and Dudding opened a tasting room in Downtown Tucson called Series 19 after a section in the state liquor laws that allows distillers and wine makers to run places featuring their products.Three Wells Vodka

They’ve kicked the concept up a notch or two by featuring spirits made all over Arizona. There isn’t anything like in Tucson and maybe not even in the state.


Series 19 is a smart looking space, tiny but spacious thanks to the high ceilings and golden tones on the walls. The bar itself has a beautiful display of all the liquors available. Seating is plentiful. The most amazing part of the space is that Montgomery, a professional carpenter, did all the work himself.


There is a smart cocktail list that uses fresh ingredients like mint and mangos.

The vibe is very adult and sexy.

On the website and business cards is a phrase, “Be proud of your Spirits.”

Montgomery and Dudding have plenty to be proud of and with this new venture they can do a little bragging.

A Night to Honor – Janos Wilder – A Tucson Treasure

As a food writer in Tucson my life has been filled with wonderful, passionate people who love making others happy through their craft; people who make the world a better place through hard work, creativity and talent.

One of the most, perhaps even the most, creative caring people is Janos Wilder.

Janos has for decades created food that made people sit up and listen, He used local ingredients long before the trend became the norm. His food was transcendent. It was food you dreamed about long after you put your fork down.

He has generously shared his talents with the community and has given back to his adopted city time and time again. Who knows how much money he has helped raise for numerous causes in Tucson?

Personally, Janos has always been there when I asked for anything form a simple question for an article to having a incredible dinner to promote my book, ‘Lost Restaurants of Tucson.’  Talking with him is always enriching and fun. He’s made a difference in my life.

Now Tucson is giving back to Janos in a big way.

As the kick-off event for the Annual Agave Heritage Festival, a dinner honoring Janos Wilder will take place on Friday, April 27th at Carriage House.

The four course dinner will include an agave-inspired cocktail appetizers, entrée and dessert created from Janos’ cornucopia of recipes.

Participating chefs include: Bryan Vernon, Patrick Fahey, David La Force, Carlos Calderon, Bruce Yim, Marianne Banes, Devon Sanner and Brian Smith.


Cost is $150 per person and will benefit NATIVE Seed/Search, a Tucson based organization that preserves and protects native plants and seeds. Janos had been instrumental to the growth and success of NATIVE Seed/Search and is currently the Chairman of the Board.

Tickets are available below.

Have a Fox-y Easter

Fox Restaurant Concepts is serving up some special Easter offerings and the neat part is you can go fancy or casual; All-American or Italian; brunch or lunch.

Wildflower opens early on Easter Sunday and in addition to the tasty lunch menu items, people can order from four specials: Wild Mushroom Quiche, Roasted Sea Bass, Blue Crab Omelet or Prime Rib. As per usual at Wildflower, cocktails play a role in a beautiful brunch and the Easter specials include $6 Bloody Marys or mimosas, Make reservations at


North at La Encantada will serve the usual Sunday Brunch items like the earthy Nonna’s casserole with torn bread and Italian sausage or the special of grilled cauliflower with fried egg, toasted breadcrumbs, pancetta cream and lemon. Prosecco may be more appropriate here. Rezzies are recommended.

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Then for those folks looking for a more casual take, you might want to dine at Zinburger. There’s even an Easter burger called the Brunch Burger that is built with Waygu beef, ham, fried egg and hollandaise sauce; sounds like a knife and fork kind of burger. New items include a Classic Diner Burger, a California Burger Bowl and Seared Salmon Salad. Your choice of drink? Either one of Zin’s milkshakes or a chilled bottle of pinot grigio, No reservations taken but info can be found at

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They’re Baaaaack and We’re Glad They Are.

gordo's 2.0.

For anyone who’s lived in Tucson for numerous years when they hear the word, chimichanga, thoughts turn immediately to Gordo’s.

For decades Gordo’s was known for their tasty chimis and owner Al Valenzuela’s famous phrase, “If you like chimichangas, I mean, if you really like chimichangas then Come to Gordo’s” and people did, in droves.

But the restaurant closed in 2002 and Tucsonans had to rely on the culinary memory of Gordo’s.

Now though the wonderful flavors of Gordo’s are back with the new venture, Gordo’s 2.0.

Daughter Marguerite Brown and her partner Mark Callahan have dug out the old recipes and are selling mini-versions of her dad’s chimis at Heirloom Farmer’s Markets. On Sundays you can find them at Rillito Racetrack Market  and at  the Oro Valley Market on Saturdays. Nana Julie, Al’s wife, is usually there to lend a hand.marguerite and mark

The chimis are served hot from the fryer and come in refried bean and cheese, shredded beef and shredded chicken with Hatch chiles. If you want, Marguerite will drizzle a delicious lime crema on top. And speaking from having eaten the chimis one Sunday at the market, I have to say they were fabulous. Hot and crunchy on the outside; creamy and savory inside….just like the old day…and that crema is to die for.#1 Gordo's chimi sign

Marguerite and Mark also sell Gordo’s salsa and freshly made tortillas. They also have ready to heat chicken enchilada casserole and green corn tamale pie.

Marguerite wanted to bring back Gordo’s in some way for awhile and with Mark’s expertise in the gourmet retail food industry the time was right. They have plans to expand nationally.

Like I said, the chimis I ate were fabulous (they are bigger than your average mini-chimi) and I can’t wait to go back to try the others.

So if you like chimichangas make a trip to the Heirloom Farmers Markets this weekend.

Historic Restaurants of Tucson…hot off the press

Well, folks here it is….


Publisher: The History Press
Date: 02/12/2018
Tucson’s culinary journey began thousands of years ago, when Native American tribes developed an agricultural base along the Santa Cruz River. In modern times, restaurants ranging from tiny taquerias to fine dining spaces all contributed to the local food culture. El Charro, serving Mexican cuisine since 1922, still attracts crowds from all over. Folks head straight to Pat’s for a hot dog, Lucky Wishbone for some fried chicken or eegee’s for a grinder and a cold, frosty drink. On any given night, the patio at El Corral is filled with diners anticipating their famous prime rib and tamale pie. Local food writer Rita Connelly brings to life the stories of beloved eateries that have endured for decades and continue to delight with incredible flavors.

Rita Connelly has lived in Tucson since 1979 with her husband, John, and daughter, Riene. Somewhere in her travels, she earned a BA in education from the University of Arizona. She worked as a restaurant reviewer for the Tucson Weekly for ten years. During that time, she acted as a judge for hot dog, wine, tequila, salsa, chocolate and pie competitions. Her book, Lost Restaurants of Tucson, was published in 2015. She chronicles her food adventures in her blog,

Rita will be on the Buckmaster Show on KVOI – The Voice 1030AM on Tuesday 2/13 around 12:30 pm and on Morning Blend on KGUN Channel 9 on Friday sometime after 11:00 am



Sunday February 18. 2018


El Charro Cafe Downtown

Book Signing


Saturday, February 24, 2018


Mostly Books

6208 E Speedway Blvd, Tucson, AZ 85712


Friday March 2, 2018


Trail Dust Town

6541 E Tanque Verde Rd, Tucson, AZ 85715


Friday March 9, 2018


Antigone Books

411 N 4th Ave, Tucson, AZ 85705


Sunday March 11

Tucson Festival of Books

11:30 – Mini meet the author talk

2:00 book Signing and saleshistoriccover

SAACA Satisfies

Southern Arizona Arts and Cultural Alliance is one of my favorite non-profits in Tucson. Over the years they’ve developed a deep support of arts in all forms, including food.

This week is one of SAACA’s biggest fund raisers – Savor – Southern Arizona Food & Wine Festival, which this year includes three separate events.

Tonight at Monarch Premium Appliance site is Sweet Charity where folks can enjoy cakes, candies, pies, ice cream, cotton candy and much, much more (I think the chocolate/candies chile pepper pate sounds divine.) Confectioners from all over the area will be there as will local wineries and breweries. If you don’t know which wine pairs with lemon bars, here’s the place to find out. Monarch is located at 3850 N. Orange Grove Road. The event runs from 6pm-8pm. Contact SAACA for tickets.

Then on Thursday February 1st, SAACA teams with GUT (Gastronomic Union of Tucson) for a bit of New Orleans in Tucson, CARNIVAL.  The best chefs in Tucson will be collaborating and serving fabulous food from the world over. The following is just a small sample of what you’ll find. Cost is $45 and monies raised will support not just SAACA bur the Rialto Theater, where CARNIVAL is being held.

  • Dirty South Mudbug Rolls n’Gutzz
  • Smoked ‘gator boudin sausage with creole mustard
  • Green gumbo & grilled kale garlic rice
  • Brazilian Feijoada
  • Pao de Quiejo
  • Yuca Fries
  • Molho Rose
  • Smokey duck boudin balls with kumquat remoulade
  • BBQ shrimp & pork belly poboys with charred pickle slaw
  • Chicory, celery & chicken heart salad with crispy onions and buttermilk vinaigrette
  • Stuffed fresh water shrimp head with a Shrimp mousse
  • Corn flour tempura with Smoked chimichurri
  • Beef Roulade with charred green onion, pickled carrots, bacon, avocado and Serrano cream
  • Coconut flan, filo crisp and sous vide candied plantain topped with a coconut lace garnish.
  • Heritage Red Beans and Carolina Gold Rice and Pickled Pork
  • Alligator Gumbo, Cajun Trinity, and Tasso Ham
  • Fresh Beignet “Fosters” au Foie

Music will be a big part of the evening.

Then on Saturday is the big SAVOR where many of the same participants from the other events at Tucson Botanical Gardens. This is a can’t miss event. The Botanical Gardens are a Tucson treasure and all the food and wine here will be top notch. Tickets are $75. Contact SAACA to purchase tickets.