Pasco Kitchen & Lounge has rapidly risen to the top of my favorite places to eat in Tucson. It’s conveniently located right at University Boulevard and Euclid Avenue in Main Gate Square, at the edge of The University of Arizona campus. The food is delicious, the people-watching is excellent, and the cocktails are inspired.
Pasco is the work of Chef Ramiro Scavo, formerly of Market Restaurant Group. When I first heard about Scavo’s new restaurant venture, I was excited because I have been a longtime fan of Zona 78. Pasco has lived up to the anticipation, and now I love to suggest it as a place to go for a nice meal, a casual meal, or an after-work, happy hour drink spot.
My favorite way to enjoy Pasco is from one of the tables on the patio. The side patio borders the lovely Geronimo Square, but the front patio offers a great people-watching spot of passersby on the sidewalk and street. (Note: At the time of this writing, University Boulevard is currently under construction for the Tucson Modern Streetcar project, so right now, there’s a front row view of the progressing construction.) Inside, the atmosphere is warm, casual, and fun, enhanced with exposed brick and wood floors.
I went to Pasco on a recent Friday evening with a few girl friends, and was excited to discover the eatery had just expanded its menu. The new menu offered a new selection of vegetarian dishes. We also caught the tail end of happy hour (3 p.m. – 6 p.m., everyday) so I was able to get my favorite Pasco cocktail, the Patio Herb Collins, for only $4. It’s made with gin, muddled cucumber, sweet basil gum syrup, and freshly squeezed sweet and sour. I appreciate how light and refreshing it always is.
A few dishes are offered during happy hour for only $5 so we opted to get the T-town nachos and the fresh mozzarella and tomato pomodoro bruschetta.
You have the option of topping your nachos with free range chicken, pork, shredded beef, or organic vegetables. It’s served on a bed of tortilla chips from Anita Street Tortillas (a local tortilla shop in Tucson), melted oaxaca cheese, pico de gallo salsa, and beans. The best thing about these nachos is how not guilty I feel while eating them. As my friend Jenna put it, “They’re like healthy nachos!” She even found a couple carrot slices tucked underneath all the toppings.
The bruschetta is made up of a slice of toasted, bite-size bread, spread with a smear of pesto, topped with a slice of house-made mozzarella cheese, and fresh tomato wedges. It’s a delicious appetizer, but I wish the bruschetta serving was a tad bit larger (it’s three pieces with the happy hour portion). I also think the bread could have been a little crisper. However, the mozzarella and tomato are amazing. Fresh mozzarella is definitely one of the greater satisfactions in life.
I should note here that one of the best things about eating at Pasco is Chef Scavo’s commitment to serving the freshest food possible. The ingredients come from local farmers and other local food purveyors, and there’s an emphasis on organic ingredients, too.
I tried to go a little lighter in portion for my entree and chose the chicken taco, a pork taco, and a half-portion of the Farmers’ Market salad.
I always enjoy the Farmer’s Market salad at Pasco for its combination of greens and vegetables. They were fresh, and the squash in the salad is lightly sauteed before it’s tossed on top, which I prefer.
Each taco was stuffed full, and you always know you’ve received a well-filled taco when the restaurant serves it to
you on two taco-sized tortillas. A really nice touch of Pasco’s tacos is that the cheese is put down on the tortilla first, and it melts to the tortilla so there’s this gooey, melted cheese in every bite. I loved the chicken taco, but I can’t say the same for the pork taco. It was pieces of crisp pulled pork, but the pork really just ended up being kind of tough and chewy. It was unfortunate.
My friend Jenna had the Wildcat dawg with chili for her entree, and Danielle chose the pasta primavera, one of the new vegetarian additions to the menu. Both of them said their entrees were delicious.
Just so you know, the Wildcat dawg is Pasco’s take on the Sonoran hot dog. It’s topped with some crispy pork, pico de gallo, beans, and you can opt for it with or without chili. It’s a fork and knife, beast of a hot dog, but delicious in every bite. The chili adds a nice kick to it. The pasta primavera was a papparedelle pasta, with lots of fresh veggies, in a pesto sauce.
If you find yourself in Tucson, hanging out around The University of Arizona, definitely carve out some time to sit and enjoy a meal at Pasco Kitchen & Lounge. And, let me know so I can join you!