Colored Stones / Designers / Industry / Shows

Where to Eat, Drink and Play During the 2024 Tucson Gem Shows


After a long day of gem-hunting, most showgoers appreciate a potent drink and a tasty meal. Those of you bound for Tucson for next month’s slate of gem fairs are in for a treat. The City of Gastronomy is blessed with a combination of trusted favorites and up-and-coming culinary hot spots, ensuring you never have to have the same meal twice (unless you want to!).

When we’re on the hunt for something new in town, we always refer to the latest articles on Eater and Time Out, both of which recommend a slew of sandwich, taco, and breakfast joints not too far from the convention center, the nexus of gem week.

Here at JCK, we’re partial to a few restaurants (Agustin Kitchen for its eclectic fare and open-air market location, Tito & Pep for its scrumptious queso fundido, and El Minuto Café for old times’ sake!). But we know plenty of Tucson old-schoolers who have their own obscure and not-so-obscure faves. Check them out below and leave your own recommendations in the comments!

Places to Eat and Drink

“New discovery last year: Coronet Restaurant! Very cute, good food, woman-owned and across from the Doubletree! (A little afraid to give recommendation so that we can still get in!)”
Monica Stephenson, founder of Anza Gems

“The Tucson farmers market at Rillito Park! Great place to stock up on local farm-fresh goods for the booth (citrus is in season!).”
David Nassi, co-owner of 100% Natural Ltd.

Cup Cafe photo by Jeaninne Kaufer
The patio at Cup Cafe (photo by Jeaninne Kaufer)

“Bata/Maynards/Cup Café. Bata, we found by accident last year when our reservation at Maynards was canceled because the staff all had Covid. Bata is a newish restaurant, mainly small plates, all gorgeous, and they were happy to make no-gluten options! Maynards is centrally located, lovely, small, full-service dinner menu popular with designers during the gem show but if you haven’t booked yet, you’re probably out of luck. We’re going to try to grab a spot at the bar. The Cup Café is perfect for a great breakfast and pretty good dinner. It’s located in the historic Congress Hotel. It’s lively, crowded, and fun!”
Margery Hirschey, designer

Maynards photo by Travis Jensen
Maynards (photo by Travis Jensen)

Exo Roast Co. located on Simpson Street becomes Crisol Bar at 5 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday. A coffee shop that turns into a tequila bar!”
Lauren Harwell Godfrey, designer

“I love Cartel coffee located at 210 E. Broadway Blvd.”
Lizzie Mandler, designer

“Of course we are excited to get to Tucson, reconnect with colleagues and friends, see what’s new and trending, and, hopefully, do some business! But, if I’m being totally honest, this food lover can’t wait to get back to some of our favorite eateries.

“We never ever ever miss a visit to the least glamorous spot in town, The Little One. The kindest humans running the place are the icing on top of the best chile relleno. And while they are only open for breakfast and lunch, we’ve been known to stock up on take-out and continue enjoying after long trade show days!

“Next up is Maynards. I know it’s a favorite among many, being part of the infamous Hotel Congress. But the food is to die for, and the ambience is cozy and comfortable. They offer next level comfort food and if you miss the focaccia, well then, you’re just missing out on one of life’s magical indulgences.”
Kelle Phoundoulakis, founder and designer of Gold and Smoke

Maynards food photo by Travis Jensen
A meal at Maynards (photo by Travis Jensen)
Places to Visit

“Since the opening of the University of Arizona Alfie Norville Gem & Mineral Museum, it’s become a can’t-miss opportunity. From the gems to the minerals and the extraordinary jewelry it really is a place that everyone enjoys, if it’s your first time or third!”
Erica Silverglide, founder of GemologyGeek

“The Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum is a revelation. Go for the remarkable sightings of plant and wildlife species (don’t miss the prairie dog village—it looks like a real-life version of whack-a-mole) and stay for the serene vibe, the perfect antidote to the hustle and bustle of gem week.”
Victoria Gomelsky, editor-in-chief, JCK and

Top: Tucson mural (photo by Victoria Gomelsky)

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By: Victoria Gomelsky

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