Shopping Beyond an International Aisle

Discover the top diverse grocery stores in Tucson

By Mekayla Phan

Whether you want to step out of your culinary comfort zone or are looking to find your favorite speciality ingredient, Tucson has a number of ethnic grocery stores that cater to all of our culturally diverse communities. Discover some of the top recommended markets to experience flavors from across the globe, right here in our City of Gastronomy.

African

Nur Market & Restaurant ($$)

Founded by three refugee brothers from Mogadishu, Somalia, the Osman family has been providing the Tucson community a taste of their home country for more than a decade.

At Nur Market & Restaurant, you can find your fix of East African, Middle Eastern, and Eastern European foods with the many varieties of spices, teas, flour, nuts, lentils, and canned goods lining the shelves. The restaurant side of the store specializes in Somali dishes, featuring delicious options such as goat curry, beef and chicken shawarma, and sambusas. 

COVID-19 Policies: Face masks required in store. Dine-in currently unavailable, take-out only. 

Location: 3565 E Speedway Blvd #171, Tucson, AZ 85716

Hours: Monday–Saturday from 9 a.m.–7 p.m.; Sunday from 10 a.m.–7 p.m.

Ada Imports ($)

Ada Imports is a hidden treasure trove for affordable West African and Caribbean groceries. Find all the goodies you’re looking for at this one-stop shop for seafood, flour, fruits, canned and dried goods, and household items such as soaps, decorative food storage boxes, and traditional clothing materials. 

Their friendly service includes the option to request for items to be imported if it is possible. 

COVID-19 Policies: Face masks required in store.

Location: 4223 E Grant Rd, Tucson, AZ 85712

Hours: Daily 12 p.m.–5 p.m.

Asian  

Lee Lee International Supermarket ($$)

Housing thousands of imports from more than 30 countries around the world, Lee Lee International Supermarket is far from your standard Asian corner store market. Celebrating 25 years as the largest diverse grocery chain in Tucson, Lee Lee’s is the best place to experience all kinds of authentic foods and flavors along with fresh produce, live seafood, and butcher meats. The store also offers specialty household items, a selection of imported alcoholic beverages, and Chinese medicines. 

Located inside is Nan Tian BBQ, which serves Chinese barbecue plates such as Peking duck and roasted pork. 

COVID-19 Policies: Face masks required in store. 

Location: 1990 W Orange Grove Rd, Tucson, AZ 85704

Hours: Daily 9 a.m.–8 p.m. (Nan Tian BBQ is open 10 a.m.–7:30 p.m.)

Grantstone Supermarket ($)

More centrally located than Lee Lee’s, Grantstone Supermarket is a convenient alternative to check out for a well-stocked selection of Asian groceries. While you may want to double-check the expiration dates on certain packages, Granstone has an abundant selection of produce, sauces, spices, snacks, and canned and packaged goods boasting some of the most budget-friendly prices in town. In addition, they also sell household items like cookwares and herbal Chinese medicines. 

COVID-19 Policies: Face masks required in store.

Location: 8 W Grant Rd, Tucson, AZ 85705

Hours: Daily 9 a.m.–7 p.m.

India Dukaan ($)

Treat yourself to a flavorful and authentic home-cooked meal by shopping here for all your Indian staples. Here you’ll find spices, grains, lentils, and fresh produce available from Wednesday through Saturday. India Dukaan is a friendly, approachable mom-and-pop shop run by Sukanya Bhat, who loves to chat and help anyone navigate Indian cuisine for the first time. 

The store also serves as a center for Tucson’s Indian community and provides resources for eating and living healthily. 

COVID-19 Policies: Face masks are required in store.

Location: 2754 N Campbell Ave, Tucson, AZ 85719

Hours: Daily 11 a.m.–6 p.m.

India Food & Gifts ($$)

India Food & Gifts is a well-stocked shop with a variety of spices and seasonings, fresh curry leaves, frozen foods, teas, and specialty household items such as nag champa incenses and oils. The store also has an Indian video rental service, and only two doors down is the beloved Sher-e-Punjab restaurant to satisfy more of your Indian food cravings. 

COVID Policies: Face masks are required in store.

Location: 863 E Grant Rd, Tucson, AZ 85719

Hours: Tuesday–Saturday from 11:30 a.m.–8:30 p.m.; Sunday from 12 p.m.–8:30 p.m.; Closed on Mondays

European 

European Market & Deli ($$)

Indulge in all that the European Market & Deli has to offer in their impressive selection of deli meats and cheeses, smoked and dried fish, pickled vegetables, jams, pastries, and imported liquor. Specializing in Russian and East European delights, the market’s delicatessen features mouthwatering cabbage rolls, borscht, pierogi, and Greek gyros that are advertised to be the best in Tucson. 

The store also curates unique gift baskets for special occasions with their imported goods, made-to-order and ready to celebrate. 

COVID Policies: Face masks required in store. Take-out and delivery available only from the deli. 

Location: 4500 E Speedway Blvd Suite 36, Tucson, AZ 85712

Hours: Monday–Saturday from 9 a.m.–8 p.m.; closed on Sundays.

Roma Imports ($$)

Be transported to Italy through the bright red door of Roma Imports, and shop around for some of the finest quality Italian food and ingredients in town. From cured meats and cheeses to dry pastas and frozen meals to stock up on, as well as coffee and sweets to fall in love with, Roma Imports has plenty of options to feed your Italian appetite. 

Visit also for the many take-and-bake meals, hot and cold sandwiches, and the tasty antipasti in the deli case. 

COVID Policies: Face masks required in store.

Location: 627 S Vine Ave, Tucson, AZ 85719

Hours: Monday–Saturday from 10 a.m.–5 p.m.; closed on Sundays   

Mexican

Cardenas ($$)

One of the leading Hispanic grocery giants in Tucson, Cardenas has fresh produce, butcher’s meats, seafood, cheeses, baked goods, and good-eats galore. Following their motto to “Keep Life Flavorful,” the kitchen—aka La Cocina—serves up fresh tortillas, salsas and ceviches, tamales, and other ready-made or make-your-own meals that you don’t want to miss. 

In addition, stop by to quench your thirst in the juice bar, or share a piece of warm aromatic breads and pastries in the bakery. 

COVID-19 Policies: Face masks required in store.

Location: 902 W Irvington Rd, Tucson, AZ 85714

Hours: Daily 7 a.m.–9 p.m.

El Herradero Supermarket ($)

While Tucson is home to plenty of Mexican markets and carnicerías, El Herradero especially finds its way into the hearts of many by providing the community their muy delicioso selection of hot foods, quality cuts of meats, and their addictingly sweet pan dulce. It’s also hard to resist the tempting aroma of carne asada grilling outside the store in the parking lots on the weekends. 

COVID-19 Policies: Face masks required in store. 

Location: 1310 W Prince Rd, Tucson, AZ 85705

Hours: Daily 6 a.m.–9 p.m.

Middle Eastern 

Babylon Market ($)

Explore a vast range of Middle Eastern, Northern African, Eastern European, and Indian products at the Babylon Market. The market carries varieties of halal meats, rice, herbs, spices, teas, canned and dried goods, nuts, cheeses, and other delicacies, as well as household items like cookware and hookah and tobacco accessories.

The market’s restaurant is also a great place to grab a falafel sandwich, salads or shawarmas on the go. 

COVID-19 Policies: Face masks are required in store.

Location: 3954 E Speedway Blvd, Tucson, AZ 85712

Hours: Daily 8:30 a.m.–9 p.m.

Gamar Family Market ($$)

A new Middle Eastern grocery on the block, Gamar Family Market provides an assortment of herbs and spices, canned and dried goods, Halal meats, curry sauces, coffees and candies. The recently established takeout counter serves traditional Mediterranean cuisines and rolled ice cream, similar to the owner’s previous Wrap N’ Roll restaurant on the University of Arizona campus. The market offers a call-in order option and is currently preparing for online ordering. 

COVID-19 Policies: Face masks required in store. 

Location: 1800 E Fort Lowell Rd #128, Tucson, AZ 85719

Hours: Daily 9 a.m.–6 p.m.

Looking to eat out instead? Visit the Dining Guide for more good eats.

Meet the Muralist: Ignacio Garcia

By Mekayla Phan

Ignacio Garcia always heard he was going to be an artist. While cultivating his talent in drawing Spiderman during his preschool years, he started to believe that he was going to be an artist as well.

“I wasn’t a show-off. It was a natural curiosity,” Garcia said. “I just loved it. Whenever I saw something, I wanted to paint it. I remember seeing the Mona Lisa or something iconic, and saying, ‘I want to paint that.’ That’s how I started—by seeing something I liked and wanting it for myself.”

Now, having been a Tucson street muralist for 17 years, the Benson native is proud to have created some of the most interesting paintings throughout Arizona, such as his mural of basketball announcer Bill Walton riding a jackalope adorning the east wall of the Rialto Theatre

The piece is undoubtedly one of his favorites, but there are still so many ideas that he hopes to paint.

If he can get his hands on the City Court building walls, he would love to create a desert scene depicting all things Tucson. A few years ago, Garcia contacted former Mayor Jonathan Rothschild with his proposal, and though backed with support, the plan fell through in the midst of the planning stages. 

“I do really want that building, because it’s right in the middle of downtown and that would be a great destination [for tourists] to take pictures if they are visiting Tucson. It could be a landmark,” Garcia said. 

Recently, Garcia was hired by the Biden campaign to paint a mural for Latino voters. 

“To have D.C. calling me and know that they trust my work, I was very honored,” Garcia said. “I think that’s one of my highest points. Now that people finally know about it, the impact I want to and can provide … I’m also just honored to know, after all these years, it actually finally showed through.” 

His ongoing series Iggi Pop, displayed in the windows of CATALYST Arts & Maker Space at Tucson Mall, is a fun collection he also fancies. Riddled with pop culture references and graffiti-style art, the series is influenced by his experiences in living in Los Angeles. 

“There’s a story behind each one of them,” Garcia said. “It’s an illusion to think that, ‘Oh, it’s just a fun piece,’ but they all are actually serious pieces, well put together.”

Like a rabbit hole full of mysteries, Garcia likes to add depth to each and every single piece he does. Currently, he is challenging himself on his new Sonoran Street collection that showcases border culture. Mixing paint, denim, rust, and Mexican candies on the canvas — it is an adventure for him to portray traditional Sonoran art more abstractly. 

“My next [project] that I'm most looking forward to is to try getting an exhibition going,” Garcia said. “I already am receiving calls about it. It’s a lot of pressure, but ...I don’t want to force it, the work has to really speak for itself.” 

There is still a long way to go for an exhibition to take place due to the current state of the pandemic. However, Garcia remains hopeful and continues to drop in to CATALYST to paint when he’s not commissioned for murals. 

“Art is a part of our lives. When you take it away from born or built-to-be artists, we will be imprisoned,” Garcia said. “But once I’m locked in, it’s like ‘boom, boom, boom, boom.’ And that’s when the excitement and the creativity will come in.” 

In addition to seeing Garcia’s art at the CATALYST Arts & Maker Space or on Tucson street art tours, fans can follow his work on Instagram, @ignacio_garcia_art

To learn more about another celebrated muralist in Tucson, read about Joe Pagac.