STAFF PICK: Part of a million-dollar renovation scheme, The Ranch House Grill is the dining component of La Tierra Resort, a charming collection of casitas and Old West attractions in the Tucson Mountains. With Saguaro National Park West forming one of its borders, there's no threat of any grotesque developmental scheme spoiling the beautiful desert backdrop of this restive dude ranch. The Grill resides in the main house, part of an original home with walls and a fireplace fashioned from stones quarried from the area, and lovely hardwood floors. The atmosphere is Western casual (jeans and a button shirt would put you right in style) and the food is a wonderful celebration of grilled fish and meats, as well as a smattering of classic Mexican dishes. A seared cabrilla fillet with fresh tomato salsa catapulted us into a grateful reverie of Mexican vacations one night, while a rib-eye steak with cheese, green chiles and beans inspired dreams of the open plains. Homemade desserts, often using Arizona ingredients like pecans or citrus, conclude each meal in delicious style. Specialty margaritas offering a variety of tequilas, orange liqueurs and fruit juices make pre-meal cocktails a surprising joy. The emphasis is on attracting families, and hayride events and economical dinner specials have happily corralled as many local as out-of-town visitors in the Ranch House's first year of operation.
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