Rincon Market is located at 2513 E. Sixth Street in Tucson. For more information, call 520-327-6653 or visit www.rinconmarket.com.
© Tim Fuller
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Market DifferenceThere are all kinds of markets — supermarkets, farmers' markets, flea markets — but there's only one Rincon Market, which is a great place to catch lunch with friends, pick up ingredients for dinner or take a Zumba class in the back room.
By Nora Burba Trulsson
tucson It's lunchtime, and a pair of University of Arizona music students are well into a Bach cello sonata. Nearby, men of a certain age lounge on leather armchairs, sipping coffee, hashing out politics, while two young women fill a shopping basket with apples and lemons. Across the room, a line forms by the grill as customers patiently wait for their orders of Kobe beef burgers and sesame ahi tuna.
Welcome to Tucson's Rincon Market, a quirky mashup that's part deli, part local living room and part vintage grocery store, an institution in the Sam Hughes neighborhood. It's a place where you can catch lunch with friends, pick up ingredients for dinner or even cha-cha through the occasional Zumba classes held in a back room.
Jack Uvodich Sr. founded the market in 1926 next to UA's campus. In 1967, his son moved Rincon Market to its present location, a 1940s-era brick-and-tile shopping center on Sixth Street designed by noted Tucson architect Merritt H. Starkweather. The next owners, the Ciseks, added the deli service and cultivated its neighborhood-hangout status. Present owners Ron and Kelly Abbott bought the market in 2007 and knew enough not to mess with a good thing.
"I used to eat lunch here when I was in high school," says Ron, whose family has been in Tucson since 1910. "Kelly and I like history, and we knew we'd be in trouble if we changed too much."
While the market's old-fashioned setting is charming, it's the food that draws crowds for breakfast, lunch and early dinner. The menu? Eclectic comfort food, the kind your grandma might have made if she had been Italian, Polish, Greek, Middle Eastern, Jewish, a vegan and cool. The abundant salad bar brims with fresh produce, not to mention hummus, dolmades and crab salad. Daily hot entrées include cabbage rolls, spaghetti and meatballs made by Ron's 77-year-old mother-in-law, and meatloaf, while homemade soups include a signature vegan cabbage soup. Order a sandwich, such as a bagel lavished with lox or a hefty Reuben, and you might not be able to finish it. Weekends, locals start their days with the market's Belgian waffles and made-to-order omelets.
The pastry case glistens with cupcakes, cookies, brownies and more. There's even a selection of vegan and gluten-free goodies. "I'm trying to work in a few more vegan, vegetarian and organic options," says Ron conspiratorially, not wanting to rock the Rincon Market boat too much.
Want more old-school comfort foods? The market offers WondeRoast spit-roasted chicken, as well as scoops of Thrifty ice cream.
After you eat your way through the menu, shop for produce and wine, step up to the butcher's counter for local grass-fed filet mignon, or chat with the market's fishmonger, who flies in everything fresh, from arctic char to sea bass.
Then there's Rincon Market's hangout factor. The Abbotts encourage local musicians to try new material during lunch or dinner. You'll see people sitting at tables doing homework, reading or working on laptops. "We have people who eat all their meals here, every day," Ron says. "Some sit here all day. That's just the way the Rincon Market is."