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Penca

4.3
4.3
70 Reviews
$30 and under
Mexican
Penca is a Mexican restaurant located inside an immaculately restored building from the 1920s. Much of the architecture and original wood was repurposed for the renovation of the restaurant giving the whole building a sense of history and nostalgia that is almost palpable. Penca perfectly blends old world Mexican charm with a modern sheen and a contemporary menu. Penca's menu focuses on the cuisine of central Mexico, which is a type of regional cuisine that is distinct from the rest of the country. This is best showcased through Penca's seafood, such as the griddle-seared fresh trout filets, served with a cilantro mint sauce, seared squash, spring onion, pickled nopales and Chamoy de Jamaica. Beyond the unique entrees, the bar also offers over 30 varieties of mezcal, a type of liquor that originated from deep in the heart of Mexico.

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Additional information

  • Dining style

    Casual Dining

  • Cuisines

    Mexican, Contemporary Mexican, Bar / Lounge / Bottle Service

  • Hours of operation

    Tuesday- Thursday : 11am- 10pm Friday: 11am- 11pm Saturday: 10am- 11pm Sunday: 10am- 8pm Happy Hour Tuesday- Saturday: 3pm- 5pm Saturday and Sunday Desayuno: 8am- 3pm

  • Phone number

    (520) 203-7681

  • Payment options

    AMEX, Discover, MasterCard, Visa

  • Dress code

    Casual Dress

  • Executive chef

    Marialine Bennen

  • Private party contact

    Marc Brenton Smith - General Manager: (520) 203-7681

  • Neighborhood

    Downtown Tucson

  • Cross street

    Scott Avenue

  • Parking details

    Downtown Parking information at http://tdot.tucsonaz.gov/park-tucson

  • Public transit

    Penca is located right on the SunLink streetcar route downtown. The closest stop is Broadway at Stone.

  • Additional

    Banquet, Bar Dining, Bar/Lounge, Beer, Counter Seating, Farm to Table, Full Bar, Gluten-free Options, Happy Hour, Late Night, Non-Smoking, Private Room, Takeout, Weekend Brunch, Wine

What 70 people are saying

Overall ratings and reviews

4.3
4.3 based on all time ratings
  • 4.3Food
  • 4.3Service
  • 4.4Ambience
  • 3.9Value

NoiseModerate

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Filters

  1. OT

    OpenTable Diner

    San Francisco

    1 review

    5.0

    1 review

    Dined on March 20, 2016

    overall5food5service5ambience5
    Amazing experience! I've never been happier with a restaurant and our family has never had a better time together over incredible food, coupled with fantastic service. By far, the best little gem in Tucson. Thank you, Penca!
  2. F

    Franklin

    Houston

    29 reviews

    vip
    4.0

    29 reviews

    Dined on March 20, 2016

    overall4food4service4ambience4
    Our party had a very enjoyable meal at Penca. The food was delicious, especially the homemade corn tortillas. Everything we tried was very tasty, and the sangria was different, but interesting and enjoyable. check it out.
  3. D

    Dapco

    Phoenix

    10 reviews

    5.0

    10 reviews

    Dined on March 19, 2016

    overall5food5service5ambience5
    Dinner was delicious. Service fantastic. What more could a patron want?
  4. OT

    OpenTable Diner

    Palm Springs

    3 reviews

    vip
    5.0

    3 reviews

    Dined on March 15, 2016

    overall5food5service5ambience5
    We spent too few days of our long driving trip in Tucson. Penca was a dining highlight. This place has a stellar menu, delicious food, really perfect atmosphere, and friendly service. Good, good, good place.
  5. F

    Foodie

    Phoenix

    55 reviews

    vip
    2.0

    55 reviews

    Dined on March 9, 2016

    overall2food1service1ambience4
    We have enjoyed Penca in the past and suggested we go there last Wednesday with another couple who had not been there. The Wednesday 3-course prix fixe was still advertised on the website, and we've enjoyed that dinner. Although we were seated at a delightfully cozy corner table in the back room and had a personable waitperson, we soon learned the chef has very recently moved on. There is no Wednesday prix fixe dinner. We rallied, and started with guacamole which was fine. Mixed lettuce salads were better than fine. The menu looked great, the problem was our main courses-- three of us had very overcooked, dried out fish (2 ordered grouper and the third, swordfish.) My husband ordered a meat entree and said it was quite poor. Service was also extremely slow (over 2 hours.) We hope the food can be improved to equal what it was under the former chef!
  6. A

    Abuelita

    Phoenix

    77 reviews

    vip
    5.0

    77 reviews

    Dined on February 28, 2016

    overall5food5service5ambience3
    We went back to Penca and once again an amazing dinner.
  7. MH

    MichaelH

    Phoenix

    2 reviews

    4.0

    2 reviews

    Dined on February 28, 2016

    overall4food4service4ambience4
    Excellent food, excellent service. Group of four were all happy with the experience. Definitely a sophisticated, adult venue.
  8. DE

    DonE

    Milwaukee

    6 reviews

    4.0

    6 reviews

    Dined on February 27, 2016

    overall4food4service3ambience4
    Good food, okay at best service and found reservation system questionable. Tried to increase reservation from two to three and they told us they couldn't do it, totally full. We sat in a room with several open tables all during dinner.
  9. MH

    MattH

    Tucson

    16 reviews

    3.0

    16 reviews

    Dined on February 25, 2016

    overall3food3service4ambience5
    Booked for Thurs night at 8:30. Place was crowded as a big party was anticipated in back room. Fairly short wait for drinks and 1st course. Very long wait for main meal. Overall food was just ok. Really liked the ambiance of the place just wish the food was better. Mushrooms accompanying fish dish were swimming in grease, sadly unedible!
  10. OT

    OpenTable Diner

    Phoenix

    1 review

    4.0

    1 review

    Dined on February 24, 2016

    overall4food4service3ambience3
    A nice change from the usual. BUT, for a restaurant that purports to represent such a rich cuisine, the menu is limited. The item I ordered, chile en nogada, was delicious. Drink menu targets younger crowd.
  11. JM

    JanMarie

    Philadelphia

    5 reviews

    4.0

    5 reviews

    Dined on February 23, 2016

    overall4food4service5ambience4
    Fun location with inventive Mexican fare. We were very happy with Penca.
  12. KB

    KathyB

    Phoenix

    5 reviews

    2.0

    5 reviews

    Dined on February 21, 2016

    overall2food1service2ambience2
    Wish I could say I enjoyed the food here. It was eclectic but not in a good way. Very uneven quality; bland, undercooked and overcooked. Cocktails were weird - overly complicated and strange tasting. Almost couldn't finish ours at all.
  13. s

    scootie1123

    Phoenix

    36 reviews

    vip
    2.0

    36 reviews

    Dined on February 21, 2016

    overall2food2service2ambience4
    Our group loved the ambiance of this place and we started with interesting handcrafted cocktails that were over iced and lacking of alcohol. And when you have to order three in order to feel them, there is a problem here. Our food, also disappointing, although the guacamole board was nice. I had a fish special, which was overcooked. Another diner had your special stuffed pepper with the pomegranate seeds atop it and she kept saying it tasted moldy and surmised it was the pomegranate seeds....once she scrapped them off, the moldy taste was almost gone. The tacos ordered were dry and pretty a small dish for an entree. Also an order of braised beef short ribs were very dry and not much sauce on them, which brings us to the hominy served with it....completely inedible as it was so dry and tasteless. Sorry to say I don't think we will be going back.
  14. FF

    FoodieFrank

    New York Area

    13 reviews

    5.0

    13 reviews

    Dined on February 20, 2016

    overall5food5service4ambience4
    Tacos at Penca are sublime. Some of the best tacos I have ever eaten. Excellent value.
  15. DT

    DebTwyla

    Tucson

    35 reviews

    vip
    3.0

    35 reviews

    Dined on February 20, 2016

    overall3food3service4ambience4
    Took family there for the Carne Asada which everyone wanted and they were out. How can you be out. Wish I know before hand so we could have gone some where else . Made my entire meal a dissapointment
  16. m

    mab19

    Phoenix

    102 reviews

    vip
    5.0

    102 reviews

    Dined on February 19, 2016

    overall5food5service5ambience4
    We've dined many times at Penca before attending Symphony or other events downtown. It continues to put out innovative food. I had Quesadillas that seemed more like Tacos, but who cares; it was great. My husband had Chile en Nogada--like one kind of Chile Rellenos; but who cares; it was also great. Parking is extremely difficult; our usual parking lot is becoming a tall building. Thanks Penca; we'll find our way to you.
  17. FF

    FoodieFrank

    New York Area

    13 reviews

    5.0

    13 reviews

    Dined on February 17, 2016

    overall5food5service5ambience4
    During a week-long stay in the Tucson area, we visited Penca twice. The first visit was so good, we had to return for another dinner. The guacamole board with its salsa accompaniment is an excellent appetizer; the habanero/citrus salsa will blow your head off, it is so zingy hot but tasty at the same time. The standard salsa is milder but just as mind-bogglingly good. The tacos are just unbelievably fantastic. We tried the Pescado tacos and the Guajolote (turkey) tacos; both were beyond exceptional and a great value (are these really $3.75 for lunch?). The Chile Relleno and Chile en Nogada entrees are really mouth-watering. The poblano chiles are fresh and full of flavor. The attention to food and cooking quality at Penca is quite high. I highly recommend this restaurant. Dress code for Penca ranges from date-night-dressy to collegiate-sneakers-and-UoA-sweatshirt. Decor is modern rustic. Foodies will not be disappointed.
  18. A

    Abuelita

    Phoenix

    77 reviews

    vip
    4.0

    77 reviews

    Dined on February 16, 2016

    overall4food5service4ambience4
    Very innovative menu, not the run of the mill. The chicharrones and churros were some of the best I have ever eaten, and I grew up eating them in Cuba. Fish of the day was excellent. Can't wait to go back.
  19. P

    Pickyeater

    Chicago

    17 reviews

    5.0

    17 reviews

    Dined on February 14, 2016

    overall5food5service4ambience4
    Penca exceeded all our expectations. The cocktails were delicious and unique, and the food was made with care and every bite was a revelation. The chefs had many good ideas, all executed brilliantly, with no missteps. Bravo!
  20. OT

    OpenTable Diner

    Treasure Coast

    18 reviews

    vip
    4.0

    18 reviews

    Dined on February 14, 2016

    overall4food4service4ambience4
    This was our second visit to this restaurant. I broke my long-time rule of not going out on Valentine's Day. I still wish I had not. Restaurants never seem to be as good on nights like this, when at other times they are great. Their food is so creative and interesting! Ditto with the cocktails. I will definitely dine there again, but just not on a holiday.
  21. DN

    DavidN

    San Diego

    21 reviews

    5.0

    21 reviews

    Dined on February 6, 2016

    overall5food5service5ambience4
    Although they were out of some entrees , drinks and food we ordered were excellent.
  22. G

    Garnish

    Phoenix

    2 reviews

    5.0

    2 reviews

    Dined on January 16, 2016

    overall5food5service5ambience4
    There were four adults in our group. The appetizers and main plates were beautifully presented and the food was excellent. We have eaten at many fine restaurants and I have to say Penca is fantastic. It was our first visit and it will not be our last. I wish I could remember the name of our server.....she was very, very good.
  23. P

    Precious

    Phoenix

    1 review

    4.0

    1 review

    Dined on January 16, 2016

    overall4food4service4ambience4
    I love this place! The food is amazing and the ambiance is great. Great date night spot.
  24. GM

    GeorgeM

    Phoenix

    5 reviews

    vip
    3.0

    5 reviews

    Dined on January 9, 2016

    overall3food2service4ambience4
    We have dined at Penca many times since it opened, enjoying it enough to bring friends and out of town guests. However, our dinner last Saturday was disappointing. Hopefully, the kitchen was just having a bad night, but with all the great food choices in Tucson, I'm not sure when we'll return to Penca. Another thing I found a bit odd is that Penca's web site does not offer a place for comments and feedback.
  25. f

    foodienorthwest

    Phoenix

    1 review

    3.0

    1 review

    Dined on January 6, 2016

    overall3food2service3ambience5
    The cocktails are way expensive for the quantity you get I had a margarita over the rocks in a small glass chock full of ice and three sips later, all gone! And that was not cheap! Wine pours are small, I had the Diablo for $11, very tasty and different but really $11, again full of ice, few sips and gone! Chicharrones are excellent I can eat these all day and night! The best! The taco shells are thick and like polenta, rather would have traditional taco shells or have a choice would have been a fresher taste with the veggie tacos with peppers that I had, I left most of the shell on the plate! The veggies sides were very small! I go for the SF like ambiance and the vibrant scene but disappointed on value, creative cocktails that are enticing but so overpriced!
  26. OT

    OpenTable Diner

    Phoenix

    1 review

    5.0

    1 review

    Dined on January 5, 2016

    overall5food5service5ambience5
    This is a very nice place. Dim lighting, good atmosphere, tasty food, interesting cocktails. Try the guacamole board.
  27. HK

    HKMH2015

    Phoenix

    1 review

    4.0

    1 review

    Dined on December 31, 2015

    overall4food5service3ambience5
    My fiancé and I had a pretty good experience here. This was my third time eating here and the food always amazes me. After we ordered our appetizer and dinner we waited pretty long for the appetizer to come out. It was a good 15-20 minutes before we got it. Once we got it we noticed that we had ordered pork on the quesadillas and there wasn't any on them. The server quickly made the correction. Our dinner was amazing. I ordered the chile regano, which was spectacular, but the green chiles were a bit too spicy this round. We also ordered the tres leche cake and that also very good. I highly recommend the items I ordered. I will be coming back soon to celebrate my birthday here! Can't wait!
  28. OT

    OpenTable Diner

    San Francisco

    3 reviews

    4.0

    3 reviews

    Dined on December 30, 2015

    overall4food5service4ambience5
    The food was excellent with surprising flavors
  29. H

    Hairstyle

    Phoenix

    4 reviews

    5.0

    4 reviews

    Dined on December 30, 2015

    overall5food5service5ambience5
    Our evening at Penca was perfect. Six friends getting together for drinks and dinner between Christmas and New Years. Fabulous food, great ambiance and friendly service. What more could you ask for.
  30. w

    waynet

    Phoenix

    2 reviews

    3.0

    2 reviews

    Dined on December 29, 2015

    overall3food1service3ambience4
    When they brought my dinner it was cold. So was the dinner my wife had although hers was not as cold. I asked the guy that delivered my food if the dish was supposed to be cold and he said no. I sent it back along with my wife's dinner. It was strange that no one noticed because the plate felt like is just came out of the fridge. I mean it was BAD. When they brought it back it was still cold. They didn't charge us for the food. We were disappointed because last time we were there the food was good. Very Good. Don't think we will return.
  31. OT

    OpenTable Diner

    Phoenix

    1 review

    5.0

    1 review

    Dined on December 15, 2015

    overall5food5service5ambience5
    Incredible. In our world filled with microwave restaurants, it's rare to happen upon an eatery that reminds you of our vividly sensorial relationship to food.
  32. CD

    CDP2017

    Palm Springs

    48 reviews

    vip
    4.0

    48 reviews

    Dined on December 9, 2015

    overall4food4service5ambience2
    As a person who doesn't like "traditional" Mexican, I love the fresh recipes and the lack of grease. The swordfish entree is delicious as are the tacos with fresh ingredients.
  33. OT

    OpenTable Diner

    Phoenix

    1 review

    1.0

    1 review

    Dined on November 29, 2015

    overall1food1service1ambience5
    This was one of my favorite places to be alone with my husband, I really don't know what happened this time but it was terrible, my food was cold and I asked the waitress if she could reheat it, she brought it back it was still cold food, I was very disappointed because I had other expectations I thought I was really going to enjoy my food, I skipped lunch to be very hungry and really enjoy, it was a nasty cold Chile en hogada! I will go back but if this happens again I will stick to poca cosa cafe!
  34. A

    Anniversary

    Phoenix

    1 review

    5.0

    1 review

    Dined on November 22, 2015

    overall5food5service4ambience5
    We spent the afternoon at the Tuscon Art Museum and then to Penca for dinner. The service was excellent and our meals arrived in timely manner. The presentation was good and the food outstanding. We will do this the next time we are in Tucson for a special occasion.
  35. J

    Jojo

    Tucson

    9 reviews

    5.0

    9 reviews

    Dined on November 22, 2015

    overall5food5service5ambience5
    A good place to visit for a change from the usual Mexican food available here. Brunch is great- good portions- you won't be hungry until dinner time. Reasonably priced with lots of drink options. I really love the desserts here also- leave room!
  36. OT

    OpenTable Diner

    Phoenix

    1 review

    5.0

    1 review

    Dined on November 21, 2015

    overall5food5service4ambience5
    One of my friends suggested this place. I didn't even know it existed! I took my friend for a Birthday dinner. It was a nice place to sit and chat. The food was delicious! I can't wait to go again!
  37. S

    Sand

    San Francisco

    6 reviews

    3.0

    6 reviews

    Dined on November 17, 2015

    overall3food5service3ambience3
    Food is first rate. At night the menu is a challenge to read--dark dark room with limited candle light. Seating is tight. Friends were meeting us but were told we hadn't arrived when we had. Eventually we solved the problem. This restaurant could be absolutely tops because the food is creative and very tasty. First, however, management needs to address issues that limit comfort.
  38. TD

    TheDesertPup

    Tucson

    9 reviews

    4.0

    9 reviews

    Dined on November 15, 2015

    overall4food4service4ambience5
    Penca was so much fun, and the location on Broadway is only 100 feet from the new trolley stop, which makes getting there a joy. The ambiance is outstanding, as the building is a 1920 historic treasure that has been updated, but is authentic rustic decor inside. Food at Penca is rather unusual, and is not the typical Americanized-Mexican, with overly cheesy glop on a plate. Penca is different; more urban, less Sonoran. Unique presentations. Get small dishes - jump around the menu. As far as tequila, and margaritas, this gets somewhat difficult, as we quickly learned that Penca does not carry any of the normal very upscale tequilas. The selection is all high-end "artisanal", which means that you have most likely never heard of any of these brands, even though you drink tequila on a semi-regular basis. It gets complicated, and our first server was clueless. We lucked out, as the bar manager took over our evening and made it happen 100% better! No server should be thrown to the wolves without knowing a lot about Penca's tequila offerings. We will definitely return to Penca, but will either eat at the bar, so that the high-priced tequila selections are properly explained & served, or we will insist that the server be well-informed. I don't jump blindly into $15 dollar bar margaritas x 4 people x 3 each. Your bar bill could end up way over $150, which is beyond absurd. Overall, other than a very rough start, our little party of 4 loved Penca - so best wishes for their continuing success downtown - Penca is a GEM!!
  39. CM

    CeilM

    Phoenix

    5 reviews

    4.0

    5 reviews

    Dined on November 12, 2015

    overall4food4service1ambience3
    Enjoyed the food very much but our server was completely inattentive and incompetent. Think the manager noticed - hope so any way.
  40. G

    Gayle51

    New England

    2 reviews

    5.0

    2 reviews

    Dined on November 10, 2015

    overall5food5service5ambience5
    Love the rustic industrial vibe. Concrete bar, interesting lighting. A great place to take out of town guests, or to get a bite and beverage prior to a downtown event. We love the tacos and special chile rellenos. Tequila is a specialty. Service excellent.

FAQs

Penca offers takeout which you can order by calling the restaurant at (520) 203-7681.

Penca is rated 4.3 stars by 70 OpenTable diners.

Not available on OpenTable

Unfortunately, this restaurant is not on the OpenTable reservation network.

If you like, we'll notify you by email if this restaurant joins.


Is this your restaurant?
Claim this listing

Additional information

  • Cross street

    Scott Avenue

  • Neighborhood

    Downtown Tucson

  • Hours of operation

    Tuesday- Thursday : 11am- 10pm Friday: 11am- 11pm Saturday: 10am- 11pm Sunday: 10am- 8pm Happy Hour Tuesday- Saturday: 3pm- 5pm Saturday and Sunday Desayuno: 8am- 3pm

  • Cuisines

    Mexican, Contemporary Mexican, Bar / Lounge / Bottle Service

  • Dining style

    Casual Dining

  • Dress code

    Casual Dress

  • Parking details

    Downtown Parking information at http://tdot.tucsonaz.gov/park-tucson

  • Public transit

    Penca is located right on the SunLink streetcar route downtown. The closest stop is Broadway at Stone.

  • Payment options

    AMEX, Discover, MasterCard, Visa

  • Executive chef

    Marialine Bennen

  • Additional

    Banquet, Bar Dining, Bar/Lounge, Beer, Counter Seating, Farm to Table, Full Bar, Gluten-free Options, Happy Hour, Late Night, Non-Smoking, Private Room, Takeout, Weekend Brunch, Wine

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