Such Surprises at MSA Annex!


I’ve lived in Tucson, AZ for over 3 years, but I only recently came across the MSA Annex — MSA standing for Mercado San Agustín. One of my close friends recommended this place to me so I brought Merrick, my girlfriend, on a date there. We loved the variety of vendors and venues it offers. We loved the vibe of this thriving center of culture and community with 14 small businesses — mostly female-owned — and restaurants along with a 500-seat event area. MSA frequently hosts mini-parties and other events that help support local businesses.

The one feature that sets MSA Annex apart from other Tucson hot spots are the elegantly restored shipping containers that house the stores and restaurants. The containers are very modernist in nature and were created by Paul Weiner, an architect in Tucson. At night, the whole place is lit up with lights and creates an aesthetic that feels like being on the scene of a movie.

 When my girlfriend and I arrived we heard a DJ that was provided by MSA Annex, who played pop songs from the early 2000s, number one hits from today, and I heard a couple of backstreet boy songs that got people from every age group on their feet and in the mood to dance. People were laughing, eating, and just having a good time. 

We came across the three lovely restaurant options that they provide here: Decibel Coffee Works, Kukiai, which serves Japanese food, and Beaut Burger whose menu is made up of entirely vegan options. Other shops include MESA, Fletcher & Co., Transit Cycles, Petroglyphs, Bloom Maven, Underestimated City, Stuff and Things, and Why I Love Where I Live. You can find out more about these and other vendors at this website here.

An interesting shop I recommend is The Underestimated City. It’s more than simply a clothing brand; it’s a movement to reflect the way of life and culture of a place that is all too frequently overlooked. 

Also, Why I Love Where I Live aims to encourage a love for one’s hometown that manifests in its beauty and active participation. Also, Annex offered many places that had alcoholic drink options, for those over 21 years of age, with signature drinks for the events and drinks from the restaurants that they have on the menu. This included Spaghetti club and Westbound bar, the sister of Tap & Bottle, a beer store in Tucson. 

Because there were so many delicious alternatives, we took our time choosing what to eat. In the end, we decided on Beaut Burger, a 100% vegan restaurant because we never actually tried a full plant-based meal before- So we gave it a shot. For all you meat lovers out there, don’t run away from this place! I’m a total carnivore and was pleasantly surprised by how satisfying these burgers made of grains, beans, veggies, walnuts, and spices were. 

The B2 — which is Beaut’s version of the all-American classic hamburger topped with cheddar cheese, ketchup, mustard, lettuce, onion, and pickles — is a popular item on the menu. The one I got when was B5– zhoug (jalapeño pesto), ranch, cucumber, and lettuce. If you like a little spice with your burger, then this option is for you!

A surprise encounter on the “Day of the Dead”

The day Merrick and I went there, MSA was having an “All Souls Procession and Ceremony” a celebration of the holiday known as Day of the Dead. We stayed that night, both excited by being able to participate in a largely Mexican tradition. The MSA was the site of a street carnival where several merchants offered face painting, traditional attire, and jewelry, as well as some delectable food and desserts. To show respect and observe the day of the dead, there was even a stage with gigantic displays on which were placed photographs of departed family members. It was uplifting to see so many people come together for “Dia De Los Muertos” at MSA.

Since I was born and raised in New York City, I have had the opportunity to interact with people from many different cultures and attend events like this one. Seeing this made me feel at home and made me grateful that individuals like me may experience this wherever in the world.

Merrick enjoyed this surprise encounter very much because her mother grew up in Mexico and they both would participate in this cultural festivity. She told me that her mother would make sugar skulls on “Dia de Los Muertos.” Coming to this event reminded her of these fun memories with her mother. To join the other celebrants at the event, Merrick also took part in having her face painted as a colorful skull.

Our take on MSA Annex

MSA Annex is a fantastic location to visit if you have the chance. You’ll have a blast there, try new things like vegan food, or just enjoy lunch and a little bit of shopping. Although the arrangement of all the old shipping containers may not seem to be the cleanest or prettiest, it is actually quite the contrary when you see it in person. It’s amazing to see how expertly something like a cargo container can be constructed into something miraculous.


Shady Abdel Hafez is a third-year student at the University of Arizona. He has been attending UofA since 2020 and studies Criminal Justice.