Why sit in one place all night when there is so much to savor?
| By Louie Christensen
You can find plenty of restaurants scattered across the Southwest that will wow you, from Phoenix’s award-winning Tarbell’s to Santa Fe’s fabulous Pantry Restaurant. But there are very few cities in the western sprawl where foodies can walk from one jaw-dropping experience to the next with relative ease. Fortunately, a beacon of light beckons you to Southern Arizona.
Validated by becoming the first city in the United States to receive UNESCO’s Capital of Gastronomy designation and bragged on by the likes of National Geographic, The New York Times, and TripAdvisor, Tucson’s food scene is finally getting the attention it deserves. Like any other city, there are fantastic restaurants worth visiting scattered across its entire metropolitan sprawl, but it’s Tucson’s downtown that sets it apart.
Located within a very small circle in downtown Tucson (we’ll keep it within a third of a mile to make it fair to other Southwestern cities) exists a true Moveable Feast. You can jaunt from one spot to the next, grabbing an appetizer here and a drink there, experiencing wildly different culinary expressions at each place without ever breaking a sweat or passing a national chain.
Now, there are plenty of other haunts along the famous Historic Fourth Avenue, and dozens of new spots in downtown worth visiting within this circle, so it can be overwhelming for a first-time visitor. Here are a few tried-and-true journeys worthy of a date, double date, or a friend’s night out to get you started.
El Tour De Br’ucson
While many cities’ craft beer scenes are just budding, Tucson’s has fully blossomed. There are plenty of fantastic spots to grab a pint in downtown, like Tap & Bottle and Reilly’s Beer Garden, but this journey starts at local spots that brew their own beers.
Crooked Tooth Brewing: Order a few samplers or a flight.
Borderlands Brewing: Because where else will you find Horchata Cream Ale?
Ten55 Brewing: You are here for the plate of Belgian Fries…and a beer if you’d like.
Iron John’s: Geisha, Chico, Nardo, Ricco…you pick.
Pueblo Vida: If you like to start with dessert first, try the Sea Salt Dark Chocolate Stout.
Wine & Dine
Tucson may be known for its Mexican food, but that’s not all the city excels in. On this path you’ll want to put down the tequila and limes, and pick up your wine glass. From the quaint space at Revel to the Sommelier-led service at Maynards, get ready to clink some glasses.
Revel: Order a glass of wine from their ever-rotating list.
The Coronet: Sit down for a nice dinner, and a glass of wine of course.
Maynards: Take it slow on the patio with a glass of wine and an order of Poutine.
HUB Ice cream: Because why wouldn’t you end with ice cream?
Like a Big Pizza Pie
If you haven’t noticed, pizza has gone through a renaissance. Gone are the days of elastic cheese stretching across the pages of Ninja Turtles comics. We have restored order with the classic Neapolitan style. Think burnt bubbles, artisanal toppings, and celebrity pizza chefs. Take this journey to experience the best pizza in downtown.
Anello: Try the Special Pizza of the Day if it sounds like it’s up your alley, but the Margherita is always a fantastic choice.
Reilly’s Pizza: The Chefs Choice is always interesting, but it’s up to you!
Empire Pizza: Just in case you were still hungry, grab a slice of NY style pizza.
Screamery: Because why wouldn’t you end the night with ice cream?
Pour Me a Drink, Barkeep
A town like Tucson, which hid the likes of John Dillinger, has a few legitimate speakeasies. And by legitimate we mean illegal. But, don’t worry, this journey will give you that hideaway experience without the fear of the place getting raided and shut down around you.
Owl Club: Yes, this is for real…$6 Manhattans.
Scott & Co: Take your pick from their rotating craft cocktail list.
Tough Luck Club: Head downstairs and let the bartender make you something off the cuff.
When in Rome…
…do as the Romans do. In Tucson that means eating Mexican food. Admittedly, much of the Best 23 Miles of Mexican Food falls outside the downtown area. But, there are some real gems scattered throughout the Moveable Feast circle you won’t want to miss.
Street Tacos & Beer Co: Get warmed up with tacos and beer…margaritas await!
Penca: Take your pick from the fantastic margarita list.
Charro Steak: Pull up a seat at the bar—there’s a high quality tequila calling your name.
Boca Taco’s: End the night with the city’s most creative taco experience…and maybe grab one last drink.
Your “Totally Not Hipster” Bar Scene
This journey is for people who knew all the best spots in town way before everyone else did. While you roll your eyes when anyone calls you a hipster, you won’t be able to help but fall in love with these spots. From the quirky Royal Room to Tiger’s Tavern—the epitome of cool-without-trying-to-be-cool spots.
Royal Room: Pick from their crafted cocktail list or snag a glass of wine or beer.
Exo Bar: Let the bartender make you something special.
R Bar: Find the drink that’s calling your name and enjoy the ambiance.
Tiger’s Tavernat Club Congress: No need to be fancy, grab your PBR and head for the patio.
A Taste of the East
Why wouldn’t you want to fill your night with some of the best food in the world? This journey takes you through the Far East, and drops you out the other side a changed person. Enjoy!
Miss Saigon: You’re here for an appetizer and a chilled Vietnamese beer.
Senai Thai: The entrees at this place will knock your socks off.
MiAn: Order the sushi roll that catches your eye and a sake to prepare yourself for what’s coming next.
OBON: Time for sake bombs and sushi or Ramen if you’re still hungry.