(Credit: The Shelter Cocktail Lounge on Facebook)
Coffee may be a standard for a Tinder date, but sometimes you want to have fun over a bite or something boozy instead. That’s where it gets complicated.
You don’t want to go somewhere too nice, because it looks like you’re trying too hard. On the other end, the fluorescent lights at hole-in-the-wall joints don’t lend enough to the mood. Yet anywhere too intimate or romantic isn’t appropriate for a first date.
Price point also matters. Nobody wants to get stuck with the bill, so it’s best to go easy on the spending on the first date. It’s also important that the restaurant is affordable enough outside of happy hour.
Dietary restrictions also come into play. If you don’t have the same dietary restrictions but have the responsibility of choosing the restaurant, it can be difficult to find and narrow down the choices.
Fun is the most important factor, however. Here’s our list of picks with the right balance of fun with quality food and drink.
1702 E. Speedway Blvd.
Hop Bread at 1702 (Credit: Movement Marketing)
Beer lovers feel right at home at 1702 with 46 beers on tap, while pizza fans will appreciate the giant slices. If your date is a hop-head, order the hop head with an Address IPA. The attached bottle shop is perfect if you want to take the party elsewhere.
For more information, visit 1702az.com.
BOCA Tacos y Tequila
533 N. 4th Ave.
Guacamole Duo at BOCA Tacos y Tequila (Credit: Jackie Tran)
For amazing tacos with the rest of Fourth Avenue within reach, check out BOCA. Exotic Meat Wednesdays provide an opportunity to try meats such as ostrich and kangaroo. The five vegetarian tacos are worth eating even if you’re a carnivore. The variety of tequilas and local beer are a natural pair with the tacos and fun salsas.
For more information, visit bocatacos.com.
Cafe a la C’Art
150 N. Main Ave.
Southwestern Short Rib Poutine at Café a la C’Art (Credit: Jackie Tran)
Recently reopened for dinner, Cafe a la C’Art is ideal for a bite before a walk around the Tucson Museum of Art and Historic Block. The squash blossoms stuffed with herbed goat cheese are an elegantly edible starter. La Cocina and the Dusty Monk Pub are popular evening destinations only a prance away.
For more information, visit cafealacarttucson.com.
758 S. Stone Ave.
(Credit: Café Desta on Facebook)
Adventurous eaters will appreciate the flavorful Ethiopian cuisine at Cafe Desta. Order the Combo for Two and choose from vegan options such as misr, spicy red lentils, or meat options such as alicha doro, chicken cooked in turmeric. Eating with your hands using injera is also an opportunity to unleash your awkward Liz Lemon or Michael Cera charm. After dinner, walk next door to Bon Boutique to check out some artsy kitchen goods.
For more information, visit cafedesta.com.
Calle Tepa Mexican Street Grill
6151 E. Broadway Blvd.
Chicken Adobada Burrito at Calle Tepa (Credit: Jackie Tran)
For Mexican street food in an environment nicer than a hole-in-the-wall, check out Calle Tepa. Share an order of manchegos and sling back some margaritas made with their house infused tequilas.
For more information, visit calletepa.com.
Ermanos Craft Beer & Wine Bar
220 N. 4th Ave.
Chorizo Beef Quesadilla from the late night menu at Ermanos Craft Beer & Wine Bar (Credit Jackie Tran)
Although Ermanos has an extensive beer and wine list, their experimental cuisine is worth a trip of its own. It’s approachable comfort food that often manages to incorporate beer in a non-gimmicky way. The Sonoran Cheese Board is worth it for the assortment of house-made goodies, but the crispy fries come in a huge portion if you want to play it safe. If you don’t want one of the creative beer-infused desserts, Isabella’s Ice Cream is just a few feet away.
For more information, visit ermanosbrew.com.
Good Oak Bar
316 E. Congress St.
Fried Pickles at Good Oak Bar (Credit: Adam Lehrman)
Since the front takes up so little space along Congress Street, you might mistake it as another door to Diablo Burger, its sister restaurant that provides the pub-based fare. However, Good Oak Bar is a long and narrow intimate space that offers Arizona beers and wines along with local and regional whiskeys and agave-based spirits. Their spicy fried pickles are legendary.
For more information, visit goodoakbar.com.
HUB Ice Cream Factory
245 E. Congress St.
Peanut butter pretzels ice cream at HUB Ice Cream Factory (Credit: Jackie Tran)
While sister establishments HUB Restaurant and Ice Creamery and Playground Bar & Lounge are under renovations, get your ice cream and Choco Taco fix at HUB Ice Cream Factory.
For more information, visit hubicecream.com.
2040 W. Orange Grove Rd., #180
Volcano Tuna Don at Ikkyu (Credit: Jackie Tran)
For Casual Japanese Food 101, visit Ikkyu. The assortment of donburi are delectable rice bowls. The spicy tonkotsu ramen is also worth a trip but only available certain days of the week depending on the season, so give them a call before making the drive. To continue the eastern gastronomy experience, explore the aisles at Lee Lee Oriental Supermarket within the shopping center.
Keep up with Ikkyu on Facebook.
OBON Sushi Bar Ramen
350 E. Congress St.
Rainbow poke bowl at OBON Sushi + Bar + Ramen (Credit: Jackie Tran)
The fun ambiance is only a preview to the fun food and drink the menus. Steam buns and sushi rolls are easy to share, while the newest cocktails such as the Space Oddity will grab your attention. Its location at the beginning of Congress Street heading into downtown makes it a convenient starting point for bar hopping.
For more information, visit obonsushi.com.
236 S. Scott Ave.
The dim, candlelit environment at Owls Club strikes the balance where both hip youngins and experienced cocktail connoisseurs can both enjoy themselves with a fine drink and live jazz.
For more information, visit owlsclubwest.com.
6453 N. Oracle Rd.
Southside Sandia cocktail and BBQ Tail Confit at the Parish (Credit: Jackie Tran)
For a festive New Orleans vibe, check out the Parish. “Liquid courage” is available via specialty cocktails, house infused liquors, and over 40 different craft beers. If you feel like showing off your piquant bravado, the house fermented hot sauces are spicy and addictive.
For more information, visit theparishtucson.com.
350 E. Congress St., #110
R Bar (Credit: Louisa Moratti)
The sensually scarlet interior is backed by some talented bartenders, making it a favorite drinking spot among other talented bartenders. As another perk, it’s right next to Rialto Theatre, making it available during Rialto shows.
For more information, visit rbartucson.com.
Reilly Craft Pizza & Drink
101 E. Pennington St.
(Credit: Adam Lehrman)
Reilly’s small, curated menu offers quality pizzas and more. However, wander around back for the Beer Garden with 40 beers and 8 wines on top. Head down to the basement for the Tough Luck Club’s creative tongue-in-cheek cocktails and comfy booths.
For more information, visit reillypizza.com.
Rocco’s Little Chicago
2707 E. Broadway Blvd.
Medium wings at Rocco’s Little Chicago Pizzeria (Credit: Jackie Tran)
From the outside, Rocco’s seems like just a homey Chicago joint. The deep dish pizza and wings are the main draw, but even the littlest items such as the Caesar salad and cookies are crafted with care.
For more information, visit roccoslittlechicago.com.
50 S. Houghton Rd.
2545 E. Speedway Blvd., Ste 145
250 E. Congress St.
Sweet Cream Honeycomb Ice Cream at Screamery (Credit: Jackie Tran)
What’s not to love about locally produced, quality ice cream? The tasty seasonal flavors rotate quickly, but thankfully the permanent choices such as the Sweet Cream Honeycomb are outstanding. The Speedway and Congress locations also serve Savaya Coffee if you’re aiming for a long night.
For more information, visit thescreamery.com.
Seven Cups Fine Chinese Teas
2516 E. 6th St.
Seven Cups Fine Chinese Teas (Credit: Jackie Tran)
If alcohol isn’t your cup of tea, get a cup of tea. The tea house is a traditional Chinese tea house, making it a peaceful place that’s easy to hear your date talking to you. Come on a Friday from 3 – 3:30 p.m. for the free tea sampling and educational experience.
For more information, visit sevencups.com.
The Shelter Cocktail Lounge
4155 E. Grant Rd.
(Credit: The Shelter Cocktail Lounge on Facebook)
The JFK decor provides a unique retro experience without the crowd of a downtown bar. The dim lights and pool table creates a laid back environment without feeling too divey. They’ve also built a reputation on their classic martini.
Keep up with The Shelter on Facebook.
139 S. Eastbourne Ave.
Although midtown joint Sidecar predominantly features craft cocktails, their non-alcoholic drinks are crafted as well. The Electric Barnyard Heaven features cider vinegar, honey, lemon, cayenne, and ginger. Sister restaurant Falora is a few doors down, while Cashew Cow is just across the street.
For more information, visit barsidecar.com.
444 E. University Blvd.
Fried chicken sandwich at Time Market (Credit: Jackie Tran)
Time Market’s casual vibe, convenient location, and quality items make it a great first date spot for almost any type of person. The wide range of coffees, teas, beer, wine, and even bottled kombucha will accommodate any type of drinker. Their vegetarian options also stand out based on the quality of their ingredients. Finally, it’s an ideal starting point for other Fourth Avenue and downtown destinations with the Sun Link stop directly in front of the entrance.
For more information, visit timemarket.xyz.
Union Public House
4340 N. Campbell Ave.
Chicken & Waffle at Union Public House (Credit: Jackie Tran)
Whiskey popularity has skyrocketed in the U.S., partially thanks to all the Tinderers that claim that they’re whiskey connoisseurs. If you dig your bourbons, ryes, Scotches, and other whiskeys, check out Union’s Whiskey Wednesdays for their impressive selection and comfort food classics.
For more information, visit uniontucson.com.
902 E. Broadway Blvd.
Summer cocktails at Welcome Diner (Credit: Jackie Tran)
Even though ‘diner’ is in the name, Welcome Diner is also an evening hot spot. The diner and southern-inspired menu has classics even a picky child can approach, but the sourcing of local ingredients and distinct Tucson twists make it something a foodie will appreciate. The cocktails are strong, well-crafted, and worth making the trip for.
For more information, visit welcomediner.net.
Where’s your favorite first date spot in Tucson? Let us know in the comments.