15 October, 2021, 01:36

32 (seriously cool) fun places to meet up for a first date

You found a match (online) and now you have a meet up. Here's where to take 'em.

Coffee may be a standard for a Tinder or Bumble date but what if you want to have fun over a bite or something boozy instead? That’s where you start to overthink it.

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. Anywhere too intimate or romantic isn’t appropriate for a first date.

Fun is a critical factor, however. Here’s our list of picks with the right balance of fun with quality food and drink. We’ve grouped the spots to suit your needs, so swipe (erm, scroll) to find what you’re looking for.

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Looking for something low-key, fun, and flirty?

If you’re keeping it casual, here are some ideas to lighten the mood.

Batch Cafe & Bar

118 E. Congress St.
We Fly High cocktail and Creme Brulee doughnut at Batch Cafe & Bar (Credit: Jackie Tran)

We Fly High cocktail and Creme Brulee doughnut at Batch Cafe & Bar (Credit: Jackie Tran)

If you’re hanging out downtown, Batch’s doughnuts are drool-worthy. Grab a couple of boozy doughnuts and tuck in with a glass of something strong.

For more information, visit batchtucson.com.

The Boxyard

BoxYard on Fourth Avenue (Credit: Jackie Tran)

BoxYard on Fourth Avenue (Credit: Jackie Tran)

Fourth Avenue shipping container development The Boxyard opened its bar in January this year.

Four restaurant options are now available there: Percheron Mexican Grill, BXQ (Bronx BBQ), Nhu Lan Vietnamese Food, and Indian Twist.

With plenty of seating, the addition of a second bar, and Fourth Avenue pedestrian entertainment, you’ll keep occupied. You can even opt for a double date with your pooches… I mean, if your dogs don’t get along, that’s your fast ticket out of there.

Keep up with The Boxyard on Facebook.

Desert Dream Ice Creamery

210 N. Fourth Ave.
Ice cream cones at Desert Dream Ice Creamery (Credit: Jackie Tran)

Ice cream cones at Desert Dream Ice Creamery (Credit: Jackie Tran)

Brothers Zech and Noah Bergeron own and run light, fresh, fun Desert Dream Ice Creamery.

Lighten the mood or ease your way into a date with a scoop (or two) of their ultra-creamy ice cream before heading along Fourth Ave. With exceptional flavors ranging from Banana and Coyote Track’s to simple Vanilla, you’re in for a treat.

Keep up with Desert Dream Ice Creamery on Instagram.

HUB Ice Cream Factory

245 E. Congress St.

Get your ice cream and Choco Taco fix at HUB Ice Cream Factory. HUB Restaurant and Ice Creamery and Playground Bar & Lounge are just down the street, too.

For more information, visit hubicecream.com.

Monsoon Chocolate

234 E. 22nd St.
Blueberry Oat Cardamom bon bons at Monsoon Chocolate

Blueberry Oat Cardamom bon bons at Monsoon Chocolate (Credit: Jackie Tran)

Is your date a chocolate lover? Not a trick question. Mix things up and grab a bite/drink/sugary treat at this cute cafe. It’s casual and a simple way to sweeten the mood.

FYI they’re open daily now.

For more information, visit monsoonchocolate.com.

The Scented Leaf

308 E. Congress St. • 943 E. University Blvd Ste. 65

If alcohol isn’t your cup of tea, get a cup of tea.

The tea spot has two locations — downtown and in the University area — and is a chill spot to grab something cold and refreshing.

Order by choosing hot or cold, wall (loose-leaf) or tap tea, sugar or no sugar, milk or no milk, and finally lemon or no lemon. Additionally, 15 teas are featured on tap.

For more information, visit thescentedleaf.com.

The Screamery

50 S. Houghton Rd., Ste. 120 • 2545 E. Speedway Blvd., Ste. 145 • 250 E. Congress St. • 5920 Arizona Pavilions Dr., Ste. 100 • 5870 E. Broadway Blvd.
Sweet Cream Honeycomb Ice Cream at Screamery (Credit: Jackie Tran)

Sweet Cream Honeycomb Ice Cream at The Screamery (Credit: Jackie Tran)

What’s not to love about locally produced, quality ice cream?

The tasty seasonal flavors rotate quickly but thankfully certain outstanding choices, such as the Sweet Cream Honeycomb, are here to stay. The Speedway, Congress, and Marana locations also serve coffee if you’re aiming for a long night.

For more information, visit thescreamery.com.

Time Market

444 E. University Blvd.
Bar at Time Market (Credit: Jackie Tran)

Bar 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 kind 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 a Sun Link stop directly in front of the entrance.

For more information, visit timemarket.xyz.

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Just in it for the drinks? (Food options included, incase it turns out well.)

Culinary Dropout

2543 E. Grant Rd.

Culinary Dropout is a place where “food and music are life.”

How about a beer and pre-dinner snacks at a trendy bar with live music and fun activities (think cornhole and table soccer)?

Just say yes.

For more information, visit culinarydropout.com.

Good Oak Bar

316 E. Congress St.
Fried Pickles at Good Oak Bar (Credit: Adam Lehrman)

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.

Hotel Congress

311 Congress St.

With multiple bars on-site, Cup Cafe, and a solid happy hour from 4 – 7 p.m., this spot is worth checking out.

There are frequent events with live music and you can even check in to a room if you need — so many options.

For more information, visit hotelcongress.com.

OBON Sushi Bar Ramen

350 E. Congress St.
Marlee Palmer of OBON Sushi Bar Ramen with new cocktail menu (Credit: Jackie Tran)

Marlee Palmer of OBON Sushi Bar Ramen with new cocktail menu (Credit: Jackie Tran)

The fun ambiance is only a preview to the fun food and drink options.

Steam Buns and Signature Sushi Rolls are easy to share, while the newest ’90s-themed cocktails 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.

Owls Club

236 S. Scott Ave.

The dim, candlelit environment at Owls Club strikes the balance where both hip youngsters and experienced cocktail connoisseurs can both enjoy themselves with a fine drink and live jazz.

For more information, visit owlsclubwest.com.

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The Parish

6453 N. Oracle Rd.
Hushpuppies, cocktails & mocktails at The Parish

Hushpuppies, cocktails & mocktails at The Parish (Photo by Jackie Tran)

For a festive New Orleans-vibe, check out the Parish. “Liquid courage” is available via specialty cocktails, house-infused liquors, and dozens of 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.

Playground Bar & Lounge

278 E. Congress St.
Pickle Fries at Playground Bar & Lounge (Credit: Jackie Tran)

Pickle Fries at Playground Bar & Lounge (Credit: Jackie Tran)

Looking for the whole package (in a bar, to be clear)? Playground is it.

Located downtown, you’ve got happy hour specials, food and drink options, late-night dancing with DJs spinning the latest, and a rooftop deck for epic parties and views on views on views of the downtown scene.

For more information, visit playgroundtucson.com.

R Bar

350 E. Congress St., Ste. 110
R Bar (Credit: Louisa Moratti)

R Bar (Credit: Louisa Moratti)

The sensually scarlet interior is backed by some talented bartenders, making it a favorite drinking spot among other gifted 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.

Reilly’s curated menu offers quality pizzas and more.

However, wander around back for the Beer Garden with 40 beers and eight wines on tap.

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.


416 E. Ninth St.

REVEL, an upscale European-styled bar, offers wine-pairable bites such as cheese, charcuterie, and chocolate. Although the bites are fancy, the vibe is meant to be accessible.

“You can have fun and be loud,” said Todd Getzelman, who owns REVEL with his wife Celine Getzelman. “It’s not a stuffy wine bar.”

There you go — wine, bar bites, wine… wine. Get goin’!

For more information, visit reveltucson.com.

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The Royal Room

450 N. Sixth Ave.
Mi Rey, Royale, Coup D'Etat, and Noble Intentions cocktails at the Royal Room (Credit: Jackie Tran)

Mi Rey, Royale, Coup D’Etat, and Noble Intentions cocktails at the Royal Room (Credit: Jackie Tran)

From colorful glass windows to quirky zebra wallpaper, The Royal Room has created a vibe in town.

Try a signature cocktail such as the Mi Rey for a beautiful crafted start to the night. The furniture is also cozy for leisurely lounging.

Keep up with The Royal Room on Instagram.

The Shelter Cocktail Lounge

4155 E. Grant Rd.
(Credit: The Shelter Cocktail Lounge on Facebook)

(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 create a laid back environment without feeling too divey. They’ve also built a reputation for their classic martini.

Keep up with The Shelter on Facebook.


139 S. Eastbourne Ave.
(Credit: Sidecar)

(Credit: Sidecar)

Although midtown joint Sidecar predominantly features craft cocktails, their non-alcoholic drinks are crafted as well. The “softail” 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.

Welcome Diner

902 E. Broadway Blvd.
Summer cocktails at Welcome Diner (Credit: Jackie Tran)

Summer cocktails at Welcome Diner (Credit: Jackie Tran)

Even though ‘diner’ is in the name, Welcome Diner is also an evening hot spot.

The 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.

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Wanting a bite? Try these:

1702 Craft Beer and Pizza

1702 E. Speedway Blvd.
Hop Bread at 1702 (Credit: Movement Marketing)

Hop Bread at 1702 (Credit: Movement Marketing)

Beer lovers feel right at home at 1702 with 30 beers on tap, while pizza fans will appreciate the giant slices.

If your date is a hop-head, order the hop bread with an Address IPA. The bottle selection is perfect if you want to take the party elsewhere.

For more information, visit 1702az.com.

American Eat Co.

1439 S. Fourth Ave.
Interior at American Eat Co. (Credit: Jackie Tran)

Interior at American Eat Co. (Credit: Jackie Tran)

From pizza to poke bowls, American Eat Co. offers a wide range of options under one roof to please both picky eaters and adventurous foodies.

Ice cream, beer, wine, and coffee are also available.

For more information, visit americaneatco.com.

BOCA Tacos y Tequila

533 N. Fourth Ave.
Guacamole Duo at BOCA Tacos y Tequila (Credit: Jackie Tran)

Guacamole Duo at BOCA Tacos y Tequila (Credit: Jackie Tran)

For amazing tacos with the rest of Fourth Avenue within reach, check out BOCA.

The variety of tequilas and local beer are a natural pair with the tacos and fun salsas. The six vegetarian tacos, in particular, are worth eating even if you’re a carnivore.

Need something more out there? Exotic Taco Wednesdays provide an opportunity to try meats such as ostrich and kangaroo.

For more information, visit bocatacos.com.

Café Desta

758 S. Stone Ave.
Assorted platter at Cafe Desta (Credit: Jackie Tran)

Assorted platter at Cafe Desta (Credit: Jackie Tran)

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.

Keep up with Cafe Desta on Facebook.

Calle Tepa Mexican Street Grill & Bar

6151 E. Broadway Blvd.

For Mexican street food in an environment nicer than a hole-in-the-wall joint, 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.

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Ermanos Craft Beer & Wine Bar

220 N. Fourth Ave.
Sonoran Meat & Cheese Board at Ermanos Craft Beer & Wine Bar (Credit: Jackie Tran)

Sonoran Meat & Cheese Board 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 Meat & 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.

For more information, visit ermanosbrew.com.


2040 W. Orange Grove Rd., Ste. 180
Volcano Tuna Don at Ikkyu (Credit: Jackie Tran)

Volcano Tuna Don at Ikkyu (Credit: Jackie Tran)

For Casual Japanese Food 101, visit Ikkyu.

The assortment of Donburi is plentiful. The delectable rice bowls range from Spicy Tuna to Sukiyaki Chicken.

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.

For more information, call (520) 297-9011 or visit ikkyutucson.com.

Mercado San Agustin • MSA Annex

100 S. Avenida del Convento • 267 S. Avenida Del Convento
Assorted food at Kukai (Credit: Jackie Tran)

Assorted food at Kukai (Credit: Jackie Tran)

On the westernmost end of the path of Tucson’s streetcar, the Sun Link, resides the Mercado District.

The Spanish colonial style Mercado San Agustin and modern shipping container-based MSA Annex feature several eating and drinking options with some of the best outdoor vibes in Tucson. Explore both for coffee, raspados, burritos, onigiri, and more.

For more information, read our January 2019 article 10 Edible Reasons to Visit the Mercado District or our October 2019 article If you haven’t visited MSA Annex yet, here’s what you’re missing.

Rocco’s Little Chicago

2707 E. Broadway Blvd.
Hot Wings at Rocco's Little Chicago Pizzeria (Credit: Jackie Tran)

Award-winning Chicken Wings 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 Sugar Cookies are crafted with care.

For more information, visit roccoslittlechicago.com.

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Union Public House

4340 N. Campbell Ave.

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.

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Not what you were looking for? No worries, there are a lot of fish in the sea. Let’s go fishing…

Just want to hit up a good happy hour? We’ve got ya:
Want to grab a beer?
How about additional places to grab a bite to eat? View these:
You’re out late… hungry, trying to sober up, and have cravings? This:
Need something fancier? There’s this:

[This article was originally written on October 21, 2016, and most recently updated on December 12, 2019. Kate Severino contributed to this article.] 

Jackie is a food writer and photographer native to Tucson. He loves corgis and still thinks rickrolling is funny. If you'd like to stalk him, visit jackietran.com and his Instagram @jackie_tran_.