This guide is brought to you in partnership with Rio Nuevo.
Ever wonder if you’re missing out on a hot new restaurant or some cool, hidden spot? There are more downtown Tucson restaurants, bars, and cafes than one could realistically cover in any short time span. From authentic Mexican to Thai, to local cafés and coffee shops, each restaurant offers a unique atmosphere.
Whether you're wanting to pop into a café for a hot drink, grab a cocktail at a speakeasy-style bar, or enjoy a sit-down dinner, downtown has a lot to offer.
Agustin Kitchen’s incredible flavors come from the kitchen of Executive Chef David Solorzano, under the guidance of General Manager Neil Scott. After your meal, walk around the Mercado San Agustin courtyard and enjoy the nearby shops. Plus, they have live music on the patio every Saturday from 6 - 9 p.m.
For more information, visit agustinkitchen.com.
Baggin's has served bagged sandwiches with a kick of southwestern flavor since 1984. They continue to provide lunchtime favorites for on-the-go customers. While you're downtown, try one of their specialty sandwiches like the Unforgettable Baggin's or indulge in a grilled creation like the Southwestern Tuna Melt.
For more information, visit bagginsgourmet.com.
Barrio Brewing Co. offers a variety of microbrews, including the well-known Barrio Blonde. In fact, it's the longest-running, continuously brewed beer in the state of Arizona. Enjoy with classic pub food, like "Beer Sponges," two soft pretzels served with beer mustard.
For more information, visit barriobrewing.com.
A very welcome addition to downtown Tucson, BATA is an innovative, modern, upscale gastronomic restaurant by our very own native Tucsonan and self-taught chef Tyler Fenton. Inspired by a modern European approach, where the focus of a dish is often on the beauty and quality of the ingredient itself, BATA enriches the Tucson dining scene with fire and finesse. As of late, the restaurant has earned some national spotlight by being recognized as one of Bon Appétit’s “Best New Restaurants of 2022.”
Also, BATA's new basement bar, barbata, is now open. Read our November 2022 article, "Bata opens its brand-new, European-inspired barbata."
For more information, visit batatucson.com.
Batch certainly isn’t your typical whiskey bar. Opened in January 2016, Batch is known for its whiskey and doughnuts. They've got more than 900 types of whiskey, tasty tacos on Friday, and freshly baked and boozy doughnuts on the weekends.
For more information, visit batchtucson.com.
Jump off at the Cushing Street and Avenida del Convento stop on the Sun Link (Tucson's streetcar) and you'll find yourself at the MSA Annex. The businesses and restaurants here are based out of shipping containers. One of which is Beaut Burger, a vegan-friendly eatery specializing in house-made “burgers” made with grains, beans, vegetables, walnuts, and spices. You'll want a side of sweet potato fries.
For more information, visit beautburger.com.
The menu features a wide variety of “healthy, fresh, and tasty options” like acai bowls, cold-pressed juices, smoothies, food, and other bites.
Read our November 2022 article, "Berry Greens Juice Bar: Downtown spot reopens & new location flourishes."
For more information, visit berrygreens.com.
The two-level space, highlighted by a beautiful indoor/outdoor bar and open kitchen on the bottom level, offers an experience for every member of the family. Mosey on up to the bar during your lunch break, catch a game on one of the many TVs available, play some pool upstairs on the second level, or enjoy your meal al fresco on their spacious patio.
Read our January 2023 article, "Blue Front's grand opening in downtown Tucson."
For more information, visit bluefronttucson.com.
One of our favorite downtown Tucson restaurants, with fast counter service, great food, and a low price point. Bombole offers a hybrid of Indian and Mexican cuisines with their Indian empanadas. Empanada options change frequently.
For more information, visit eatbombole.com.
Cafe 54 is the perfect spot to grab a quick bite for lunch. It also serves as more than just a restaurant by offering "a unique employment training program for adults recovering from mental illnesses."
Menu items include salads, veggie burgers, gyros, and flatbreads. Make sure to try the dessert of the day.
For more information, visit cafe54.org.
Café à la C’Art offers a memorable experience for its customer. Open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, this café offers specialties like the Parmesan Crusted Turkey Croissant. You’ll feel like you’re at home in this quaint, country-style café surrounded by a patio covered in mosaic.
For more information, visit cafealacarttucson.com.
Caffe Luce offers coffee and tea, along with simply made dishes such as steel-cut oatmeal and pressed sandwiches. The interior of this coffee bar features a busy, urban-feel, using reclaimed barn wood and stainless steel accents.
Keep up with Caffe Luce on Facebook.
A borderlands jazz club and mezcal lounge featuring local and national musical acts, ancestral small batch mezcals, craft cocktails, small bites, and regional beer and wine.
Read our March 2022 article, "The Century Room is now serving small bites with all that jazz."
For more information, visit hotelcongress.com.
The Presidio newcomer transports you out of the desert and straight to Europe.
Although handmade pasta is the star, CERES offers fresh focaccia sandwiches, sweet baked treats, and a full espresso menu using locally roasted specialty coffee. The menu features the classics along with seasonal specials.
Read our January 2023 article, "Ceres & Noodies owner has a new restaurant concept in the works."
For more information, visit cerestucson.square.site.
If Charro Steak sounds familiar, it is. Owned and operated by El Charro restaurants Flores family, Charro Steak is the family’s interpretation of a Sonoran steakhouse. The ranch-to-table meats provide an outstanding local experience. Then, Charro Del Rey, sister restaurant to Charro Steak, opened in 2019 with a focus on seafood and prime rib.
For more information, visit charrosteak.com.
The lobby bar is open for those staying at the hotel and for anyone that's simply stopping by for a drink. They offer regionally-inspired cocktails, local beer, and delicious wine.
For more information, visit thecitizenhoteltucson.com.
The 5,000-square-foot arcade bar at 63 E. Congress St. is the second Cobra Arcade Bar — the first location is in downtown Phoenix. The space previously held JunXion Bar. Popular titles include Pac-Man, Galaga, Frogger, Street Fighter II, Mortal Kombat, NBA Jam, Dance Dance Revolution 8th Mix, X-Men, and The Simpsons Arcade Game.
For more information, visit cobraarcadebar.com.
On the corner of Cushing Street and Meyer Avenue, there’s a group of concepts harboring enough allure, artistry, and charm to attract anyone with an appetite for something new. So, whether it be an intentional visit or you’re simply passing by, The Coronet, Coronet Cafe, and Nightjar are collectively the cat’s meow.
Read our August 2022 article, "Celebrating a love for food & connection with the Coronet."
For more information, visit coronettucson.com.
Owners of The Neighborhood opened up the new concept in 2022 and then most recently they’ve added another restaurant to the neighborhood, so to speak. Since its opening, the restaurant has been delivering its ocean vibes and Baja California cuisine to downtown Tucson.
For more information, visit crudamariscos.com.
Cup Cafe offers a full bar and dining room with features like a Build-Your-Own Bloody Mary Bar. Open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, Cup Café’s menu offers items from Tofu & Tamale to Heartbreaker and Pan Roasted Salmon. Enjoy brunch after a long night dancing and enjoying live entertainment at Club Congress.
If you're looking for something a little more casual, head to the patio and taste Cup Cafe classics from their food trailer, Plaza Eats. The street-food focussed menu is ideal for an urban picnic vibe.
For more information, visit hotelcongress.com.
The owners, Steve Dunn, Bryce Zeagler, and Chef Travis Peters, who all currently run The Parish on 6453 N. Oracle Rd, spent months renovating the old stomping grounds of chef Janos Wilder, who closed up his restaurant in late 2020 after dishing out delicious bites for ten years.
If you’re familiar with The Parish, you’ll be excited to know that The Delta is rockin’ out similar southern-style dishes inspired by Arizona, Texas, and Louisiana.
For more information, visit thedeltatucson.com.
The doughnut shop offers about 30 different doughnuts daily; 15 flavors will stay the same, while the other 15 will rotate. The full catalog features about 90 different flavors. In addition to the giant menu of rotating doughnuts (about 30 different types daily), the new menu will feature savory options created by local superstar chefs.
Read our December 2022 article, "Donut Bar teams up with local chefs to create savory sandwiches."
For more information, visit donutbartucsonaz.com.
El Charro is one of the nation’s oldest Mexican restaurants and definitely the oldest of the downtown Tucson restaurants. Featuring award-winning recipes like Banderas Enchiladas and the house carne seca, which is dried in a special cage outside the restaurant in the sun.
For more information, visit elcharrocafe.com.
El Mezquite Grill & Taqueria offers contemporary Southwest cuisine highlighting fresh, healthy, creative, and local ingredients playing off the traditional flavors of Mexico. Bespoke cocktails, interesting wines, and hand-crafted local brews are available from El Mez Bar.
For more information, visit elmezquitetucson.com.
El Minuto Cafe has served "fine Mexican food" since 1939 in Tucson's Barrio Viejo neighborhood. El Minuto offers items like Shredded Beef Chimichangas and their Combination Plate with a beef taco, tamale, cheese enchilada, and beans. After your meal, take a walk around the historic neighborhood and take in the colorful homes and scenery.
Read our September 2019 article El Minuto Cafe: Four generations serving Sonoran-style Mexican specialties.
For more information, visit elminutotucson.com.
Elliott's is an American restaurant that provides a relaxing ambiance and great food to match. The eatery features a fully stocked bar with house-infused specialty vodkas, sporting flavors from basil to key lime. It is safe to say Elliot’s is nothing short of an experience.
For more information, visit elliottsoncongress.com.
Empire is a pizza joint with televisions, a jukebox, and the atmosphere of a classic-style bar. They serve Authentic NY Style Pizza, salad, wings, and dessert. If you spend your weekends dancing into the wee hours of the night, don't worry they are open until 3 a.m.
For more information, visit empire.pizza.
The Phoenix-based restaurant that began as a food truck rolled into downtown Tucson in 2022, taking over the former Senae Thai Bistro spot. They offer a small Sake program with a dandy selection of craft beers, wines, and craft cocktails.
For more information, visit ezbachi.com.
Loungey restaurant and nightclub Funky Monk is all about having fun. Get funky on the dance floor with booming music and psychedelic vibes.
For more information, visit funkymonktucson.com.
Its convenient proximity to the Rialto Theatre made Good Oak Bar an ideal location to drink and eat before a show, but its quality and vibe are what seemed to keep visitors coming back. Plus, in addition to their selection of mezcal, local brews, and cocktails, the fried pickles tastefully made themselves known at the bar, too.
For more information, visit goodoakbar.com.
The family-run cafe on East Congress Street serves coffee and scratch-made baked goods with French, Japanese, and Korean influences. Menu items include assorted cakes, daily specials, doughnuts, tarts, buns, and Chicken Katsu Brioche Sandwiches.
For more information, visit heemee.online.
Club by night, restaurant by day, Hi Fi Kitchen and Cocktails provides an open atmosphere and huge patio in a highly stylized setting. You'll want to get there semi-early if the club scene isn't your cup of tea. But it is definitely a great place to sit and people-watch while enjoying elevated pub food such as adult milkshakes and burgers.
For more information, visit hifibars.com.
Original cocktails are served in a laid-back bar with an exposed brick interior and courtyard.
For more information, visit highwiretucson.com.
HUB offers brunch, lunch, dinner, but most importantly, homemade ice cream. This loft-feel surrounded with brick walls and unique décor offers a dark, intimate ambiance in the evening. They serve menu items such as pastrami HUB Hash and chicken Pot Pie. End your meal with creamy, homemade ice cream in unique flavors like Oatmeal Cookie Dough and Spiced Cider.
For more information, visit hubdowntown.com.
Located right across the street from HUB Restaurant and Ice Creamery, HUB Ice Cream Parlor serves its treats in a dreamy and sparkling space with vaulted ceilings and chandeliers, is created onsite, with natural ingredients, and with their own pasteurizer which helps make the ice cream even more creamy and decadent.
For more information, visit thehubicecream.com.
Iguana Cafe is a Mexican food restaurant that serves drinks, too, right across the street from the Downtown Ronstadt Center. They've got plenty of micheladas, wine, margaritas, and beers to keep you busy.
For more information, visit Iguana Cafe online.
The bakery chain is known for late-night deliveries and sugar rushes.
For more information, visit insomniacookies.com.
Ja Ramen recently moved into the former Stackd spot at 54 W. Congress St., which is found between Street Taco & Beer Co. and Perche’ No Italian Bistro.
One thing’s for sure and it’s that they’re ramen, curry bowls, and scrumptious dumplings are on the menu. What’s also enticing is that downtown eaters have another new spot to visit for lunch or dinner.
For more information, visit thejaramen.com.
Known to many as just "bar" because of the neon-lit sign, John Henry's is known for hosting industry nights, live music, and fun times while serving up cheap beer and crafty cocktails.
For more information, follow John Henry's on Instagram.
Johnny Gibson's Market provides customers with an affordable breadth of items from tasty sandwiches to local cheese to a forgotten toothbrush. With an emphasis on locally sourcing produce, make sure to sample their variety of baked goods, deli offerings, fresh seafood, ice cream, and a wide selection of craft beer.
For more information, visit gibsonsmarket.com.
Kukai, also based at the MSA Annex, opened in February of 2019. If you’ve never had onigiri, you’re going to want to try it here. The traditional Japanese dish is essentially a seaweed-wrapped rice ball that comes with assorted fillings like pork belly, salmon, or, for the adventurous eater, umeboshi (that’s pickled plum).
For more information, visit eatkukai.com.
Tacos, tortilla soup, and other Mexican standards in an airy joint with striking, colorful interiors and an occasional DJ set up in the corner.
For more information, visit lachingadacocina.com.
La Cocina is known as "Tucson’s Venue with a Menu." Dig into one of their fresh, healthy dishes like the Quinoa Bowl with braised spinach and roasted vegetables. With a courtyard surrounded by plants, string lights, and candles, you’ll be sure to enjoy a refreshing experience for brunch, lunch, and dinner with occasional live music.
For more information, visit lacotucson.com.
Scratch-made burgers you'll long for in the heart of downtown Tucson.
For more information, visit littleloveburger.com.
The Little One is considered “the tiny restaurant with a big heart.” This casual setting offers an experience you’ll never forget. The best part about it is that you won't leave without a hug and a kiss!
Pro tip: Check out the chalkboard for daily specials and fresh juices; make sure to bring cash, as cards are not accepted.
Keep up with Friends of The Little One on Facebook.
In 2021, executive chef Brian Smith and Maynards revealed a reimagined menu along with some changes to the space and concept of the restaurant — alterations that old fans and newcomers can equally enjoy.
For more information, visit hotelcongress.com.
From the folks who brought you Spaghetti Club, comes the cozy cocktail box, Mini Bar. The cute bar is located near Beaut Burger and serves sakés, beer, wine, and specialty cocktails.
For more information, follow Mini Bar on Instagram.
Although Miss Saigon on Campbell is the most popular, the downtown location is open late and convenient for post-drinking slurping.
For more information, call (520) 884-4778.
The name behind The Monica is a tribute to Monica Flin, the founder of Tucson’s oldest restaurant family, El Charro Cafe. The pantry-style kitchen brings a style of comfort, classic, and customized eating to downtown
The Monica is open for mornings, lunch, dinner, late-night, and Happy Hour.
For more information, visit themonicatucson.com.
Much like the incredibly stylish mullet hairstyle being business in the front and a party in the back, The Neighborhood’s downtown spot is more than one concept. Think of it as a restaurant and bar during the earlier hours of the day and a total party by night.
For more information, visit thenei.com.
Nook promises a kick in the morning with their menu of Cinnamon Roll Griddlecakes, Honey Chipotle Carnitas Benedict and Nourish Bowl. Tucson's vibrant personality is translated into Nook's urban interpretations of home-cooked food.
For more information, visit nookdowntown.com.
Some of the new items found on the Starters menu include Pork Belly, Pressed Hamachi, and Gyoza (veggie options available). Look a little further down the menu and you’ll find Salmon Teriyaki, Fried Rice, the pork belly Katsu Sandwich, and a Korean Fried Chicken Sandwich in the Large Plates section.
For more information, visit obonsushi.com.
Warm, casual cocktail bar with stained-glass windows serving whiskey drinks, curated cocktails, and craft beer. Check out the cozy patio while you're there, too.
For more information, visit owlsclubwest.com.
Penca offers upscale Mexico City Cuisine and an extensive bar with international cocktails. Enjoy a variety of tasty bites within their modern and cozy space with old wood and brick surrounded walls. Menu items include Ceviche and Tacos and a Guacamole Board, with queso fresco, pico de gallo and tomatillo salsa.
For more information, visit pencarestaurante.com.
Playground’s recent remodel includes new furnishings to the interior bar, rooftop bar, and bar cinema areas. If you’re in need of a good time, hang out in the main interior and rooftop bar for well-known local DJs, live music, salsa nights, and more. Be sure to wander over to the downstairs patio as well — the bar cinema will feature a more casual atmosphere and have classic ‘80s and ‘90s movies playing throughout the space.
For more information, visit playgroundtucson.com.
Inventive cocktails fixed up in a red space with an artsy backlit wall, projector screen, and comfy patio. Plus, stop by when you're checking out a show at the Rialto Theatre.
For more information, visit rbartucson.com.
Husband-and-wife team Dennis and Konni Calello operate the family-owned restaurant along with their sons Ken and Frank Calello.
An interest in birds of prey drew them to Arizona and has inspired this homestyle cafe. The menu focusses on breakfast, lunch, and baked goods. Locally roasted coffee and the smell of freshly baked cookies will greet you on entering — don't leave without a stack of the warm, sugary treats.
For more information, visit raptorcanyoncafe.com.
It exudes that feeling of some tucked-away cafe in a story you once read about in a book by an author you’ve never heard of. It’s angular, it’s dark, it welcomes whispers and singing alike and, best of all, the food is exquisite and the drinks are definitely on your side.
Read our October 2022 article, "The Red Light Lounge unveils its new menu at the Downtown Clifton Hotel."
For more information, visit downtowntucsonhotel.com.
Reilly is a modern Italian restaurant and artisan pizzeria with a casual setting. It has an urban feel with its vaulted ceilings and original chalk art on the walls. Menu items include delicious Stracciatella Cheese with Toast and Fennel Sausage and Roasted Pepper brick-oven pizza. Great for a relaxing meal paired with a glass of red wine.
Don't sleep on Reilly Beer Garden or underground bar Tough Luck Club either.
For more information, visit reillypizza.com.
Ideal for a day date, The Scented Leaf Tea House offers locations downtown and by the UA campus. Their vast array of blends ensures a fit for any tea drinker, while both the Congress Street and University Avenue locations offer easy walks to take your teas on the go.
For more information, visit thescentedleaf.com.
Located in the Mercado San Agustin, Seis offers cuisine from several regions of Mexico. The restaurant also offers fresh market fish selections for a gourmet step up from the typical fish taco. Handmade corn tortillas and house-made chorizo are also the main draws.
For more information, visit seiskitchen.com.
As the popularity of Batch grew and continues to grow, owner Ronnie Spece hatched a plan to expand his cozy boozy empire but wanted to remain on the well-trodden strip of Congress Street. He didn’t look too far or try very hard because there was a basement used for storage and he knew that space would be perfect for the concept.
Read our December 2022 article, "Snake & Barrel: Superior spirits in a subterranean speakeasy."
For more information, visit batchtucson.com.
Street Taco and Beer Co. is bringing the heat with a menu chock full of delicious Tacos, Ceviche, and Warm Churros. Enjoy two or maybe five tacos at only 3 bucks a pop with a refreshing Agua Fresca. After an evening at the nearby Fox Theatre, sit along the outdoor bar and enjoy fresh tacos while watching the vibrant scene downtown.
Keep up with Street Taco & Beer on Facebook.
Cozy, old-fashioned bar inside the historic Hotel Congress that serves draft beer, cocktails, and good times.
Read our March 2019 article, "Pouring at Hotel Congress since the '50s: 'Tiger' of Tiger's Tap Room."
For more information, visit hotelcongress.com.
On the corner of Pennington and Scott Avenue, mosey along the side of Reilly Craft Pizza and Drink’s two-story building, make a turn once you see the beer garden’s outdoor seating, and at the bottom of the stairwell, you’ll discover a very dim basement. Cocktails, beer, and whiskey shots galore!
For more information, visit reillypizza.com.
Urban Fresh is known as a “Vegucational Experience” due to its fresh, natural ingredients and health and wellness education. This plant-based restaurant offers quick and easy lunch options such as Nourishing Smoothies and abundant Grateful Greens salads. With its intimate café feel, Urban Fresh offers a unique and healthy experience.
For more information, visit urbanfreshtucson.com.
If you're a fan of flavorful Mediterranean food and want to sample creamy, fragrant sauces, fresh salads, soft pita, and a juicy gyro meat plate, you've come to the right place.
Urban Pita is a great lunchtime or late-night spot with swift service in a fast-casual environment.
For more information, visit urbanpitaaz.com.
For the old-school Tucson scene kids from the early to mid-2000s, it’s nostalgic to walk into the former Red Room space because the walls are still red, the same bar is intact, and old furniture can be found at the bar. As a matter of fact, someone actually reached out to Wooden Tooth owners, Jake Sullivan and Kellen Fortier, and offered to return an original green bench seat from the Red Room (you’ll find it here near the bar).
For more information, visit woodentoothrecords.store.
Just a few minutes from downtown, 5 Points Market & Restaurant offers a menu of fresh and delicious samplings. 5 Points is the perfect place for Sunday brunch, or a quick breakfast or lunch throughout the workday. Make sure to sample the Smoked Salmon Benedict and the freshly-squeezed juices. They're also now open for dinner on certain days.
Read our December 2022 article, "First look at 5 Points Market & Restaurant's dinner menu."
For more information, visit 5pointstucson.com.
Looking for something off the beaten path? Try Cafe Desta, one of only two locations in Tucson (three if you count both Zemam's) for authentic Ethiopian cuisine. Each menu item includes a complex and rich variety of spices highlighting the flavors of Ethiopia. Menu items include a variety of meat, vegetarian, and vegan stews. Mix and match dishes to create a truly unique experience.
Keep up with Cafe Desta on Facebook.
Read 30+ Restaurants & bars to visit while taking a stroll on Fourth Avenue to find out more.
Let us know your favorite downtown Tucson restaurants in the comments! (Especially if we missed one...)
[This article was originally written on May 3, 2019, and most recently updated on February 3, 2023.]