An atmosphere that blends itself with its desert surroundings.
Monterey Court might just be the best thing happening on Miracle Mile.
Originally opened in 1938 as Monterey Motel, the space was procured in 2011 by Greg Haver and his wife, Kelly McLear. Together, they transformed the exhausted motel into a vivacious destination consisting of a cafe, bar, music venue, and artisan shopping with all the desert feels.
As the oldest motor court on the stretch of road, Monterey Motel was certainly showing its age and in need of a renovation upon Haver and McLear’s purchase. Luckily, Haver worked as a general contractor for 35 years in Tucson and Washington State.
“I’ve always been into flipping properties. I sold my last ‘spec home’ and started looking around for another property to invest in,” said Haver. “My realtor and I found this place [Monterey Motel] — it was a fire sale and very reasonably priced. It took me about a month to decide what to do with the space after we purchased it.”
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Fortunately for Haver and McLear, the buildings were structurally sound and in good shape aside from fire damage and a dated taste in interior design. Knowing they didn’t want to revitalize the space like a motel, the idea for Monterey Court came during the renovation phase.
After removing a low ceiling in what is now the cafe, the name “Monterey Court” — a prior name of the establishment — revealed itself in painted lettering on the western facing interior wall.
This inspired Haver and McLear to name the space Monterey Court, once again, and turn it into what it is now — a food and art-focused venue equipped to satisfy visitors.
Patrons can enjoy more intimate dining in the cafe, currently set for a maximum of 10 to accommodate COVID-19 protocols, or step out to the open courtyard space consisting of table seating suited for roughly 225 with an additional 50 seats available at the bar. Surrounding the courtyard are 12 units, which previously served as the drive-up motel rooms.
These units are now being rented out and showcase an array of mixed-media artists neighbored by hair salons, a flooring company, a tattoo shop, and an esthetician.
As you exit the cafe and wrap around the exterior bar, the space begins to open up significantly. A two-way stage hosts local, national, and international bands Tuesday through Sunday and can cater to smaller audiences on the northern cafe side or larger audiences on the southern patio side.
Speaking of the patio, its atmosphere echoes an impression of plazas and courtyards found in Mexico, and at the top of the stage extend red and yellow vinyl canvases that cover a substantial dance floor.
“You should see this place on a Friday night,” said Haver, looking over the tranquil patio between meal rushes.
Beyond the dance floor is seating under a ramada with exposed wooden trusses and Spanish tile roofing to match the original architectural characteristics that bring so much life to the space.
There is additional seating past the ramada that is bookended by a large brick fireplace constructed out of repurposed bricks from the renovation. It’s an overall atmosphere one might imagine being the focus of a Paul Simon song.
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“We are music-driven,” said Haver. “Miracle Mile has had a sketchy reputation, so we needed to find a driver to attract customers. That’s why we have music every night — the musicians and styles of music really help drive our public. Once people get here, they try our food and enjoy the whole experience.”
What better to match the vibrant ambiance than delicious food and drinks? Monterey Court Cafe offers a menu that accommodates all palates to keep the whole court satisfied.
- Spiced Pear Manhattan – Rowan’s Creek whiskey, pear liqueur, and sweet vermouth
- Monsoon – Kraken Spiced Rum, ginger ale, and lime
- Woods Cosmo – Cruzan mango rum, lime, and cranberry
- Cactus Wren – El Jimador Silver Tequila, The Bitter Truth Violet Liqueur, agave syrup, fresh lime, and grapefruit juice
- Mussels – in white wine with tomatoes, basil, garlic, and butter
- The Old Monterey (Salad) – Kalamata and green olives, capers, feta, tomato, roasted pepper, and onion over mixed greens with a sun-dried tomato vinaigrette
- Monterey Burger – 100% lean Angus beef with lettuce, tomato, and onion
- Fish Tacos – with avocado, chipotle ranch, and pineapple salsa
Looking ahead, Haver and McLear are determined to turn Miracle Mile to Music Mile.
They want to see the area gentrify with the rest of the city, and feel as though the surrounding buildings have great bones for others to create unique experiences — delivering life back to the historic Tucson strip.
In addition to the live music, they are live-streaming their concerts for people to watch at home, and a monthly comedy show has been added to the mix that features regional and national acts. The comedy show takes place on the last Tuesday of each month.
Haver and McLear ask that unvaccinated guests wear masks and for all guests to be respectful and follow protocols set in place to mitigate the potential spread of COVID-19.
If the concept of bringing music, food, drinks, art, shopping, and friends together all in one space seems far-fetched, you should consider a visit to Monterey Court and see just how seamlessly it can be done. The atmosphere blends itself with the desert surroundings and acts as a lively location away from the busy downtown scene.
Monterey Court, located at 505 W. Miracle Mile, is open Tuesday – Saturday from 11 a.m. – 10 p.m. and Sunday from 9 a.m. – 9 p.m. For more information, visit montereycourtaz.com.