Dinner at Nook (Photo courtesy of Taylor Noel Photography)

What to eat & drink while exploring downtown Tucson’s ‘Haiku Hike’

April 12, 2023
By Matt Sterner

Celebrating National Poetry Month

Oh, the weather is warming up, the birds are chirping, and downtown is blossoming with haikus. No, a haiku isn’t something you can eat — it’s a poem of 17 syllables in three lines of five, seven, and five.

The fourth annual Haiku Hike, presented by the Downtown Tucson Partnership (DTP) and the University of Arizona Poetry Center, is a literary competition showcasing 20 winning haiku poems printed on acrylic signage in planters located on Congress Street and Stone Avenue.

Half of the fun is finding where they’re hiding.

This year, they got to sift through 1,556 poems that were submitted from all over the world. More than 1,100 were from Tucson and the other poems were submitted from 28 states and 23 countries. From now until Thursday, June 1, these poems will be scattered along Congress Street and Stone Avenue.

“The Haiku Hike is approximately 1,000 steps and provides a perfect opportunity for the public to get reacquainted with all that Downtown Tucson has to offer,” Kathleen Eriksen, President & CEO of the DTP, stated in a press release. “We’re pleased to present the Haiku Hike in time for National Poetry Month, in the month of April.”

Haiku Hike in downtown Tucson (Photo by Sam Jump)

That’s a lot of steps and you’ll need to keep your energy goin’ with the proper local food and drinks along the way. So, here’s a list of restaurants and bars awaiting your arrival along the Haiku Hike.

Where to eat & drink along the Haiku Hike

Batch Cafe & Bar

118 E. Congress St.

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.

Berry Greens Juice Bar

245 E. Congress St. #159
Photo by Jackie Tran

The menu features a wide variety of “healthy, fresh, and tasty options” like acai bowls, cold-pressed juices, smoothies, food, and other bites.

For more information, visit berrygreens.com.

Blue Front

110 E. Congress St.
Fresh Fruit and Yogurt at Blue Front (Photo by Taylor Noel Photography)

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.

For more information, visit bluefronttucson.com

Caffe Luce

245 E. Congress St.
Photo by Jackie Tran

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.

The Century Room

311 E. Congress St.
A photo of the interior of The Century Room cocktail lounge
Music, murals, munchies, and mixology at The Century Room (Photo Credit: Hotel Congress)

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.

For more information, visit hotelcongress.com.

Cobra Arcade Bar

63 E. Congress St.
Photo by Jackie Tran

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.

Cup Cafe at Hotel Congress

311 E. Congress St.

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.

Elliott’s On Congress

135 E. Congress St.
Photo by Jackie Tran

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 Pizza & Pub

137 E. Congress St.
Photo by Jackie Tran

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.


63 E. Congress St. 121

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.

Good Oak Bar

316 E. Congress St.
A photo of the interior of Good Oak Bar in Tucson
Beers on boards, tastes on tap, and cocktails on call at Good Oak Bar downtown (Photo Credit: Adam Lehrman)

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.

HeeMee Coffee + Bakery

20 E. Congress St., Ste. 110
Photo by Jackie Tran

The family-run cafe resides in the 1,300-square-foot space at 20 E. Congress St., Ste. 110. Seoul, Korea native HeeMee Kim bakes at the cafe with her daughter Angela Kim. HeeMee’s pastries are the result of researching countless Korean, French, and Japanese recipes and adjusting them to her liking.

Keep up with HeeMee Coffee + Bakery on Instagram.

HUB Restaurant & Ice Creamery

266 E. Congress St.

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.

HUB Ice Cream Parlor

245 E. Congress St.

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 & Bar

210 E. Congress St.
Photo by Jackie Tran

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.

Iron John’s Brewing Company

222 E. Congress St.
Photo by Jackie Tran

Iron John’s Brewing Company has had its downtown taproom at 222 E. Congress St. temporarily closed for a bit, but the taps are once again flowing. The space at 222 E. Congress St. previously housed Tucson Olive Central. Outlets and Wi-Fi are available for customers to get comfy and hang out with their beer, and they’ll have at least seven beverages on tap.

For more information, visit ironjohnsbrewing.com.

Little Love Burger

312 E. Congress St.
(Photo by SWOON Media)

Scratch-made burgers you’ll long for in the heart of downtown Tucson. Plus, they have plenty of beers on tap to keep your thirst at bay. Cheers!

For more information, visit littleloveburger.com.

The Monica

40 E. Congress St.
“Best Brunch Ever” at The Monica (Kim Johnston)

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.

The Neighborhood DWTN

61 E. Congress St.
Photo courtesy of The Neighborhood DWTN on Instagram

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


1 E. Congress St.
Photo by Taylor Noel Photography

Nook promises a kick in the morning with its 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.


278 E. Congress St.

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

Proper Shops

300 E. Congress St.
(Photo courtesy of Proper Shops on Facebook)

This spot is all about shopping, mingling, and sipping. That’s right. They’ve got a comfy bar inside the shopping area filled with a nice wine and beer selection.

For more information, visit propershopstucson.com.

The Screamery

250 E. Congress St.

The Screamery’s ice cream is made completely from scratch with all-natural ingredients and milk from grass-fed cows. Similar to the Speedway location, The Screamery’s downtown location offers more than 20 original handcrafted flavors, such as Blueberry Cheesecake, Sweet Cream Honeycomb, and Orange Dreamsicle.

For more information, visit thescreamery.com.

Snake & Barrel

118 E. Congress St.
A photo of a cocktail being poured next to several other drinks
Snake & Barrel’s Colorful Cocktails (Photo Credit: Taylor Noel Photography)

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.

For more information, visit batchtucson.com.

Wooden Tooth Records

108 E. Congress St.

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.

Other spots to visit downtown

The above spots are the restaurants and bars strictly found along the Haiku Hike, but if you are in the mood to stray from the path, scroll through our complete downtown eating and drinking guide.

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