The building itself is awe-inspiring with a 12-foot carved wooden bear out front, but to many, the food at Gentle Ben’s Brewing Company is light years away from the traditional bar food you’d come to expect. With free parking at the nearby Tyndall Garage from Monday through Friday after 5 p.m. — the Gentle Ben’s crew will validate your parking — it’s a must-visit destination along Main Gate Square.
While the building has been around since 1971, the beer brewing process kicked off in 1991 when original owners Dennis and Tauna Arnold founded Gentle Ben’s Brewing Company. In 2005, the need for expansion moved the brewery’s production facilities to Barrio Brewing Company’s 22,000-square-foot building — Gentle Ben’s sister site — where their been continues to be brewed.
Since then, the restaurant and bar at 865 E. University Blvd. has hosted numerous celebrities and famous alumni over the years, like Rob Gronkowski, Richard Jefferson, Jason Terry, Teddy Bruski, Tj McConnell, Aaron Gordon, and Kourtney Kardashian (yes, she graduated from the University of Arizona).
“During Kourtney Kardashian’s visit, she graciously called ahead to request permission to film,” said Richard Fifer of Gentle Ben’s. “However, upon arrival, the celebrity duo found themselves surrounded by hundreds of enthusiastic fans. In response, we swiftly escorted Kourtney and Scott Disick upstairs to provide them with a more private space away from the crowd.
Rob Gronkowski’s visit was no less eventful.
“Long before his arrival, eager guests came to Gentle Ben’s, necessitating the presence of a dedicated team of over 20 security guards to maintain a safe distance from the football star,” Fifer added. “Once settled in, Gronk indulged in a few bottles of Don Julio 1942 and joined the festivities with the DJs.”
As mentioned earlier, the food at Gentle Ben’s isn’t your typical “bar food” and the kitchen makes a point to source as much as they can locally and regionally.
“We have a great relationship with Merchant’s Garden, which provides all of our greens,” said Fifer. “Our bread comes from Wildflower Bread, tortillas come from Tortillas de Harina Linda, Maya Tea for all of our brewed tea, Scented Leaf for seasonal cocktails, and Barrio Brewing and MotoSonora for all of our draft beer.”
The restaurant as a whole is a must-visit when strolling around Main Gate Square, but when it comes to some of the most popular dishes on Gentle Ben’s menu, there’s one in particular that’s become a staple over time.
“The Lizzy salad has been a stand-out menu item for over 20 years and is one of my favorites,” said Fifer. “It has gorgonzola, red onions, bell peppers, chicken, bacon, and red and green leaf lettuce tossed in a honey basil vinaigrette. The dressing is amazing and brings all of the flavors together. A new dish we just added to the menu is the Ahi Tuna Tostada. It’s two tostadas topped with fresh tuna, avocado, onion, jalapeño, drizzled with a soy glaze and a spicy mayo, and topped with sesame seeds.”
If you’re looking for an earlier meal out on University Boulevard, the restaurant hosts brunch on Saturday and Sunday from 9 a.m. – noon.
A trio of benedicts, a trio of burritos, and a trio of omelets grace the menu with some classics like Biscuits and Sausage Gravy, Chilaquiles, and a Traditional Breakfast — two eggs made to order, your choice of bacon or sausage, and your choice of greens or homestyle potatoes.
Gentle Ben’s keeps up with their event calendar, too, ensuring everyone knows what happening weekly.
For instance, $2 Tuesdays kick off at 9 p.m. with $2 drinks ($5 cover to get in), $10 Pitcher Night lands on Thursdays, and Saturday afternoons host Deck Day — $4 beer specials, $5 tacos, and more — and Girls Night Out starts at 9 p.m. on Saturdays with all-female DJs and bartenders, $6 Cosmopolitans, and $3 shots.
In conclusion, a lot is happening at the historic building on University, and the team has been keeping up with the times, so to speak, offering a little bit of something for the family, for students, and for folks looking for a good time.
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