Modern Streetcar in Tucson

An eastbound streetcar crosses over the Cushing Street bridge at the Santa Cruz River, Tucson, Ariz., July 24, 2019.

Last summer, I wrote a little guide about where to eat downtown along the streetcar route. I talked about how I loved having the streetcar as an option when Tucson is such a car-dependent city: it’s more affordable than ride-shares and easier to coordinate than finding a designated driver. In the year since, a lot has changed — menus have shifted, new restaurants have cropped up.

The Sun Link Streetcar connects downtown, the Mercado District, Fourth Avenue, Main Gate Square and the University of Arizona. The streetcar’s fares are waived through the end of June 2022.

Here’s a follow-up guide to take advantage of all Tucson’s downtown area has to offer, including nine picks.

Happy Hour

Krissy and Bruno Girardi reopened the space that once housed Caffé Milano as Perché No, which means “why not?” in Italian. The Girardis say they fell in love with Tucson while on a cross-country road trip.

Perche’ No

This Italian restaurant has a hidden gem of a happy hour. You can find lightly fried polenta in gorgonzola sauce, bruschetta and Caesar salad, all in a tight range of $5-6. They also have $8 Italian cocktails: think Aperol Spritzes, Negronis, Hugos, alongside house beer and wine deals.

Location: 46 W. Congress St.

Happy Hour: 4-6 p.m. Tuesday-Thursday

Hours: Lunch from 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. | Dinner from 4-9 p.m. | Open Tuesday-Saturday

For more information, check out their website.

A cocktail titled “Killer Parties Almost Killed Me” is served in a ceramic peacock and set aflame.

The Delta

The sister restaurant of The Parish brings eclectic, daring Southern cuisine downtown. The Delta offers both happy hour and late-night specials. For happy hour, you can get $3 off both specialty cocktails and a variety of rich appetizers like Texas poutine and seafood gumbo. If you have a flair for old fashioneds, you can get them at The Delta’s happy hour for only $6.

Location: 135 S. Sixth Ave.

Happy Hour: 3-6 p.m. Tuesday-Thursday | 3-7 p.m. Friday

Hours: 4-10 p.m. Tuesday-Thursday | 4 p.m. to midnight Friday-Saturday | 4-9 p.m. Sunday

For more information, check out their website.

Chicken and waffles plate at The Drunken Chicken on Fourth Avenue. 

Dinner

When going out, I find it’s best to have a meal that can sustain you. One of my favorite comfort foods is fried chicken: you can’t go wrong at The Drunken Chicken. Their indulgent sandwiches can sustain anyone embarking on a long night out on the town. If burgers are more your deal, Lindon “Lindy” Reilly’s passion project Thunder Bacon Burger Co. does NOT disappoint.

The Drunken Chicken

Location: 429 N. Fourth Ave.

Hours: 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily

For more information, check out their website.

The Thunder Classic burger is two patties topped with bacon, American cheese, thunder sauce, lettuce and a pickle.

Thunder Bacon Burger Co.

Location: 621 N. Fourth Ave.

Hours: 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Tuesday-Thursday | 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Friday-Saturday | 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday 

For more information, check out their website.

Drinks

Pictured here in 2016 is The Aspirational West, similar to a classic whiskey cocktail, at The Owls Club.

The Owls Club

The Owls Club is great if you want to be on the scene. Hipsters, normie Bumble dates and everyone in between who’s looking for a little something funky has passed through this mortuary-cum-jazz bar on a Friday night.

Location: 236 S. Scott Ave.

Hours: 5 p.m. to midnight Tuesday-Sunday

For more information, check out their website.

The Shanty

For a more intimate evening, try The Shanty. It boasts Arizona’s oldest liquor license and has a quiet patio. Even though it’s a stone’s throw to high-key discotheques like Hi-Fi, it’s a world apart. Here, you’ll find an extensive beer list and pool tables. All the making for a neighborhood joint, within striking distance of a big night out.

Location: 401 E. Ninth St.

Hours: Noon to 2 a.m. Thursday-Tuesday | Noon to midnight Wednesday

For more information, check out their website.

“There are five major components of flavor in wine: alcohol, sweetness, dryness, tannin, and acid. Any of these can be overpowering,” said Todd Getzelman, owner of Revel Wine Bar.

Revel

Revel is a fun, accessible wine bar, where you can either kick off a night or hunker down for an evening. Whether you want to impress a date or chill out with friends, it’s a setting for all of Tucson. Revel often books jazz shows on the weekends and if you’re interested in learning more about wine, they offer tasting classes on Sundays, usually for $15.

Location: 416 E. Ninth St.

Hours: 4-9 p.m. Sunday-Thursday | 4 p.m. to midnight Friday-Saturday

For more information, check out their website.

Late Night

Pictured is the elote pizza from Empire Pizza.

Empire Pizza 

Empire Pizza has been the safe harbor after every night out I’ve had downtown. Their perfectly greasy cheese pizza is the panacea to whatever drink you had previously imbibed. Tucson has a lot of good pizza, and this is my favorite New York-style slice. It’s the special treat, cherry on top, of every night out — good or bad, a slice of Empire's pizza will make it better. And they’re open until 3 a.m. on Fridays and Saturdays. Oh, and there’s a hidden bar in the back.

Location: 137 E. Congress St.

Hours: 11 a.m. to midnight Sunday-Thursday | 11-3 a.m. Friday-Saturday

For more information, check out their website.

Pictured is half of the V-Licious Vegan Burger and veggie chips from Fullylove's, 994 E. University Blvd.

Fullylove’s

After a brief but impressive stint on Fourth Avenue, Fullylove’s found a permanent home in Main Gate Square. With vegan options as delicious and indulgent as anything else on their comfort food menu, it’s my favorite place to go out with herbivorous friends.

Location: 994 E. University Blvd.

Hours: Noon to 10 p.m. Monday-Thursday | Noon to 11 p.m. Friday-Saturday | Noon to 8 p.m. Sunday

For more information, check out their website.

If you’re looking for places to grab a bite after midnight, Main Gate Square is replete with student-focused options open until around 2 a.m., like The Blind Pig.


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