The Best Tucson Underground Bars
Imagine you're hanging out in lovely Tucson, Arizona, enjoying the desert sun and eclectic vibe of this southwestern city. Maybe you've come for one of the many amazing Tucson events or festivals, or you are just here for the ever-present sun. Whatever the reason, you're hankering for a drink, but you don't know where to go. You're tired of the regular bar scene and you want to try something new. Well, we are here to help you with our list of the Best Underground Bars in Tucson.
Kon Tiki Restaurant & Lounge
Gracing Broadway Boulevard since the 1960s, the Kon Tiki serves exotic, tropical drinks in a luau-like atmosphere as its name suggests. Since it is surrounded by office buildings and strip malls, you might not think it's the place to go on a Friday night. But you'd be wrong! The place is packed on the weekends, mostly with college students, giving it's retro interior a younger feel. The restaurant inside is a big and dark, with somewhat mysterious, kitschy décor. The current management has been working recently on updating the classic bar while keeping it true to its roots. The Kon Tiki even includes the world's largest collection of Milan Guanko carved tikis, as well as other island paraphernalia. With over 50 different drinks on its menu, you'd be hard pressed to find something you didn't like. Drinks with names like Koko Pino, Kon Tiki Mai Tai, and Drink of the Gods are bound to send you on your way to a tropical island in the middle of the Arizona heat. But there are also others for the more adventurous among you, including the Volcano Bowl, Navy Grog, Devils' Triangle, and Maiden's Downfall. Aloha!
Bob Dobb's Bar & Grill
This Tucson staple has beckoned to visitors from its corner location since 1983. Situated in the historic Sam Hughes neighborhood, this all-American tavern offers several beers on tap, as well as a variety of bar food, not to mention two happy hours every day from Monday to Friday. This neighborhood bar is the place to go if you're looking for a casual spot to meet friends, as opposed to a noisy, crowded dance club. Together with daily specials, the bar also offers large flat-screen TVs and plenty of seating to watch a variety of sports events year-round, particularly those of the local University of Arizona Wildcats.
The Dusty Monk
If European-style beer is more your thing, try the Dusty Monk. Located in the Presidio District, this bar will appeal to the beer enthusiast in anyone! It always has 12 featured beers on tap, which are rotated regularly, and the drinks menu includes everything from Belgian, German and British beers to Japanese, French, and Mexican. There is also a great selection of liqueurs from Germany, Italy and even Latvia. With regards to food, they serve typical “pub grub” but also include some Southwestern options. It is Arizona, after all! The bar features live music regularly, including pianist Elliot Jones, and several other artists. One unusual claim to fame: the Dusty Monk has the only bumper pool table in Tucson. If you're not familiar with bumper pool, it is sort of a cross between chess and pool. And likely gets more interesting after a few Belgian beers!
The Shelter Cocktail Lounge
If someone were to say to you, “hey, let's go get a drink in a fallout shelter!” it would probably drum up visions of grey, concrete walls, and stale water, so you'd be forgiven for saying “ah, no thanks, I'm good.” But then you'd miss an opportunity to experience the Shelter Cocktail Lounge. A fixture of Tucson since 1961, the Shelter features a neon-lit and white concrete interior and has tons of JFK memorabilia, as well as other Cold War paraphernalia. This retro bar, located in a round, windowless building, serves modern martinis as well as classic cocktails, several beers on tap, and includes a happy hour. It even offers a separate smoking lounge, if that's your thing. The Shelter also shows 60s B movies and has tons of music from the era. So dig out those go-go boots and check it out. Don't forget to swing by the restrooms if you're in the need for some new bad jokes. You'll see.
Buffet Bar & Crock pot
This dive bar has long been a fixture of Tucson and actually claims to be Tucson's oldest bar. Full of locals and no frills, this bar is known to be authentic, busy and a bit grungy, but that's all part of the atmosphere. The interior is dark, divey and has a few interesting murals. The locals and bartenders alike are friendly and diverse – everyone from University of Arizona students to First Responders and veterans to people who have lived in the area and been patrons of the Buffet their entire adult lives. There's no food served, except for the crock pot hot dog buffet on certain days of the week. And to keep things interesting, there are a couple of Happy Minutes (invented by the founder of the bar, Ted Bair) each day – you snooze, you lose!
Found in the area of historic Fourth Avenue, Che's Lounge has been "located in Tucson since forever” according to their website. Although it has actually only been open since 2000. Unpretentious and friendly, this is the type of place where after a couple of visits everyone knows your name. And if you can only stop in once, that’s ok – you'll still be treated as a local. The atmosphere here may be younger than some of the other establishments on this list, but that doesn't mean that the older crowd won't be welcomed. The variety of music on the jukebox is excellent and Che's features live music regularly. Bartenders are known to be talented, serving a wide variety of cocktails and seasonal drinks. Food is available Thursday through Sunday outside the lounge via a food truck called Geronimo's Revenge, which focuses on seasonal and local ingredients.
Scott & Co.
Located on N. Scott Avenue, Scott & Co. originally started as a craft cocktail bar and an adjunct to its neighboring restaurant 47 Scott. ut now the name of this hidden gem refers to both the original speakeasy-style bar and the bar program for the restaurant. The bartenders are well schooled in cocktail making, as they have to be! Scott & Co. features many cocktails, all separated by category: Signature (with things like a Moscow Mule), The Originals (featuring libations like Mojitos and Manhattans), the Golden Era (love the name of Aviation and Tipperary!), the Expats (the Pink Lady and Hemingway Daiquiri sound delicious), Tiki (kick back with a Jungle Bird or Singapore Sling) and Modern Classics (get in the last word with a Last Word!). A Happy Hour menu is also available, as well as local beer on tap. But this is the place to go if you're looking for that unique cocktail experience. Then pop next door for dinner or check out some of our other recommended restaurants downtown!
The Owl's Club
This warm, casual cocktail bar is located in the historic Armory Park area of Tucson. An “aspirational Western bar” according to its website, this bar features a huge selection of whiskeys (2 full pages on its menu!), as well as other spirits, wines, and several beers. While you are gently sipping your bourbon or single malt (I take my neat, thank you very much), take a look around at the building in which the bar is located. Dating from 1902, the site was originally built for the Fraternal Order of the Owls, hence the bar's name. It was also, at one time, a funeral home. And it is rumored that the soul of at least one former client never left. The dark walls and dim lighting, as well as church pews for seating in one area, accentuate this eerie atmosphere. But don't fret; there are plenty of stiff drinks to get you through any case of the heebie-jeebies you might experience here.
Located inside the Hotel Congress, Club Congress provides nightlife for both hotel guests and locals alike. Music is provided almost every night of the week, in a variety of genres from dance music with fantastic DJs to jazz nights and singer-songwriters. In fact, this venue, which opened in 1985, has become a major stopping point for touring bands playing in Tucson. It has even been called the longest-running venue of its kind west of the Mississippi. The hotel even acknowledges that rock and roll comes first, and does not give refunds or discounts as a result of the music spilling out from its stages. They do offer earplugs however. Club Congress is actually made up of four individual bars: the Tap Room (a cowboy bar and local favorite since 1919); the main bar with a bar top that is over a century old; the Cybar, which is adjacent to the dance floor; and the Hotel Lobby Bar, which has over 150 different varieties of spirits and cocktails. The Oracle suggests you stroll around downtown and check out some of the numerous amazing Tucson murals around the area before stopping in for a cool and refreshing cocktail.
So next time you are driving through the great state of Arizona, and find yourself near the city of Tucson, be sure to stay a few days to check out the local scene. Not only are there plenty of great watering holes for a tasty cocktail or very cold beer, but you will find Tucson to be a vibrant city with many great events, festivals and activities.