As the dog days of summer fill out their final days this month, you might find yourself on a tight budget. Just because your funds are low, though, doesn't mean you can't enjoy some of Tucson's best food and drink.
With abundant happy hours all over the city, there are many great options to choose from. However, what makes a standout afternoon pick me up experience is a variety of drink specials and small plate options that don't relinquish regular menu quality. Lucky for you, I've taken some of the legwork out of searching for your new favorite after-work spot, so saddle up and follow me on my quest for a truly exquisite happy hour experience.
Reilly Craft Pizza & Drink
101 E. Pennington St.,
Hours: Daily 3 to 6 p.m.
The Deals: There's nothing in this world that will soothe your weary overworked soul quite like your own pizza. That's where Reilly comes in. The just-turned-three-year-old pizzeria offers mini versions of their normal pizzas for $6, which means you can order up a smoky, yolky speck and egg or a bright and peppery arugula and prosciutto on the cheap. You also have your choice from a stunning list of ever-changing and inventive draft cocktails for $5, wine for $5 and $1 off draft beers. If you're a real beer snob, head to the beer garden for $1 off all of the craft brews they're pouring. Rumor has it the basement bar (a.k.a. Tough Luck Club) might join in on happy hour too.
400 N. Toole Ave.,
Hours: Tuesday-Saturday 4 to 6 p.m.
The Deals: While the market side offers expanded hours on these happy hour deals (until 8 p.m.), cocktail fans will want to come early to sip on the $7 drinks at Maynard's. A handful of options, including the Tequila's Dirty Sister (made with a raspberry habanero shrub), are joined by $5 glasses of wine and crazy cheap $3 drafts. The impressive bar menu boasts duck confit poutine, mussels in white wine sauce, oysters, a burger and steak tartare, among other things, for around $7 as well. Plus, the patio is the perfect spot to take advantage of those rare days where the temperature drops below 90 degrees.
50 E. Broadway Blvd.,
Hours: Tuesday-Saturday 3 to 5 p.m.
The Deals: Penca might serve up upscale Mexican fare, but, during happy hour, the tacos are priced like a taco stand. For $5 you can get your choice of two tacos off the regular menu, and one (or both) of them should definitely be the tender, flavorful cabeza. Other food options include elote ($5), crunchy chicharron ($4), roasted bone marrow with cilantro chimichurri ($10) and a $12 cheeseboard. You can wash down all of that spicy goodness with $3 pints or $5 jars of Modelo Especial. Three different house-made sangrias are also available for $6 per glass, with a sherry and brandy cinnamon Grenache, a grapefruit and herbes de Provence rose and a white sangria with pennyroyal-infused pisco, honey and a mirepoix shrub.
220 N. Fourth Ave.,
Hours: Tuesday-Sunday 2 to 6 p.m.
The Deals: This new craft beer and wine joint off Fourth Avenue is a great spot to stop in just to see its beautiful renovated digs. However, the four-hour happy hour will likely pull you in too. The rotating selection of two different wines for $5 and $1 off one draft and one packaged beer will have you coming back to see what's on special, while the $7 Zip Burger will make you an instant fan. The rich, decadent zip sauce and Double Check Ranch beef make it a must-try. Meat-free eaters can always opt for comfort in the five-cheese filled grilled cheese sandwich ($7) served with an onion jam.
Downtown Kitchen + Cocktails
135 S. Sixth Ave.,
Hours: Daily 4 to 6 p.m.
The Deals: With a name like Downtown Kitchen + Cocktails, it's a safe bet chef Janos Wilder's restaurant is a solid place to get happy hour. Although the restaurant offers some of the best drink deals in town with $2.50 drafts, $5 wines and $4.50 specialty cocktails, this spot is more about the food than anything else. With a 13-item food menu, including upscale fusion bites like crispy duck and sour cherry filo ($8) and char siu fried rice ($7), you'll definitely walk away stuffed and satisfied from this happy hour.
Pasco Kitchen & Lounge
820 E. University Blvd.,
Hours: Daily 3 to 6 p.m.
The Deals: $5 goes a long way at Pasco and, unlike many other happy hours, you can enjoy the deals every day of the week. $5 glasses of wine and $3.50 beers will get you started, but the real star of the drink menu is the Father Kino ($5). The spicy blend of tequila, jalapeno agave nectar, cucumber and cilantro is refreshing, but with an intense kick. However, with a list featuring in-your-face infusions, fresh fruit and herbs and much more, you'll likely be happy with any of the cocktails you pick off of the seven-drink list. Food options range from a light farmers market salad topped with a pesto buttermilk dressing to an all-beef corn dog. The best bar bites to share here are the pickles and fries coated in a smoky spicy seasoning and the T-Town nachos made with Anita's Street Market's tortilla chips, Oaxaca cheese, salsa verde and your choice of meat or veggies. Did I mention all of those dishes are just $5?
402 E. Ninth St.,
Hours: Tuesday-Saturday 3 to 6 p.m.
The Deals: It feels a little like France and a little like New Orleans posting up at The Coronet bar. The small, stylish brasserie isn't all about looks, though. A range of drinks and dishes are priced between $3 and $5, offering the chance to sample a lot of different offerings all in one visit. König Ludwig Weiss beer is just $3, while one red and one white wine option are $5 each. A selection of expertly prepared classic cocktails such as the booze-forward Vesper, a classic Old Fashioned or a daiquiri, also run at just $5 a pop. From there, there are even more food options to choose from with six $3 snacks and five $5 plates. Veggies are the star here with the house pickles serving up spiced and brined fennel, cauliflower, peppers, eggs and more for a heavy dose of flavor, while Moroccan beets and carrots or root vegetables in a sauce verte impress with unique, bright spicing.
100 S. Avenida del Convento, Suite 150,
Hours: Tuesday-Sunday 3 to 6 p.m.
The Deals: Sure, this spot is a little further from downtown proper than the others, but Agustin arguably offers some of the most generous happy hour food and beverage in town, so it's worth the pre-freeway pit stop.
With a list of six craft cocktails for $5, as well as discounts on beer and wine, you'll have plenty to choose from to quench your thirst. I recommend starting with the fruity and bright rhum blanc-based La Bendición, which blends pineapple juice, absinthe and more. To eat, several appetizer options are half off, including the tangy pickled strawberry gel topped brulee goat cheese ($5) and the crispy calamari with a spicy dipping sauce ($6). My favorite here is the hefty helping of steamed Santa Barbara mussels ($6.50) in a garlic and white wine sauce. Served with an optional (I think, mandatory) side of fries ($4), this dish is more than enough to share.