Best Of Tucson®

Best Spirits & Nightlife 2022

Best Musical Act

Miss Olivia and the Interlopers

Voted the best, Miss Olivia and the Interlopers may also be the most versatile musical act in town. You’ll find her band at trendy Downtown venues like Revel Wine Bar and Tap and Bottle, or at the Fox Tucson Theatre for its popular Second Saturdays Downtown events. Look for her, too, at fundraisers and unique special events that combine her skill sets as a musician and bartender, like the recent Sazerac Week, when her band played both The Parish and The Delta to celebrate New Orleans and its favorite cocktail.

Reader Recommended

Whiskey Treats,


Best Cover Band

Mark Miller Band

If you’re looking to “leave your hat on,” and your “road leads” northwest of town, you’ll be “Tempted” by two of Tucson-area country music lovers’ most popular watering holes, The Station and Whiskey Roads. Often, the Mark Miller Band is there playing country favorites from the ’90s. Go ahead and “Dance the Night Away” like the Mavericks.

Reader Recommended

The Dirt,

Jukebox Junqies Band,

Best Punk


For a short time, the young women of Mudpuppy disrupted the long tradition of Tucson punk by ending Pork Torta’s decades of predictable dominance. Like Amazons on fire with the rage of youth, they railed against, for instance, misogyny. Alas, fans, Mudpuppy is kaput, but there’s good news. We can still find Tara Berger and Odalys Catalan in other music projects around town.

Reader Recommended

Pork Torta,

Closet Goth,

Best Jazz

Connie Brannock and the Little House of Funk

Blues, funk, boogie, barrel roll, honkytonk — it’s all jazz, man, at least in the repertoire of Connie Brannock and her Little House of Funk. Brannock makes it look so easy and sound so good, it’s as if to breathe were to swing. Wherever she plays, her Little House (or sometimes Tiny House) has room for other Tucson favorites to join in, like Heather Hardy, Mitzi Cowell, Rich Katz and Tyrone Williams. 

Reader Recommended

Crystal Stark,

Chateau Chateau,

Best Rock

The Dirt

The Dirt proudly claims to be a tribute to ’80s hair metal bands. Nothing, of course, rocked harder before or since. Their energy can be alarming in that really fierce, ’80s you-could-get-killed-in-the-mosh-pit way. Now, of course, we have security in that really good, throw-your-ass-in-jail way. You should probably be careful of your joints anyway as you rock out to Mötley Crüe, Guns N Roses, Quiet Riot, Ratt, etc. Maybe chewables will chill you out some.

Reader Recommended

Birds and Arrows,

Drop D,

Best Folk

Leila Lopez

Multi-instrumentalist Leila Lopez has not stopped playing music since she was first tall enough to reach a piano’s keys. She grew up here, and her music is a Tucson soundscape. She produces her own recordings in her home studio, playing all the instruments. Fans await a follow-up to the remarkable document of her life to date in 2017’s “Animal Skin.” Meanwhile, she performs the repertoire accumulated all her life.

Reader Recommended

The Tucsonics,


Best Hip-Hop Act

Marley B

Marley B is always a contender in this category, rarely dropping below the top three. He takes his business as seriously as his talent. His rhymes are tight, his messages resonant and relevant, but it’s likely that his consistent social media presence, and regular sharing of new material also help keep him on top. He’s becoming a welcome guest even at out-of-town fests.

Reader Recommended

Cash Lansky,

Big Vinci,

Best Country Act

Mark Miller Band

Mark Miller may seem like an overnight success, but talent does that. His country baritone voice is magic, with the kind of effortless phrasing that producers earn big money for in Nashville. Long a regular live act at Frog & Firkin, Miller and his band took off in the virtual world early in 2020 with a weekly Friday show on Facebook Live. The show was a hit and led him to hire a manager and release an original iTunes single, “Run Away with Me.” Watch this space.

Reader Recommended

Drew Cooper,

Hank Topless,

Best Reggae

DJ Jahmar

Maybe it’s his Jamaican roots that give a unique edge to Jahmar Anthony’s mixes. You have heard his work if you’ve partied at Mr. Head’s or HUSH Social Club. Insistent and insinuating, the beats almost compel dancing. Anthony also produces several rap and reggae artists and is first call for beats, any category. He also runs Club Lyfe Apparel, specializing in T-shirts with a sleek headphones motif.

Reader Recommended

Neon Prophet,


Best R&B

Connie Braddock and the Little House of Funk

It’s a tribute to her talent, versatility and even stamina that Connie Braddock, who also won the best jazz category, may be the most frequently booked musician in Tucson. It’s the breadth of her repertoire and the emotional content of her delivery that so successfully connects her to fans. She also keeps her sets fresh with new material that she sells online and at shows. She’s a pro’s pro, and she attracts the best pros to play along. 

Reader Recommended

Miss Oliva and the Interlopers,

Funky Bonz,

Best Gay Bar


616 N. Fourth Avenue


IBT’s is the best place to go to be who you are whoever you are. The acceptance is so thick and rich you could almost cut it with a knife. So how do we reconcile that with the air of privacy, bordering on indifference? IBT’s has been pulling off that hat trick since 1985. If you really want to be noticed, just get your drag on. The club hosts drag shows every weekend.

Reader Recommended

Surly Wench Pub, 424 N. Fourth Avenue, 520-882-0009,

Brodie’s, 2449 N. Stone Avenue, 520-623-3970,

Best Nightclub

Club Congress

311 E. Congress Street


It’s hard to beat Club Congress for late-night cache. It’s a legendary, and safe, meeting spot for people who love to party and meet new folks. It has the ambience of a Downtown center of nightlife, unquestionably the classiest on its corner. The bar is historic, having been moved from a few blocks east on Congress, and it offers an assortment of classic cocktails. Every dance night at Congress, in the club or the plaza, has a unique sound and sensibility — funk, Latin, electro and more. Dance in the club every Thursday, Friday and Saturday, and on the plaza per the website calendar.

Reader Recommended

IBT’s, 616 N. Fourth Avenue, 520-882-3053,

Whiskey Roads, 2290 W. Ina Road, 520-219-0134,

Best Casino

Casino Del Sol

5655 W. Valencia Road


Casino Del Sol has some winning numbers. It has more than 1,300 slot machines and electronic games, plus live roulette, craps, baccarat, two kinds of blackjack, three kinds of poker, and bingo. There’s also a high-limit room if you’re feeling flush. Other impressive numbers are in the 2,000-seat AVA Amphitheater that hosts dozens of world-class acts throughout the year. The resort has 250 rooms and suites, and the spa offers, among other things, a Yaqui-inspired flower ritual. 

Reader Recommended

Desert Diamond Casino
7350 S. Nogales Highway, Tucson
1100 W. Pima Mine Road, Sahuarita

Best Venue for Live Music

Rialto Theatre

318 E. Congress Street


The Rialto Theatre turned 100 in 2020, and it’s never looked better. Maybe even more importantly, it’s never sounded better. The flexibility with seating capacity has made it ideal for standing “rawk” shows and danceable hip-hop, rap and Latin sounds, while also allowing for sit-down boomer rock, folk and ambient and immersive projects that use both the floor and the stage. Then there’s the sui generis but essential Mexican Wrestling. It comes in first, here, every year, and is regularly voted one of the top 100 rock venues in the world.

Reader Recommended

Hotel Congress, 311 E. Congress Street, 520-622-8848,

AVA Amphitheater, Casino Del Sol, 5655 W. Valencia Road, 1-800-344-9435,

Best College Bar

Frog N Firkin

874 E. University Boulevard


Frog N Firkin feels quite literally like a home (which it once was) where everyone might know each other. Meet friends for a drink or just people-watch along the Third Avenue shopping district and the SunLink streetcar line. The beer selection is great, but the main attraction is the menu. It’s so much better than it has to be at that location, full of innovative dishes that are both healthy and economical for a student budget. Right there, too, are all those high-fat and sugar options to feed athletic aspirations or a broken heart.

Reader Recommended

Gentle Ben’s, 865 E. University Boulevard, 520-624-4177,

The Hut, 305 N. Fourth Avenue, 520-623-3200,

Best Neighborhood Bar

The Shelter Cocktail Lounge

4155 E. Grant Road


The Shelter isn’t self-conscious about its legitimate status as an icon of trendy, midcentury modern architecture. Its affect is more old Vegas than Frank Lloyd Wright. Lava lamps, paintings on velvet and JFK memorabilia are everywhere. The ambient sound is of ’60s hits. B-movies of the era are always on screen. Bartenders are even versed in the era’s mixology, if that’s a customer’s pleasure. The bathroom walls, reportedly, are home to some great bad jokes. 

Reader Recommended

Tap and Bottle
403 N. Sixth Avenue, Suite 135, 520-344-8999
7254 N. Oracle Road, 520-268-8725

The Buffet Bar, 538 E. Ninth Street, 520-623-6811,

Best Comedian

Mo Urban

Mo Urban is an overachiever — in a good way — in comedy and in the Tucson comedy scene. She’s helped launch six open mics. She’s produced or co-produced several shows in Bisbee and four local series including her current quarterly series at Black Rock Brewery. She continues to teach stand-up classes in a course she started five years ago at Tucson Improv Movement that has since added another course and two more instructors. She’s represented Tucson in the Big Pine and Bird City comedy festivals, and she remains committed to creating safe spaces for marginalized Tucsonans to perform comedy. 

Reader Recommended

Allana Erickson-Lopez,

Matt Beaudry,

Best Happy Hour

The Trident Grill

Multiple locations,

The Trident is a gastropub in the proud uniform of a neighborhood sports bar. Patrons are serious enough about sports to get the channel changed on the screens facing their respective tables. The happy hour menu of $6 to $8 treats comes out from 3 to 6 p.m. when there’s $1 off all craft beer, well cocktails and wine by the glass. We recommend the Kahlua pork tacos with mango sauce or crispy cod tacos with avocado lime.

Reader Recommended

Union Public House, 4340 N. Campbell Avenue, Suite 100, 520-329-8575,

Barrio Brewing, 800 E. Sixth Street, 520-791-2739,

Best Place to Sing Karaoke


1003 N. Stone Avenue


Situated ideally in the Best Western Royal Sun Motel, equidistant from Downtown, I-10 and the UA, Bumsted’s restaurant and bar attracts karaoke fans every night of the week. The ambiance is ’80s, but the music selections are intergenerational and practically bottomless. An aspiring vocalist can get more than two or three turns a night. The restaurant and bar are open 6:30 a.m. to midnight, Sunday to Thursday, and 6:30 a.m. to 2 a.m. Friday and Saturday. Karaoke starts at 9 p.m. nightly. All-ages karaoke starts at 6:30 p.m. Saturday.

Reader Recommended

IBT’s, 616 N. Fourth Avenue, 520-882-3053,

Surly Wench, 424 N. Fourth Avenue, 520-882-0009,

Best Pool Hall


1062 S. Wilmot Road


That Pockets has a pro shop almost puts it in a league of its own. Then there’s the sheer volume of pool tables: 10 regulation, 9-foot pocket tables and seven coin-operated bar tables. For more passive moments, there’s the PAC-12 network playing on seven big screens. Serious players can join one of six weekly leagues. Happy hour offers daily specials on drinks and pool from 6 p.m. to midnight, and the lunch special includes a free hour of pool with an entrée and a drink.

Reader Recommended

Red Garter, 3143 E. Speedway Boulevard, 520-325-0483,

Danny’s Baboquivari Lounge, 2910 E. Fort Lowell Road, 520-795-3178,

Best Comedy Night


2900 E. Broadway


Laff’s Comedy Caffe was established as a comedy club in 1986 and, except for the COVID-19 lockdown, has hosted four professional comedy shows every weekend and a legendary open mic on Thursday nights. The club’s first show featured Mark Maron, who performed recently at the Rialto Theater. Their office bulletin boards are covered with photos of others who later achieved fame on stages and screens everywhere. Their kitchen also offers an extensive menu of snacks, including soups, salads, burgers and chicken, including our favorite grilled cheese sandwich.

Reader Recommended

Unscrewed Theater, 2900 E. Broadway, 520-289-8076,

Tucson Improv Movement, 414 E. Ninth Street, 520-314-7299,

Best Sports Bar

Putney’s Pitstop Sports Bar and Grill

6090 N. Oracle Road


Open daily from 11 a.m. to 2 a.m., Putney’s brings Downtown neighborhood bar culture to the kind of spaciousness we rarely find south of River Road. The enormous patio has a rec-room-sized covered lounge area and several dart boards. Inside, the very long bar is festooned with pennants. Everywhere offers sightlines to several of the bar’s 30 TVs. Two pool tables and a shuffleboard table round out the fun. The pub menu has just the right mix of grandma’s kitchen, your favorite food truck and an arena concession stand.

Reader Recommended

The Trident Grill, Multiple locations,

Red Garter, 3143 E. Speedway Boulevard, 520-325-0483,

Best DJ

DJ Jahmar

DJ Jahmar swept the reggae category, but his jam is broader and always evolving. He’s a first-call DJ for any gathering where beat variations are paramount, and the job is to keep the bodies in motion. Find him most often at Mr. Head’s or HUSH. We can also follow his charity project, DJs Against Hunger, on Instagram at IG Djjahmarintl.

Reader Recommended

Mother Tierra,

DJ Herm,

Best Drag Queen

Tempest DuJour

Tempest DuJour put Tucson on the drag map when she was tapped for “Ru Paul’s Drag Race.” She has taken this category every year since we created it in 2016. Tucson is exceptionally rich in drag culture for a town our size, and the Reader Recommended contenders are always, in a word, fabulous. Tempest is the alter ego of Patrick Holt, a 6-foot-plus UA professor of costume design and father of two. Tempest’s seamlessly defined character, flawless affect and sharp wit win over audiences at benefits and special events throughout the year.

Reader Recommended

Lucinda Holliday,


Best Liquor Store

Plaza Liquors

2642 N. Campbell Avenue 


Plaza Liquors has been family owned and operated since it opened in 1978. It barely seems large enough to hold all the varieties of spirits it sells but the selection is a mixologist’s dream. The inventory of Arizona alcoholic beverages, distilled or fermented, is especially extensive. Checking out the many photos on their website can help a shopper save time, but staff is happy to give advice. That could be especially useful in finding favorites among the 500-plus beer options.

Reader Recommended

Rum Runner, 3131 E. First Street, 520-326-0121,

Liquor Dan, 6161 S. Sixth Avenue, 520-294-4313,

Best Country Western Bar

The Maverick

6622 E. Tanque Verde Road


Every day but Monday, there’s a party with drink specials at The Maverick. Happy hour is 5 to 7 p.m., when you can get a draft or well drink with a bar snack for $3 to $7, and a bucket of five beers for $15. Tuesday and Wednesday there are line dancing and two-step lessons. You can practice them three nights a week when DJs spin country favorites. Live country bands play once or twice a week, and on Sundays there’s a cowboy brunch. All that and you can leave your hat on.

Reader Recommended

Whiskey Roads, 2290 W. Ina Road, 520-219-0134,

Cowpony, 6510 E. Tanque Verde Road, 520-721-2781,

Best Signature Cocktail

The Parish

6453 N. Oracle Road


The Parish’s classic cocktail, The Parishioner, is a delicately tasty blend of house-infused basil vodka, sweetened lemon juice, grapefruit bitters and orange flower water. Served in a coupe cocktail glass, it’s light and elegant. We suspect, though, that The Parish’s most-winning cocktail is its seasonal Sazerac, made to celebrate the women who, on Sept. 23, 1949, led the Storming of the Sazerac, which won their gender the right to, for the first time, be allowed to drink in a bar with men.

Reader Recommended

Owl’s Club, 236 S. Scott Avenue, 520-207-5678,

Highwire, 14 S. Arizona Avenue, 520-449-8673,

Best Burlesque

Surly Wench

424 N. Fourth Avenue 


Surly Wench has featured local and touring burlesque shows since 2006. Stephka VonSnatch, believed to be related to an owner (wink, wink), hosts “Don’t Blink Burlesque” the first Monday of every month. Each show may have a different producer and cast and a unique approach to the art’s possibilities. The burlesque performers regard their art as a form of self-expression. Most shows are meant to excite viewers and leave them wanting more.

Reader Recommended

Don’t Blink Burlesque,

Libertine League,

Best Strip Club

Curves Cabaret

2130 N. Oracle Road


This is the 26th consecutive year Curves has owned this category. There’s a lot to appeal to strip club patrons in the environment that Curves offers. It’s conveniently located close to I-10 and Downtown Tucson. Amenities include VIP rooms, daily drink specials, a full dining menu, $1 burger and fries for lunch, and a two-for-one cover charge on Saturdays.

Reader Recommended

Tens, 5120 E. Speedway Boulevard, 520-325-8367,

Raider’s Reef, 6475 E. Golf Links Road, 520-745-8125,

Best Beer Selection

Tap & Bottle

403 N. Sixth Avenue, Suite 135, 520-344-8999

7254 N. Oracle Road, 520-268-8725

Collaboration has been a cornerstone of Tap & Bottle’s success. It has repeatedly worked with local brewers to innovate and work toward a robust environment for brewing in Tucson. The result has been distinctive brews that tempt ever more beer drinkers to buy local. But Tap & Bottle also has the distinction of offering the widest selection for take-home customers. A patron could polish off a pint just perusing the bar’s cold cases.

Reader Recommended

Barrio Brewing, 800 E. Sixth Street, 520-791-2739,

Arizona Beer House, 150 S. Kolb Road, 520-207-8077

Best Brewery

Barrio Brewing

800 E. Sixth Street


The home of Tucson’s Best Beer, Barrio Blond, Barrio Brewing was Arizona’s first brewery when it opened in 1991. It’s also 100% employee owned. Inside an old factory as picturesque as a 1930s movie set, there’s a wood-paneled bar and restaurant. All three stories also have rooms suitable for any size party, meeting or special event. The brewery’s website helps customers find other Tucson locations that sell any of their 15 beers. 

Reader Recommended

Dragoon, 1859 W. Grant Road, Suite 111, 520-329-3606,

Crooked Tooth Brewing Co., 228 E. Sixth Street, 520-444-5305,

Best Dive Bar

The Buffet Bar

538 E. Ninth Street


The Buffet Bar has been in the same spot since 1934, next to a laundromat and a block from the railroad tracks. Never having been obliged to be chic, it’s moved hard in the opposite direction. Its walls are covered with graffiti. Its “Happy Minute” offers two-for-one drinks from 6 to 6:01 p.m. For a time, the bar proudly claimed to serve only Coors beer. Now it offers Blue Moon on tap as well, but apparently in a nod to the new era, it now serves dozens of other brands, including a wide range of Mexican brews. 

Reader Recommended

The Shelter Cocktail Lounge, 4155 E. Grant Road, 520-326-1345,

Che’s Lounge, 350 N. Fourth Avenue, 520-623-2088,

Best Locally Brewed Beer

Barrio Blonde, Barrio Brewing

800 E. 16th Street


Barrio Brewing has mastered the challenge of making a refreshing, light-as-rainwater ale that tastes substantial and has just enough kick. In the best way, Barrio Blonde is the one beer for the zeitgeist that also generated hard seltzer. Luckily, it’s available almost everywhere including Circle K. It’s reportedly Southern Arizona’s bestselling craft beer.

Reader Recommended

Dragoon IP, Dragoon Brewing, 1859 W. Grant Road, Suite 111, 520-329-3606,

Barrio Rojo, Barrio Brewing, 800 E. Sixth Street, 520-791-2739,

Best Cocktail Menu


139 S. Eastbourne Avenue


Sidecar’s unique cocktail mixes appeal to elevated tastes with rare flavors and daring mixes, like the Americana made with light beer and bespoke bourbon, or the rye hanky panky with cardamom rye, bitter vermouth, French vermouth, fernet, Calvados, agricole rum, burlesque bitters and mole bitters. The garden song with London dry gin, Cocchi Americano, cucumber shrub, celery salt and Peychaud’s bitters is made for a sunny day. Also, it can be justified because: vegetable.

Reader Recommended

Tough Luck Club, Reilly Craft Pizza & Drink, 101 E. Pennington Street, 520-882-5550,

Sky Bar, 536 N. Fourth Avenue, 520-622-4300,

Best Bartender

Barb Trujillo, Hotel Congress

311 E. Congress Street


Hair stylist, dark punk fan, human tattoo art gallery and expert knife thrower Barb Trujillo is, above all, the people’s bartender. For other bartenders, she’s also a one-woman school for learning how to keep customers coming back. She makes people feel seen and heard with a warmth our own mothers may rarely muster. At the same time, we feel like she could keep us from a rolling tank. 

Reader Recommended

Kim Ireland, Danny’s Baboquivari Lounge, 2910 E. Fort Lowell Road, 520-795-3178,

Olivia Reardon, St. Charles Tavern, 1632 S. Fourth Avenue, 520-888-5925

Best Place to Get a Glass of Wine

Revel Wine Bar

416 E. Ninth Street


You’ll find all the familiar varieties on Revel’s two-page by-the-glass list, but why not try something new? Revel’s staff are as friendly and supportive as they are knowledgeable. Talk to them about the flavors you like best, and they may help you discover a new favorite. Those who love wine and want to know more can subscribe to Revel’s monthly wine club, or order from Revel’s 15-page bottle list online. 

Reader Recommended

Arizona Wine Collective, 4280 N. Campbell Avenue, Suite 155, 520-329-8595,

North Italia, 2905 E. Skyline Drive, 520-615-2561,

Best Bloody Mary

Prep & Pastry

2660 N. Campbell Avenue, 520-326-7737

6450 E. Grant Road, 520-838-0809

Mostly spacious, modern and full of light, Prep & Pastry has given breakfast a shot of pizzaz with creative menu items and the freshest pastries. They’ve also amped up the flavor and complexity of the most traditional breakfast drink next to coffee. The house bloody mary includes just-right measures of guajillo and garlic-infused vodka, herbed mustard mix, house beer back and morning snack garnish. It’s a zesty motivation to face the day. 

Reader Recommended

Hotel Congress, 311 E. Congress Street, 520-622-8848,

Che’s Lounge, 350 N. Fourth Avenue, 520-623-2088,

Best Bar Menu

Sky Bar Cocktails

536 N. Fourth Avenue


Dubbed a 100% solar-powered café by day and an astronomy bar by night, SkyBar is a favorite of Tucson’s many astronomy fans and academics. Real astronomers act as sky docents on the patio with their telescopes every night. The bar’s specialty cocktails carry through on the theme with names like lunar lemonade, cosmic mule and starry night, also galactic jungle juice and cosmic Jell-O shots. Under the same ownership, Brooklyn Pizza next door delivers. 

Reader Recommended

Kingfisher, 2564 E. Grant Road, 520-323-7739,

Red Garter, 3143 E. Speedway Boulevard, 520-325-0483,