Springtime in Tucson is the reason we endure triple-digit summers that seem to last longer and longer annually. Considering we live in a place that gets more than 350 days of sunshine each year, Tucsonans don't desire but require patio space when they're set on soaking up the solar rays.
Over the past year, we've all spent too much time inside helping each other avoid the virus and it's safe to say we could use a little time away from the homestead. As more people are vaccinated and case counts fall, health officials are still urging caution in the form of face masks and physical distancing, but have said we can safely resume low-risk activity. (And just in time too; the weather is perfect).
So this week, we stepped up to the challenge of looking for 20 of the best patios located throughout Pima County. We endured beautiful weather, great food and drink, and good company in socially distanced environments—all in the name of community research and well-being.
Our criteria were simple—the patio needed to be outdoors, have food and/or drink and seat more than 20 people between bar and table space while upholding physical distancing requirements. We are also pleased to report that we did not witness any instance of patrons or staff not following the mandated requirements.
While we're confident this list represents some of the best patios our city and surrounding towns have to offer, it is in no way the definitive list. In this case, the use of the word "best" in our title is subjective and based solely on opinion.
Rather, our list should serve as a rough guide to getting back to life before COVID-19 came knocking on our doors. In fact, we plan to continue searching the city for the best places to hang outside this spring and summer and bring you our results.
Got a favorite patio spot we forgot to include on this list? Send your suggestions to firstname.lastname@example.org and we'll make sure to check it out.
Hotel Congress Plaza
311 E Congress St.
Hotel Congress is a true Tucson institution and its plaza is legendary. We could leave it at that, but let's keep going. Whether you're there to grab a bite at the Cup Cafe, enjoy an adult beverage outside Tiger's Taproom or experience a show on their outdoor stage, Hotel Congress has all the ingredients needed to have a good time. Now that the hotel is back to hosting events on their plaza six nights a week, stop by and say hello to your old friends at Hotel Congress while social distancing and having fun in the warm Arizona sun.
2616 N Campbell Ave.
Since 1978, Blue Willow has been one of Tucson's most consistent from-scratch kitchens, regularly refining their culinary repertoire while keeping prices in line with what you would expect from this style of cuisine. They've recently updated their outside patio space to include the front of the restaurant and updated their ordering system to fast-casual where you order at a window and seat yourself. While the inside patio area is enclosed, it still feels like you're outside among all the open space and green foliage. When dining at this fantabulous UNESCO Certified City of Gastronomy restaurant, make sure to try the Sonoran Carnitas Benedict.
St. Philip's Plaza
4340 N. Campbell Ave.
Known for its flowing fountains, rose gardens, giant eucalyptus trees, boutique shops and remarkable dining options such as Union Public House and Reforma Modern Mexican, St. Philip's Plaza is hands down one of the best patio options located in the Foothills area. The plaza also features a recently built outdoor stage to host live music in the center of the courtyard, while the plaza's streets still provide a home to Food in Root's St. Philip's Plaza Farmers Market on the weekends. Hours of outdoor fun await you at this stunningly beautiful marketplace.
1335 W Lambert Lane
Noble Hops is a northside gem. Not only do they have a spacious outdoor patio and an outdoor bar with 28 beers on draught, but this place also lives up to their gastropub moniker. With an ever-changing menu, this place strives to redefine what pub grub can be. They still serve the typical pub fare favorites like burgers and fish and chips, but Noble Hops ups the ante by offering delicious entrees like rack of lamb and fresh salmon with fingerling potatoes. Their patio also features breathtaking views of Pusch Ridge that pair well with the gastropub's pulled pork sliders and a pint of pilsner.
Lindy's on 4th
500 N Fourth Ave.
Ever since being featured on the Food Channel's Man vs. Food, Lindy's on 4th has become the mecca for meat lovers far and wide. Now that the burger joint has relocated to a new location at the corner of Fourth Avenue and Sixth Street on the avenue, their fans can take advantage of Lindy's two patios. Let the world see you pound down that three-pound OMFG burger in 20 minutes.
7109 N Oracle Road
There's nothing wrong with El Charro's patios at their original restaurants (the downtown one is a fave), but this week, we're singing the praises of the recently opened Charrovida. The Flores family has created an exceptional eatery dedicated to blending their Sonoran and Mediterranean roots by bringing together the essence of both cuisines while staying health-conscious and committed to using locally sourced goods. Their charming patio is perfect to enjoy a plate of Chef Carlotta's tamales or some quesabirra-style jackfruit tacos and one of the Charro family's signature margaritas. When you want to celebrate life and our ability to enjoy the world again, Charrovida is the place to go.
Mercado San Agustin/
100 South Avenida del Convento
There are so many reasons to go to these two courtyards located in the Mercado District on the westside of town. Mercado San Agustin is home to a beautiful courtyard that is surrounded by dining options like Seis Kitchen, Agustin Kitchen, Dolce Pastello Cakes and much more. But it doesn't end there. Just a short walk away is the MSA Annex, a hip and modern shipping container courtyard with even more fantastic eateries like Kukai Fresh Japanese Kitchen and veggie burger joint Beaut Burger. Beer and cocktails are on tap at Westbound or you can meet a friend for coffee at Decibel Coffee Works. Our recommendation is to take the streetcar here mid-morning and make a day out of the Mercado District.
201 N Court Ave.
While LaCo Tucson may still be closed to the public at the moment, we had to include the place that was voted Best Outdoor Dining in Tucson Weekly's 2020 Best of Tucson. Known for always having a great menu and outstanding live music, LaCo's courtyard is truly one of the best places to enjoy yourself while in downtown. Not only are there two bars to grab a spirit or craft beer from, but the location also houses the Old Town Artisan curio shops and the ever-popular Old Paint records for all the music lovers out there. We truly hope LaCo opens its doors again soon so we can enjoy a margarita by their courtyard's fountain pond.
Three Canyon Beer & Wine Garden
4999 N Sabino Canyon Road
Tucson's Hidden Valley area has needed a place like Three Canyon Beer and Wine Garden since the Hidden Valley Inn burned down years ago. Located in the spot of a former nursery, this sprawling courtyard is loaded with plantlife and has plenty of room to social distance under the evening stars. Spend the day hiking to Seven Falls at Sabino Canyon and reward your efforts with a brew and a barbecue sandwich at this excellent establishment.
MotoSonora Brewing Company
1015 South Park Ave.
We don't have enough room to list all the reasons you need to check out MotoSonora Brewing Company, but we'll give you the top three. First, every beer we tried was above average and the service was spectacular. Second, their patio is huge and has a fantastic vibe. Third, this place feels like what small craft breweries were like in the early 2000s—unpretentious and focused on creating a quality brew. While this was our first time at MotoSonora, it will not be our last. Our recommendation is to go with their Carrera Grande Vienna Lager as the temperature rises.
Caps and Corks
3830 W River Road
Caps and Corks is one of the best additions for beer and wine on the westside in recent memory. With 26 draught beer choices, ranging from pilsners and lagers to hefty farmhouse ale, Gose and IPAs, you are sure to find a pint to fall in love with while here. The bottleshop's patio is another one of those places in town that will quickly become your favorite, if it's not already. If you haven't checked out Caps and Corks, now is the time.
Tucson Hop Shop
3230 N Dodge Blvd
Tucson Hop Shop's two patios are the definition of where you want to be during the Spring months. David and the Hop Shop gang are some of the most knowledgeable beer drinkers in Tucson and are always updating their draught beer and bottle selection. Hop Shop's front patio is an excellent place to grab a beer with your friend after riding on and the Huckleberry Loop or you can enjoy a game of cornhole on their spacious back patio. By the way, this bottleshop also has stellar selection of wine that you can enjoy on either of their patios. Or take home a bottle. Or both!
Tap and Bottle - North
7254 N Oracle Road
Tap and Bottle's northside location has a bijou patio and outside bar perfect for enjoying lazy days, mellow afternoons and relaxing evenings. While one of the smaller patios on our list, it's got plenty of room to enjoy a pint while socially distancing and tons of charm. Tap and Bottle is known for having one of the best selections of craft brew on draught and in bottles, as well as a phenomenal selection of wines. This bottle shop deserves to be on your checklist of patios to visit while the weather is beautiful.
60 N Alvernon Blvd.
This newbie opened in December 2020, but Locale is quickly becoming a mainstay for those in the know, who know how to patio. This place is fantastic in every way: the food is stellar, the cocktails are on point and their newly renovated patio is easily the best in midtown. Featuring an outdoor bar, tons of socially distanced seating and two bocce courts, Locale's patio breathes new life into former Old Pueblo Grille space and is exactly what central Tucson needs. When visiting, make sure to try their Sfoglia—handmade pasta ribbon, braised pork, mushroom, saba, dandelion greens, topped with parmesan—and save room for their sorbet.
305 N Fourth Ave
The Hut probably has the largest patio on Historic Fourth Avenue and it's perfect for social distancing while soaking in their tiki bar atmosphere. They have live music nearly every evening and an outside bar that keeps the party going beneath the shadow of that giant Easter Island head salvaged from Magic Carpet Golf. Their inside bar is loaded with all the sweet tiki drinks your blood sugar can handle and also sports a decent selection of brew. If you're looking for a laid-back patio that feels like you're hanging with Moondog at a Florida Keys dive bar, this is your place. (We mean that in the best way possible.) It's a must for springtime day drinking and people watching while on the avenue.
3750 S. Old Spanish Trail
When you find yourself around the Colossal Cave area and are feeling hangry, mosey on over to Saguaro Corners. Their patio doubles as a live music venue due to the quality of musicians who perform there multiple nights a week. People come from all over the Old Pueblo to experience Saguaro Corners' picturesque views of the Rincon Mountains, their mouthwatering menu of Tucson-style comfort food and (of course) the patio. Wait...did we mention they have an outside bar loaded with draught beer and craft cocktails? Saguaro Corners is well worth the drive out.
238 N Fourth Ave
Shipping container architecture is all the rage these days and for good reason—you can keep construction costs low while packing a lot of good options into an open-air environment. Take Boxyard, for instance. This multi-level shipping container complex has a worldwide variety of dining options like Vietnamese Banh Mi sandwiches, spicy Indian curry, street tacos, pizza, chicken wings and too many other choices to list here. Not to mention, Boxyard's bar has 15 craft beers on tap and a craft cocktail menu that would make even the most snooty mixologist smile with joy. Whether it's day or night, Boxyard is a perfect patio option to shake off those quarantine blues.
415 N. Fourth Ave.
There's a reason why this place always makes our Best of Tucson list—it's the patio. Sure, Cafe Passe is host to a smorgasbord of avocado toast toppings, serves dynamite coffee and frozen beverages, and sports a full-service bar in the back. But it's the patio that really ties the place together. When you think about it, it's like Cafe Passé has three patios in one—the side patio while exiting the coffee bar, the wooden patio perfect for hiding out, or the larger brick patio under tree shade. No matter where you sit, you can't go wrong. The environment is always one of the most mellow you can find on Fourth Avenue and perfect for rendezvous or writing the great American novel.
350 N. Fourth Ave.
This is the patio where the downtown locals go. While it's not necessarily the crown jewel of Southern Arizona's sun decks, Che's Lounge's patio is a testament to the motto 'Keep Tucson Shitty' and by far one of the best spots on Historic Fourth Avenue for day drinking and good conversation. They also have an excellent jukebox. As the sun goes down, the patio's bar opens up, making it easier to stay well lubricated as the inside bar gets busy. If you want to know Tucson, make sure to know Che's Lounge patio.
Crooked Tooth Brewing
228 E Sixth St.
Since arriving on the local brewing scene, Crooked Tooth has created a name for themselves by producing some of the most creative flavors known to the beer world. These days, they're even canning their tasty creations for the beer-drinking public to enjoy at home. But that's not what they're on this list. Crooked Tooth's patio is a hidden gem lodged in an alleyway between Historic Fourth Avenue and the shops of Sixth Avenue. It's plenty spacious and has a lot of character. Start out by taking a flight of their brews as the sun goes down and let the good time roll.