Tables are set for dining under a canopy of leaves and twinkling lights on a garden patio.
Cafe a la C'art in downtown Tucson

Eat & Drink

8 Outdoor Dining Options in Tucson

Dining al fresco in Tucson is a year-round experience, from winter's bright and brisk mornings to summer's warm evenings under star-filled skies. Here are eight restaurants in southern Arizona's largest city serving up the best options for dining outside.

Best for taking it all in

The higher you ascend into Tucson's Catalina Foothills, the better the views. It's here, at the Foothill's base where you'll find the outdoor shopping center La Encantada. Order a jalapeño and pineapple margarita or a bowl of chips and guacamole at Blanco Tacos and Tequila and watch as dusk transforms the desert into a valley of twinkling lights from Tucson below.

A latte in a white cup sits in the foreground of a daytime scene with people dining on an outdoor patio.

Coffee and people watching at the Mercado San Agustin courtyard (Credit: @coffeeshopsinflipflops)

Take your pick from nearly a dozen restaurants at the Mercado District's two locations (situated just a block from each other) and settle into a table in the middle of the action. Likely sightings: An acoustic guitar session under twinkling lights and dogs brunching with their owners.

Best for secret garden charm

The interior dining rooms at Café a la C’Art feel intimate, but the back patio is a true hidden gem. Beneath a trellis covered in vines (and twinkling lights at night), you'd never guess you're in the heart of bustling downtown. Take a minute to admire the patio's perimeter walls and benches, which are tiled in intricate mosaics. Need a menu recommendation? Order a slice of the Berry Cake. Trust us.

Housed inside the walls of Old Town Artisans, LaCo Tucson sits in a flower-filled courtyard with a koi pond and mature, shady trees. Whether seated at a high top in front of the cantina or browsing the menu of Southwestern cuisine at a table, you'll have a view of the stage, where musical acts entertain diners. (Editor's note: As of January 2021, LaCo will be closed due to the ongoing COVID-19 situation.)

Best for pairing history with appetizers

On the edge of colorful Barrio Viejo (Spanish for "old neighborhood"), you'll find The Coronet in an 1860s home-turned-French-and seafood-restaurant. The outdoor patio—nestled among white adobe walls—has been welcoming local diners for decades (previously as the Cushing Street bar).

Exterior of a Moorish-style building surrounded by green and floral landscape

The Grill at Hacienda del Sol

Since 1929, Hacienda del Sol Guest Ranch has hosted Vanderbilts, Katherine Hepburn, John Wayne and more famous folks—first as a ranch school, then guest ranch, now resort. For desert views, take in lunch on the patio at The Grill; for a lively scene, enjoy cocktails at the open-air Terraza Garden Patio and Lounge. At both restaurants, note the Moorish architectural touches such as horseshoe-arched doorways and clover-shaped tiled fountains.

Best for culinary surprises

The menu at Reforma creatively remixes Mexican food favorites—sweet potato taquitos or guacamole with pomegranate seeds—and serves up Arizona's largest selection of tequila. Grab a table by the outdoor fireplace or belly-up to the indoor/outdoor bar.

All three Baja Cafe locations offer outdoor dining. While the patios are simple, the breakfast- and lunch-only menus are far from it: smoked chile cream cheese, fire-roasted poblano chiles and applewood-smoked honey-glazed raspberry chipotle bacon are just a few of the ingredients on the Wolverine eggs benedict. Both the Food Network and Travel Channel have taken notice of Baja Cafe's decadent sweet and savory flavor fusions, and your taste buds will, too.

About the Author

Ivy Morris

Ivy Morris has lived in Tucson for the past five years. If you happen to sit next to her at a bar and mention you're from out of town, prepare for recommendations on where to eat and what to do.