Back-to-UA guide — students' favorite hangouts

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  • Next week, students will return to the University of Arizona campus for a new year of football games, study nights, early coffee runs, and the promise of endless opportunities to make friends and memories.

    Many will be first-timers to campus. But even returning students will find plenty to explore. New and near campus are two highrise housing complexes — the Hub at Tucson and the Next Level — with room for restaurants. Several new and renovated patios, including at Wilko, make it even easier to soak up Wildcat spirit at Main Gate Square. And with the start of the Sun Link streetcar, the restaurants, nightlife and shops of Tucson’s downtown and North Fourth Avenue are more accessible than ever.

    But being new to campus or new to Tucson can be a little overwhelming.

    Here are a few suggestions from two students who’ve had three years to explore the ins and outs of life on and around campus. David McGlothlin and Jade Nunes were Caliente’s apprentices this summer and shared some of their go-to restaurants and favorite hangouts.

  • I’m a senior who grew up in Phoenix as a Sun Devil. I turned into a Wildcat after visiting my older sister at the UA. I am also a big sports fan and an active fraternity member. If I’m not chillin’ with the bros, I’ll be with my girlfriend. Since recently turning 21, I enjoy cheap drinks, great music and better company. I was taught growing up that variety is the spice of life.

  • Hey there, I’m also a senior and 21 years old. I’m a Tucson native, and was born and raised a Wildcat. I had the great experience of living on campus during my freshman year, and loved living near awesome restaurants and study spots. I like exploring unique eateries and bars. I enjoy craft beers and red wines, but I also just love a place where I can grab some grub with close friends and relax.

  • Tucson’s historic Hotel Congress is more famously known for its role in the arrest of John Dillinger than being home to one of the best brunches in Tucson. I like to cure my hangover at the build-your-own Bloody Mary Bar with the “Cast Iron Baked Eggs,” a creamy mix of runny eggs, ham, leeks and Gruyère cheese served piping hot in a skillet. The perfect compliment to your toast. I suggest adding sausage to give it an extra kick.

    Info: 311 E. Congress St., 622-8848,

  • Paradise has been my go-to place for an iced coffee and a bagel since my freshman year at the UA. They even know my order — one medium coffee with room for cream, and a toasted asiago cheese bagel with plain cream cheese. And I’ll admit that their gooey, fresh-baked chocolate chip cookies are totally a guilty pleasure too. Could you resist the smell of fresh baked cookies? It truly is breakfast in Paradise.

    Info: 845 N. Park Ave., 882-5003,

  • I will be honest. I have somewhat of an obsession with noodles whether its pho, pai thai, chow and lo mein, even Cup of Noodles and Ramen. I suggest a beef pho or chicken pai thai for a quick, hot, great on the go meal that will fill you up without slowing you down. My schedule changes daily, which makes coordinating lunch difficult. Miss Saigon’s two locations makes it easy for me to get my noodle fix if I’m on campus or riding the streetcar.

    Info: With two UA-area locations — Northeast Campus 1072 N. Cambell Ave. and Downtown 47 N. Sixth Ave., 884-4778

  • There’s no better way to kill time between classes, or kill those stomach grumbles, than a big slice of pizza at No Anchovies. Their fun flavors and awesome lunch combos are a great way to refuel and unwind without gouging your wallet. Heck, for less than it costs to park your car for an hour, you can enjoy a huge piece of cheese pizza. I’m a huge fan of their Mediterranean pizza and the All American. Oh, and they deliver too.

    Info: 870 E. University Blvd., 623-3333,

  • A nontraditional bar serving nontraditional bar food, mainly soups, salads, and sandwiches. I like to begin by ordering a Rolling Rock beer or two or three, which are served for $1 all day everyday. Next I recommend the half sandwich and soup special, which is the best of both worlds. You can’t go wrong with any soup and sandwich combo so don’t be afraid to try something new. My go-to selection is the Wisconsin Cheese bread bowl and a B.W. Philly sandwich.

    Info: 326 N. Fourth Ave., 740-1541,

  • I’ve never been to Italy, but Caruso’s serves hearty portions of traditional favorites that seem made with all the tender, loving care you’d expect from an Italian family passionate about food. It’s also a true Tucson experience, it’s dimly lit patio a dining destination. Caruso’s was started in the 1930s and has remained in the Zagona family for four generations.

    Info: 434 N. Fourth Ave., 624-5765,

  • Like many college students before me, I have become very familiar with the occasional all-nighter. Open 24 hours, Shot in the Dark is a common sanctuary for insomniacs and late-night workaholics. It sure beats sitting at a desk alone at home steadily drinking the canned coffee brewing in the kitchen.

    Info: 121 E. Broadway, 882-5544

  • Bring your laptop and your coffee craving because Sparkroot has all the necessities for that last-minute finals cram session or midterm madness. Recharge yourself and your computer while using the free wi-fi and sipping on a house-made chai latte or cold-brewed Nola iced coffee. Sparkroot even helps you keep off that “freshman 15” with its simple and healthy snacks and lunches. Sorry folks, no meat or buttery pastries here. Sparkroot also offers a wide selection of micro beers and wines.

    Info: 245 E. Congress St., 623-4477,

  • Picture that special someone who you secretly admire. Now imagine a romantic Saturday night candle-lit dinner under the stars in a garden patio with soft jazz music performed in the background. She’s in a beautiful dinner dress and heels. He’s wearing a classy blazer and dress shoes. We are drinking martinis and sharing our future ambitions and embarrassing stories about our past.

    Info: 198 West Cushing St., 622-7984,

  • You might be thinking that there are a million better ways to have a first date than eating a greasy burger in a tiny, Fourth Ave eatery. But wait, let me explain. One of the best dates I ever went on was to Lindy’s. It may not have been my first choice at the time, but it’s definitely a date I’ll never forget. There’s a sense of not needing to impress the other person when both parties are downing a burger. Besides, the informal setting and the food is greasy heaven on a bun.

    Info: 431 N. Fourth, 207-6970,

  • In my opinion, a great happy hour simply needs cheap booze and appetizing food. Boca has just that with $1 carne asada tacos, $1 Pabst Blue Ribbons, $2 tequila shots, $4 chips and salsa and $5 margaritas. For the occasional high-roller they also offer a free cigar with the purchase of any top shelf tequila or scotch, which I recommend after thoroughly exploring the dollar tacos and $2 shots.

    Info: 828 E. Speedway, 777-8134,

  • With half-priced appetizers 3-7 p.m. Monday through Friday, and more than 40 beers on tap, TCB is my pick for best happy hour. Don’t expect a tiny, bite-sized appetizer during happy hour. No, these plates are piled high with your choice of pub nachos, artichoke dip, hummus, or my personal favorite — the Catalina fingers (fried chicken breast tenders in a spicy “pale ale” batter). I like to pair it with a wheat ale or the “Bees N’ Berry” blackberry and honey ale, if my sweet tooth is tingling. TCB’s is tasty and affordable for those early evening snack attacks.

    Info: 220 E. Broadway, 396-3480,

  • Every great tailgate needs to have plenty of TVs, a rowdy assortment of fans, and beer. Lots and lots of beer. The wide selection of 100 to 150 beers and mouthwatering giant slices of thick-crust pizza are added bonuses. Located in the middle of Main Gate Square, their patio is a popular spot for all big games and perfect for large parties.

    Info: 874 E. University Blvd., 623-7507,

  • My favorite way to tailgate is to park in Tyndall Street Garage, walk down University, grab a beer and a snack at Gentle Ben’s and then hit the UA mall for all of the game day festivities. Ben’s has all the bar foods and beer to get you fueled for a long day of cheering, eating and singing “Bear Down, Arizona.” Just know, it does get packed fast with crowds of fans donned in their red and blue.

    Info: 865 E. University Blvd., 624-4177,

  • That awkward moment when the bars close and you realize you’re starving but the only food available is fast-food. WRONG. Gio Taco’s take-away window, open from midnight to 2:30 a.m., serves its signature — and my favorite — Metzger “Dip”, and Chipper Fish Tacos. If my stomach had the capacity, I would eat a couple dozen of each!

    Info: 350 E. Congress St.,882-8226,

  • When the late-night munchies start, there’s always something at Cheba Hut to satisfy. Catering to the college community, Cheba Hut offers top shelf sandwiches, chewy Rice Krispies Treats, Kool-Aid and more. As good as Cheba Hut tastes during the day, it always seems to taste better after midnight.

    Info: 1820 E. Sixth St., 624-2880,

  • Maloney Tuesdays has become a trend at the University of Arizona. For a $10 cover charge you can order any drink for just $1 from 7 p.m. to close. The fun continues on Thursday with two you-call-its for $5 from 4 p.m. to close. My advice, get there early because the line can stretch around the building

    Info: 213 N. Fourth Ave., 388-9355,

  • The menu changes twice daily at Cafe Poca Cosa and is sure to have something to surprise the taste buds. Fresh and flavorful, the dishes are unique takes of south-of-the-border fare. Can’t decide? Let the chef choose for you. It’s great place out-of-towners to experience southern flare, and great for locals too. The Tucson treasure has received national attention. Poca Cosa also has an extensive tequila selection, and its bitter-sweet red sangria is a must-try. 

    Info: 110 E. Pennington St., 622-6400,

  • This restaurant and bar by day, turns Vegas-style nightclub by dark, with bottle service and premier DJs. It quickly became a go-to spot for late-night and college socialites after opening earlier this year. Hi-Fi wins over its patrons with standard drinks that have one and a half ounces of alcohol per serving instead of the traditional ounce. Saturday and Sunday brunches are a great pick to watch that day’s games on more than 44 TVs and two projectors. Did I forget to mention bottomless Bloody Marys and mimosas are available from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.?

  • The Hub offers what I like to call, “classy comfort food.” Mac n’ Cheese, corned beef hash, ice cream - The Hub always leaves me happy and feeling like I want to crash on the couch in a food coma. I also love the atmosphere — a cozy place with a cool, unique vibe. It can be a little pricey on a college-kid’s budget, so I generally save it for special occasions and celebrations. But if you’re going out, go all out. Enjoy a glass of wine. Order that lobster mac n’ cheese that has you salivating. And never leave The Hub without trying one of their staple or seasonal ice cream flavors. I personally believe they’ve managed to capture paradise on a spoon with their salted-caramel ice cream.

    Info: 266 E. Congress St., 207-8201,

  • Captain Jack Sparrow would be pleased to hear the rum is never gone here. Saint House is home to more than 60 rums and hand-crafted Tiki cocktails, which makes it first on my list of places to try downtown. Additionally, you can purchase a $40 gift card to Saint House for $21, with $5 going directly to Ben’s Bells.

    Info: 256 E. Congress St., 207-7757,

  • Slightly hidden in the Rialto building across from Hotel Congress, this little beer and wine bar has been on my college bucket-list since I first heard of it. A friend of mine was talking about this place where they tasted a coffee-infused beer. That alone piqued my interest. And according to their website, they strive to have affordable wines by the glass that are produced by family-owned vineyards across the West. A place after my own heart. Also, they serve pub fare from the Diablo Burger kitchen. Yum. 

    Info: 316 E. Congress St., 882-2007,

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