Desert Heat: 10 Romantic Tucson Restaurants for Date Night

By Patricia Escarcega, Phoenix, Scottsdale, and Tucson Local Expert

Tucson's best romantic dining spots score high in terms of excellent food and unbeatable ambiance.

You'll find both these things in spades at Maynard's Market and Kitchen in Tucson. The restaurant is located in a historic venue - the downtown train depot - and features a menu of gourmet, French-inspired cuisine. The occasional rumble of an incoming train will make you feel like you and your sweetie have been transported to an old black-and-white movie, which only adds to the dining room's feeling of old-fashioned romance. 

Back in downtown Tucson, 47 Scott has become a reliable mainstay for gourmet comfort food - think bread-crumb-topped macaroni and cheese with bits of artisan bacon. Fresh flowers and flickering candlelight lend this urban bistro and bar date night-worthy ambiance. 

Speaking of ambiance, one of the most romantic patios in downtown Tucson is at Café à la C'Art  a rustically elegant restaurant and bakery where you can dine under the glow of string lights. The eclectic menu offers some Mexican, southwestern and pasta dishes - a win-win for couples looking for a range of options. But whatever you do, don't skip out on the luscious homemade desserts. 

What says romance better than killer Italian food? That's what you'll find at Tavolino, a foothill-adjacent restaurant serving great Northern Italian classics in a charming dining room. 

10. The Grill at the Hacienda del Sol Guest Ranch
Photo courtesy of Hacienda del Sol

The Grill is the celebrated fine dining spot located at the Hacienda del Sol Guest Ranch Resort, one of Tucson's most historic and unique inns. The restaurant features a menu of farm-to-table cuisine. Most dishes are crafted using local meats, vegetables and herbs from the hotel garden. The Grill is a popular destination with the brunch set, especially on Sundays. A huge spread of breakfast and brunch classics and al fresco dining are some of the highlights. Reservations are recommended during the busy spring and winter season. The restaurant is also known for its eclectic wine list of more than 900 labels, making this one of the best bets in town for serious oenophiles.

9. Tavolino

Tavolino is one Tucson restaurant where reservations are an absolute must. Northern Italian cuisine is the specialty, with homemade pastas and grilled meats being the main choices. The logical appetizer choice is the Antipasto misto, an array of meats, cheeses and marinated veggies that serves to excite the taste buds without sating the appetite. Although the offerings change regularly, two pasta dishes stand out: delicate butternut squash ravioli in butter and sage, and the layered lasagna, aromatic with meat and garlic. Grilled lamb chops and char-broiled chicken are also reliably well-prepared. Save room for the Bonet, a swoon-inducing chocolate custard topped with caramel sauce. Tavolino has been named as one of the top Italian restaurants in the country by several publications, and it's hard to argue once you've experience Tavolino for yourself.

8. Le Rendez-Vous
Photo courtesy of SinglePlatform

Set in an old house in the historic Fort Lowell District, Le Rendez-Vous offers a traditional French menu in a posh, romantic setting. This is classic French cooking, with heavy sauces that are not intended for calorie counters. From Dover sole to Grand Marnier souffle, from duck a l'orange to Crepes Suzette, the food doesn't disappoint. If you've always been curious about classic French starters like escargot and frog's legs, Rendez-Vous is a great place to satisfy your curiosity. Ask for a room in the greenery-filled sun room. Excellent French wines and gorgeously plated desserts add the perfect finishing touch.

7. Cup Cafe
Photo courtesy of Cup Cafe

The trendy Hotel Congress has a happening little cafe that serves what many consider to be the best breakfast around. All the familiar favorites are offered, along with some more creative options such as the Boom Boom (scrambled eggs, cheese and roasted red potatoes piled on a toasted baguette), Eggs and Gunpowder (a bowl of roasted red potatoes topped with eggs, turkey chorizo and jack cheese), and Bennie's Burrito (a tortilla stuffed with scrambled eggs, spicy black beans, sprouts, jack cheese, diced green chiles, black olives, sour cream and fresh salsa). Lunch and dinner tend to be more international in scope, but the food is equally wonderful.

6. Cafe Poca Cosa
Photo courtesy of Cafe Poca Cosa

Chef/owner Susana Davila creates her own unique spin on Mexican cuisine, featuring techniques and ingredients borrowed from several regions. Poca Cosa began a few blocks away from this location, and the tiny original is still open for breakfast and lunch on weekdays. At this location, the menu changes daily, but the specialties include fantastic chicken with spicy-rich mole sauce. The menu is printed on a portable chalkboard in both English and Spanish, which servers take from table to table. If you can't decide, order the Plato Poca Cosa and the chef will choose one beef, one chicken and one vegetarian entree for you to sample, each one more delicious than the next.

5. The Coronet
Photo courtesy of The Coronet

The Coronet is a brasserie-style cafe situated at the historic Coronado Hotel near downtown Tucson. The restaurant serves old world rustic cuisine with a big comfy patio, plenty of shade, quiet music playing the background, and excellent coffee. There's also a bar featuring hand-crafted sangrias and cocktails. The restaurant features several daily menus, including a morning, afternoon and dinner menu. For dinner, try the Dragoon session sausage, which has already become a favorite with regulars. The sausage is served with a red cabbage citrus slaw, corn & roasted tomato salad, and sprout kraut. For dessert, try the moist and sweet olive oil cake, served with orange zest and anise.

4. 47 Scott

This neighborhood bistro is a relative newcomer to the Downtown Tucson dining scene, but it has made quite a splash with its take on modern American comfort food, eclectic wines, hand-crafted cocktails, and micro brews. The seasonally changing menu means fresh ingredients and creative takes on classic American dishes. The modern urban decor is complemented by the warmth of the large outdoor brick patio, perfect for a post-dinner chat with friends. 47 Scott is also a popular downtown brunch spot, dishing out a variety of great breakfast hashes and sparkling drinks. Enjoy half off all drinks during happy hour, which happens every day from 4 to 6 pm.

3. Kingfisher Bar & Grill
Photo courtesy of Kingfisher

This quirky seafood favorite serves up a great menu of fresh fish in a stylishly eccentric environment. The food says upscale but the vibe is fun and upbeat. Excellent wines, juicy rotisserie meats, hip martinis, hand-bottled bourbons and live jazz make this a great choice for a lingering evening. Oysters and chilled Gulf shrimp by the dozen, cornmeal-crusted pan-fried catfish are a few seafaring options. After 10pm, a light menu is served until midnight. Reservations recommended. Wine aficionados gather here regularly, too. The restaurant has one of the most comprehensive menus of fine wines in Tucson, making this prime territory for oenophiles.

2. Cafe a la C'Art
Photo courtesy of Café a là C'Art

This charming downtown cafe, located at the historic Stevens House at the Museum of Art, offers an assortment of breakfast, lunch and dinner options. Fine art hangs on the walls, providing the perfect ambiance for enjoying the down-home breakfast plates and lunch options. The coffee is excellent. Try the house macchiato, or for something slightly different, the lachino (a wet cappuccino with less foam and more milk) is great. Salads, sandwiches and artistan breads are also on the eclectic menu. Don't leave without trying one of the cafe's famous desserts, which include plenty of gluten free options. There is a great brick patio for al fresco dining.

1. Maynard's Market & Kitchen
Photo courtesy of Maynard's Kitchen

Maynards Kitchen, a sophisticated French-inspired bistro in downtown Tucson, is a local critical darling, and deservedly so. Chef Addam Buzzalini and his kitchen team make almost everything on the menu from scratch. From house-cured meats to freshly baked bread, every dish is hand-crafted using locally sourced ingredients. Try the steak tartare for starters, a chef's blend of hand-chopped raw strip loin and tenderloin, watercress, served house-made potato chips. For a perfect date night, the roasted chicken dinner for two can't be beat. It features Niman Ranch organic chicken, served with roasted fingerling potatoes, farm carrots and pearl onions with lemon-thyme pan jus.