Dancing flames erupt from teppan grills, illuminating the captivated faces of diners seated around the tabletop grill. The roaring fires are tamed by Sakura's highly skilled chefs, who playfully flip spatulas in the air before sizzling up plump morsels of teppanyaki steak, chicken, and seafood. Behind the sushi bar, chefs fold fresh fish into both raw and cooked specialty rolls, which reporters from Tucson Weekly lauded as "some of the most delicious seaweed, sweet vinegar rice and raw fish concoctions imaginable."
Kimono-clad waitresses glide through the lively dining rooms, bearing plates of sushi, vegetarian and vegan dishes, and colorful specialty cocktails. In the sports bar, the walls grasp massive flat screens and hundreds of pictures of the owner posing with local celebrities—from weather girls to the neighborhood grocery’s bag boy of the month. Towering chrome heaters warm the tabletops of the expansive outdoor patio, where colorful lights and hanging flags set the stage for live music performances each night.
The Empire Pizza & Pub staff assembles a mix and match of 23 ingredients?including barbecue sauce and genoa salami?atop 13 New York-style pizzas. Their efforts helped earn the eatery a Best Pizza nod in 2011 by Metromix. They name their specialty pies after notable places in New York, such as Soho?s white pizza with tomatoes, basil, and parmesan and the Jackson Heights slathered in barbecue sauce and sprinkled with chicken, green pepper, and onion. By preparing the pies, subs, and salads for carry-out, delivery, or serving them at the restaurant as late as 3 a.m. Wednesday through Saturday (11 p.m. other days) and as early as 835 B.C.E., the staff accommodates diners of many tastes and schedules.
The arena in which the team?s servers operate features exposed-brick walls lining the narrow layout. A bar at the back pairs libations with pizzas, while vintage lights illuminate the copper ceiling.
Serial restaurateur Brian Metzger never lets success with his current restaurants stop him from making his next culinary dream a reality. The Abbey's intimate brick-and-stone dining room marks his second foray into comfortable fine dining. Along with executive chef Virginia ?Ginny? Wooters, he drafts a menu full of contemporary comforts, such as their take on updated versions of gnocchi and pot pie. Their influence extends from the kitchen to the full bar, where mixologists whip up craft cocktails spiked with fresh, seasonal fruit juices.
Whether seated on the wrap-around patio or gazing out the windows of the dining room or bar, a rolling vista of foothills tumbles away before diners' eyes, often igniting memories of joyfully rolling down hills as a child or painfully falling down hills as an adult.
Consecrated to the cosmos, Sky Bar is a solar-powered caf? in the daytime and an astronomy-themed bar by night. The caf?'s solar installation uses 323 solar panels to eschew the consumption of fossil fuels and help keep the planet healthy. At night, the focus turns to celestial bodies other than our own, as images from the bar's rooftop telescope are projected inside to create a cosmic ambiance. On open-mic nights, local and traveling musicians take the stage under the auspices of host DJ Odious, whose vinyl collection includes a 7-inch cut from Saturn's rings.
Many sports bars are judged on the size of their televisions. Too few are evaluated by the number of side-by-side stock-car and motorcycle drag races that happen on their premises. At World Sports Grille, there are both. More than 30 high-definition TVs—including one with a 103-inch display—broadcast sharp resolution of sports heroes’ graceful moves and sports anchors’ autograph-covered toupees, and nearly 75 racing, action, and other gaming consoles pit players into virtual battle. In the game room, TVs and videogames join forces, with sounds of cracking baseball bats and crunching football pads mingling with bells, whistles, and engine throttling. This mixture of athletic entertainment and interactive play powers part of the formula that launched World Sports Grille to the top of Tucson Weekly's list of Best Sports Bars for four straight years (2009–2012).
The menu of classic bar food and snacks has also snagged accolades: half-pound Angus burgers capped with brioche buns have taken home the Great Tucson Hamburger Contest title. Guests can sample the winning burgers—such as the barbecue bacon smothered with a tangy house-made, beer-flavored sauce—while sidled up to the square bar under autographed jerseys and memorabilia, or while out on the patio next to fragrant coriander or cacti plants guarding the restaurant from balloon invasion. World Sports Grille also partners with the Tucson Padres for events, and UFC fights have drawn standing-room-only crowds.
When it first popped up at the intersection of Park and University, Wilko was a quick stop for UA students to grab some espresso or refrigerated food to-go. But a massive overhaul in 2010 transformed the space into a fully functional restaurant, and one that has continually added to its menu since.
As a modern gastropub, Wilko prepares all of its inventive comfort food right on-site. That includes sandwiches, flatbreads, and a group of "Tasty Misfits," which don't fit under any menu category, but come in the form of Sonoran bratwurst or pan-seared tilapia. In addition to the eats, diners can fill up empty water balloons or wash down bites with more than 30 wines, craft cocktails, and more than 10 beers on tap.