Say what you will, but Tucson is a sports bar kind of town. Almost every neighborhood pub, saloon or watering hole is equipped with several large screen TVs and most of them have some kind of sports package to lure fans in. When the Wildcats, Cardinals or Diamondbacks are playing, seats are full and eyes are glued to the game. Smart food truck owners usually park their rigs out front of these establishments in hopes that a patron who is a few shots in will grab a bite during halftime, but a good number of locally operated sports bars come equipped with their own kitchen.
For those that want to avoid the overtly loud chain concepts that price point their beers at layaway inspiring costs, there are plenty of family run and independently owned pubs that always have a game on and will fix you up a plate of munchies at a reasonable rate.
One such place just opened on the dusty stretch of Oracle just a few blocks south of Grant, part of the Miracle Mile revitalization of quality shops and restaurants moving in. The O on Oracle is open but not a lot of people know about it yet. That will change soon enough. Not only because of the historical building it resides in but the food is a lot tastier, and generous, than expected.
Gus and Andy's Steakhouse stood at 2000 N. Oracle Road for nearly 60 years. The casually elegant eatery was then bought out and became Looks, a sort of bar and grill that also hosted cabaret shows and shut down a few years ago. The structure stood empty for quite some time, getting sun bleached and wind worn and a lot of folks wondered if it was just going to be bulldozed down and become another corporate snore. That's when owner Tami Korth moved in with some help from investors that wanted to keep the place alive with its memories intact; a new concept that exudes a bit of Tucson history.
The O will hit its stride once it survives the summer, but you can't not fall in love with the red pleather throwback décor and aura of its interior, with'70s-style captain's chairs filling the three separate rooms, one of which still boasts raised dancing platforms and shiny poles. It just has this amazing feel of a modern speakeasy, smoke-filled hall from a rowdy Tucson past. Behind the original yet updated full service bar, which was most likely a private dance cigar lounge at one point, is now a cozy breakfast nook equipped with an espresso machine for those early morning games.
You're going to come to The O to watch your favorite sport on one of the various flat screens installed throughout, but you'll come back because the food is great and priced very fair for the amount of grub you get.
As mentioned earlier there is a breakfast nook because, yep, The O serves up morning time eats that are served all day. Not just boring eggs and some dry toast, because if you're there to watch the Wildcats (fingers crossed) beat the Sun Devils, food is just food, right? No. For $8.75 you should get the Chef O's Big Breakfast and by big they mean "holy crap!" Two eggs any style, choice of meat ranging from burly cuts of bacon to a spicy chorizo pile, a ton of hash browns or smashed potatoes and a variety of bread from local bakeries. You'll need a post-game nap after this dish. At lunch when the Diamondbacks are up, you should try the Cobb Salad because for $8.50 you get a heaping plate of fresh greens, perfectly cooked chicken, crispy bacon and tangy blue cheese. When it's time for the Cardinals to give it another try, the burgers are a juicy half pound and start around 6 bucks.
There are also the usual suspects of snacking fare, such as onion rings and poppers, although it's the wings that you need to tackle. For under $10, you get a dozen and these things are seriously meaty, crispy and fall off the bone. The So Hot option is quite the tongue destroyer, so if you are not a fan of long-lasting mouth pain, get the Sweet Hot Chili. It has a bite, but the mild citrus element helps balance it out.
The O has a patio so when your team isn't doing so great you can watch the mellow bustle of Oracle instead as you sip a craft cocktail on a warm summer night. Once things pick up, Tami says she plans on getting the nightclub function back up which is perfect because the main dining area is situated on a funky old dancefloor. Another attribute that makes this place pretty cool.