I grew up fielding some pretty ludicrous inquiries about what desert living is like. Before moving to Oregon for college, Tucson life is what I knew, and the dry rivers, cacti, rattle snakes and other natural dangers never really bothered me because it was.. normal. But did we ride horses to school? No. Tucson is a pretty misunderstood town I would say. For anyone who hasn't been there, a Phoenix comparison is generally pitched first (they are nothing alike). And for those who haven't been to Arizona, a dry expansive wasteland apparently comes to mind. So when pictures of the lush Sonoran foliage or monumental Catalina Mountain range are added to the mix, things start to come into place. Sure Tucson is a flat, expansive sprawl with strip malls and home developments galore, but its historic core in downtown with bona fide gangster stories and vintage flare is generally the most unexpected curveball for the uninitiated. At the crux of this, bordering the Armory Park neighborhood is the beacon of Tucson's racy heritage, the Hotel Congress (circa 1919).
A historic hot spot known for its concert venue/nightclub and ghostly visitors, Hotel Congress has recently been bringing more attention to its roaring heyday, climaxing with the fire of 1934 that resulted in the capture of John Dillinger and his gang who were "vacationing" on the hotel's third floor. The hotel has retained its original Southwest Art Deco ambiance and charm, with iron beds and vintage radios in each room (no TVs). The hotel also benefits from housing one of the most reputable cafes in town, the Cup Cafe.Harkening to said glory days, the cocktail menu at the Cup features specialty cocktails such as Dillinger Sidecar, and Public Enemy No. 1, but the El Camino is what called out to me. "A salute to the 'Tucson Pickup Truck'", it blends Corralejo Reposado, Gran Marnier, grapefruit & a hint of lavenar honey. Delightful! Nicole got the Lisbon Blonde, light and fresh with white port, Averna Amaro Italian Liqueur & tonic with a lemon twist.Nicole's sandwich was a glorious sight to behold (though I can't for the life of me recall what was in it)! Chilly and overcast outside, it was no-effing-around burger kind of day for me. I got the Locals Only - Angus beef topped with asadero cheese and roasted chiles, with a side of gooey delicious tortilla soup. Definitely not in LA, and loving every bite.Lunch at the Cup won't break your bank, just don't drop your change on the floor. You may not recover it...311 East Congress St. Tucson, AZ 85701; 800.722.8848