This is old-time Tucson. It’s not anything close to Spanish occupation or the American Indian era. But it does take you back to the beginnings of the 20th century. It’s a mix of art deco and the funky style that makes Tucson as comfortable as an old shoe. The “Coffee Shop” neon sign over the eatery is a bit misleading today. Because each day it begins as a coffee house (with full breakfast service), transforms to a luncheon diner, and ends into the night as a dinner bistro.

The Cup has been a staple of the downtown restaurant scene for decades. We keep going back year after year because it is consistently good, always interesting, Tucson laid back, and a good place for people watching too.

Seating there is tight, tables are small and the outdoor patio area draws a crowd too in almost any weather. From the pennies imbedded in the dining room floor covering to the wine bottle chandeliers, there are always things to look at. That would include the multi-tiered dessert cabinet on the way in - a warning to save some room for the end of the meal. All those bakery items are prepared in-house.

That consistency (cited earlier) makes for good dinner fare. There is always an off-menu dinner special. We had the 12-ounce New York strip steak. It was prepared as ordered and lightly seasoned. This was a good cut of flavorful bovine protein! Speaking of beef, the burger on the menu (The Real Thing) is very satisfying. Once again prepared to order. It is accompanied by a garnish on a freshly baked bun and a side of choice.

Our table also sampled the seafood fumet. It has a very nice helping of shrimp, scallops, clams, and mussels in a buttery broth. This entrée also comes with two slices of garlic toast. That’s to be sure the diner doesn’t miss any of the tasty broth.

Desserts are certainly featured menu items at The Cup. We split the red velvet layer cake with cream cheese icing. Cappuccinos and lattes were excellent.

Full bar service is available along with a wine menu and draft beers. Entrees range from $13 to $27. You can view the complete menu and find other details at

The Cup Café is located on the first floor of the Hotel Congress at 311 East Congress Street. Parking is usually available within a block of the hotel. Reservations are recommended. You’ll find good food, prompt service and an interesting slice of downtown Tucson.

(This article first appeared in the Saddlebag Notes print edition March 2015.)