Editor's note: This story was originally published on October 26, 2015. It was updated on May 4, 2019.
Arizona restaurants are trying to demonstrate that theme restaurants aren't just for kids, and they’re succeeding. These establishments bring entertainment and delicious eats to customers of all ages and interests. There are plenty of the Southwestern staples and steakhouses, but the spots on this list also go beyond. Whether you're visiting the Valley or a resident, be sure to check out these 13 theme restaurants in metro Phoenix.
The Duce525 South Central Avenue
The Duce is the perfect place to take friends or family who can’t seem to make up their minds. The downtown restaurant is a veritable shopping mall of different food and drink options, stores, and even exercise areas. The menu ranges from home-cooked Southern favorites like mac-and-cheese muffins to brisket sliders. At night, the spot turns into a Prohibition-era themed bar complete with discount beverages and activities for all. Like food, drinks range from affordable cans to intricate cocktails. There's also a boxing gym right in the middle of the space. Perhaps even more enticing (and dangerous) than the boxing ring after a few drinks is the shop in the corner of the place which offers clothing and home decor at surprisingly reasonable prices.
Organ Stop Pizza
1149 East Southern Avenue, Mesa
Production of the Mighty Wurlitzer organ ceased in 1943, but one restaurant in the Valley boasts an original model and treats guests to a concert each night. At Organ Stop Pizza in Mesa, you can enjoy a side of music with your meal. The musicians play on an elevated stage that even transforms into a light show on occasion. Tunes include classics for adults and familiar tunes for the kids — and for the little ones with short attention spans, there’s also an arcade. The family-style dining experience carries into the kitchen, where staff creates pizzas of your choosing. There are also pastas and gluten-free options.
Hula’s Modern Tiki
Mad Men fans would be remiss to skip Hula's Modern Tiki. The '50s Hawaiian-inspired restaurant serves Polynesian fare and creative cocktails that appeal to every taste. Patrons of all age are welcome, as the menu caters to kids and adults looking to branch out of the ordinary. A sleek dining room and bar create a luau vibe that's anything but kitschy. Tiki masks decorate the walls, but don't expect grass skirts or "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" on repeat in the background. Hula’s currently has two locations, one in Old Town Scottsdale and an uptown Phoenix location. Hours vary depending on location, but both are open for lunch, dinner, and after-dinner drinks, as well as weekend brunches.
The Stockyards Restaurant and 1889 Saloon
5009 East Washington Street, #115
The Stockyards is an embodiment of the classy cowboy joint, meaning you'll want to shine your boots a bit before visiting this one. Locally known as Arizona’s original steakhouse, The Stockyards has served classic Western dishes since 1947. Listed in the state's Historical Register, The Stockyards was built on the famous Tovrea Land and Cattle Company's property. After a fire in the 1950s and a renovation in the early aughts, the restaurant has remained a staple in the local scene. The kitchen covers everything you would expect from a steakhouse, but ups the ante with some more exciting options including elk, buffalo, and boar. And if you like Rocky Mountain oysters, you might try the "calf fries," which follow the same recipe but come from younger cattle.
8383 South 48th Street
Rustler's Rooste is likely the most carefree cowboy bar you'll ever visit. The massive restaurant offers steak dinners, fish options, ribs, and rattlesnake, plus, every table gets a hearty post-dinner serving of cotton candy. Inside the restaurant, you can wander around two stories and slide down the famous slide. Outside, you can hang out on the balcony, where you will catch a nice view of Arizona's mountains and — if you time it right — a breathtaking sunset. It's a family-friendly spot, and can be reserved for private parties or receptions. The saloon opens at 4 p.m. and stays open late; the steakhouse serves from 5 to 10 p.m. Oh, and don't forget to say "Hi" to Horney the Bull at some point while you're there. You can't miss him.
MacAlpine’s Soda Fountain and Espresso Bar
2303 North Seventh Street
For those looking to step back in time and enjoy an ice cream soda or homemade cherry Coke, MacAlpine's in central Phoenix is the place to go. The small restaurant, flanked by a vintage clothing shop and home decor store, serves an array of old-school meals ranging from hot sandwiches to comfort food-based meals. But it truly excels in its construction of dessert-based drinks. Guests can get the full experience by playing the shop's old jukebox, which carries all the biggest hits from the '50s and '60s. Pin curls are encouraged, but not required.
Islamorada Fish Company
1133 North Dobson Road, Mesa
This quirky and cavernous seafood-themed restaurant is attached to the Bass Pro Shop in Mesa. From the outside, Islamorada Fish Company resembles a grand sportsman’s lodge, complete with log-cabin siding, an impressive wraparound patio, and nautical motifs at every turn. The entrance is flanked by oversize, ornamental fishing net floats, and inside, there is a large and hypnotic 13,000-gallon aquarium tank stocked with a bright array of tropical fish. The menu, naturally, includes seafood options like Atlantic salmon, shrimp, tilapia, catfish, and grouper, along with a stable of chain restaurant staples, including pasta, steak, sandwiches, and salads. More interestingly, the menu features a selection of wild game, including alligator, venison, and wild boar.
Harold’s Corral6935 East Cave Creek Road, Cave Creek
As you drive up Cave Creek Road and pass through the arid desert landscape, you’ll eventually find yourself in a town full of colorful vintage shops and cafes. You’ll also eventually become surrounded by dive bars, each one boasting the best food and strongest drinks. It’s very important that you drive past them and turn right into Harold’s Cave Creek Corral. You can’t miss it; it has the biggest sign out front and looks the most authentic. The drive out to Harold’s Corral is a clue to the atmosphere you’ll find at the cowboy bar and restaurant. Harrold's usually houses a relaxed but colorful crowd who seem to know each other and yet accept everyone as family — especially if you’re a Steelers fan. You can get traditional cowboy dishes (meaning countless types of steaks and other various red meats). There's also an in-house popcorn machine. After dark, Harold’s turns into a haven for those looking to two-step their troubles away.
Culinary Dropout provides guests with a backyard party feel. There are all kinds of yard games such as corn hole, giant Jenga, and ping pong, plus drink deals that’ll make you feel like you're drinking at home. During the day, you can find charcuterie boards and loaded sandwiches, while the dinner menu incorporates hearty classics like 36-hour pork ribs and rainbow trout. Over the weekend, you can start your day with dishes like bread pudding French toast and a little hair of the dog. There’s live music on weekends. Culinary Dropout's kitchen staff cooks up comfortable tailgating favorites. Cocktail and drink prices are reasonable.
5700 West North Loop Road, Chandler
Rawhide isn't just a theme restaurant; it's a theme town. Relocated to Chandler from north Scottsdale in 2006, the little Western town has everything you could need for a night of cowboy fun and flair. There are bars, a jailhouse, and gift shops, but what really stands out is the massive steakhouse. The Rawhide Steakhouse and Saloon is decorated with vintage instruments and hunting trophies, wagon wheels and spurs. Full disclosure: the portions are big. Steak sizes range from six to 16 ounces and, for those who live to compete, there's the Ultimate Cowboy Challenge. Hopefuls for the challenge should anticipate eating three pounds of steak in 45 minutes or less. Other menu favorites include the Rawhide Rattlesnake (it tastes like chicken) and the bacon-wrapped meatloaf. Though there are honky-tonk bars and saloons inside the restaurant, Rawhide is family friendly, and kids menus are available.
Carlsbad Tavern3313 North Hayden Road, Scottsdale
Carlsbad Tavern, named to sound like Carlsbad Caverns National Park in southern New Mexico, has a brunch, dinner, happy hour, and late-night menu for those to enjoy their genuine New Mexico grub at nearly any hour. Street tacos and green chile mac and cheese are available till 2 a.m. just a three-minute drive or 20-minute walk from Old Town Scottsdale. If you're more of a morning person, brunch is available at 10 a.m. on Saturdays and Sundays. Carlsbad Tavern has textbook New Mexican food — machaca red chile enchiladas, carne adovada, green chile burritos — but with some Scottsdale flair. Example, the brunch menu has a build-your-own Bloody Mary option and avocado toast, while entrees include Maine lobster enchiladas and New York carne asada.
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301 North Gilbert Road, Gilbert
A place like Topo looks like it should be neighboring an old rest stop along Route 66 in northern Arizona, but instead, it’s found among the many dining options along Gilbert Road in the Heritage District. But that does not take away its charm. Topped with the didn’t-take-to-be-iconic gopher, Topo’s small, standalone structure and walk-up window looks like something that should be listed on Roadside America (we’re waiting). The menu is tight and cashless, offering two types of burritos, two types of elote, and some soft serve. But menu items are still next level — like the prickly pear soft serve with lime dip and Mexican Coke. And while it may feel like a road trip to some of you to even get to Gilbert, that only adds to the experience.
6107 North Seventh Street
Attention National Park Service nerds. Put down your Passport to Your National Park stamp book and check out Camp Social. It’s exactly what it sounds like, and campy as hell, too. We mean it, there is a retro camper parked inside, a cabin-style fireplace, little lanterns everywhere, and menu items like burgers, hot dogs, s’mores, and an appetizer called Yogi Bear’s Picnic. The kitchy kitchen even features National Park pizzas like the Joshua Tree, Everglade, The Denali, and of course, Grand Canyon (there’s also an Adirondack pizza but that’s a state park, people). Camp Social also has thermos service — instead of bottle service — where you can get a large cocktail for the table served out of grandpa’s old thermos.