No Broomsticks? Not at Bison Witches!

Kimberly, Adam and Audrey
May 2, 2022

night view of Bison Witches exterior

Located in the heart of Tucson on 4th Avenue is Bison Witches Bar and Deli. This charming “nontraditional bar” and self-proclaimed “neighborhood hangout” has been a Tucson staple for over twenty-five years! They opened their first location in January of 1995 here in Tucson on Fourth Ave. They have since expanded to include two more locations nationally, one in Nebraska and another in Oklahoma.

We’ve been hearing about Bison Witches from our friends who have lived in Tucson for most of their lives. We’d be lying if we said we weren’t a little skeptical about this small local restaurant before we actually went ourselves. At first glance, it seemed like a standard university deli, so we certainly questioned the campus buzz surrounding it. We wondered what could possibly be so special about this hole-in-the-wall deli.

Naturally, we turned to the experts…

So … what are people saying about Bison Witches?

Local reviews on TripAdvisor call Bison Witches the “Best sandwiches in Tucson” and “Catchy name, great food.” This is not to say that we absolutely positively without reservations trust TripAdvisor, but, um, hey, it’s a start! Regardless, we still decided to get some second opinions… Audrey’s friend, Kylie, who grew up in Tucson, remembers “coming here as a kid to get lunch” with her dad. I asked her what set Bison Witches apart. In other words, what makes it unique? “They’re unique,” she said, “because they’re kind of a hole-in-the-wall that feels real homey.”

Adam’s friend Christina also grew up in Tucson and has been going to Bison Witches about once every month for as long as she can remember. Often she will go with Adam’s other Tucson local friend, Diego. Ventures to Bison Witches is somewhat of a tradition that they’ve introduced many of their friends to. It’s always an adventure going to Fourth Avenue. Why? “Because it’s a cultural hub,” Diego told us, “drawing people of all backgrounds, to enjoy good food and nightlife with the people they know and love.” Bison Witches is located smack dab in the middle of Fourth Avenue where many people — Tucsonians and non-Tucsonians alike — go to experience great food and nightlife.

A Cool Atmosphere

barstools and bar area with bottles and jerseys

Bison Witches exudes the classic American hole-in-the-wall bar/restaurant vibe with its old booths and its array of competitive cycling jerseys hung in vintage wooden picture frames sprawled up and down the walls. You can tell everything about the place is Americana-authentic, and it all tells a story… even the barstools. They sit together in a row, somewhat wobbly with cracked black leather tops, torn just enough to reveal the spongy interior of the seat. From the wear, we could tell that the stools, just like the people who have sat in them, have been a part of the establishment for years. How many memories are tucked beneath the leather seats or hidden behind the wooden walls in this charming deli?

What’s cool about Bison Witches is that it isn’t gentrified and makes no effort to appear as something that it’s not; its realism likely contributes to its popularity among the “locals” as well students like us. It fits perfectly into the sort of wonky but unique vibe of Fourth Ave; it’s the perfect stop to hit before going to the surrounding bars or live music. But it’s also a destination on its own. Bison Witches offers not one, but TWO bar areas! The indoor bar (pictured above) is the restaurant’s main bar area; however, the main bar area can get quite crowded, especially on the weekends. So, if you’re like us and jump at the opportunity to avoid crowds, then the second bar area is perfect for you… and, well, us. If Arizona blesses you with a day below one hundred degrees, definitely be sure to check out the charming (shhh…. less crowded) open-air bar area.

Eating at Bison: Our Takes

The three of us all visited the restaurant at separate times. Our respective visits included a late Monday afternoon, a placid Sunday evening, and a bustling Friday night. Our three experiences help show the versatility of this restaurant/bar; their seamless switch from day to nightlife makes the restaurant the perfect atmosphere for everyone.

Kimberly’s calm Monday afternoon lunch

sandwiches and nachos

I had never been to Bison Witches, so I decided to go with a group of friends who had also never been. We each ordered different meals and shared. I ordered the Miss Pris, which is basically a big turkey sandwich. Amanda ordered a grilled cheese with ham while my other friend, Emily, ordered chili con queso. We all shared. The portion sizes were, um, substantial.

The restaurant was decently busy for a Monday and most tables were full. The bustling atmosphere confirmed this spot’s popularity among the community. We walked in without calling and with only hopes of an open table for us. I walked in first in front of my two other friends and was immediately greeted by the host/waitress. I asked for a table and then admired the unique decor as she went and checked for a table. Within seconds she returned to take us to our table. We were seated in a booth in the back, it was one of those old booths where the back moves if you lean too hard on it. I personally find it comforting because you know the old place has a lot of character.

We all looked over the menu for a while before deciding on our food which is always good because it builds up my hunger in anticipation of the meal that is soon to come. My friends and I ordered and got our food in a very timely matter and we ended up sharing everything since the portion sizes were almost too large for only one person. I had told my friends I was writing an article on the place so we all shared our very similar opinions with each other to brainstorm what I could write about. We all agreed the food was amazing and the place was charming and that all three of us will return again soon and hopefully be able to convince our fourth friend to join us. We spent the entire lunch talking and laughing while enjoying delicious food, there’s not much more we could ask for.

Audrey’s mild Sunday evening

L: green turkey sandwich, C: artichoke dip, R: Mary Ann sandwich

After hearing about Bison Witches from Adam and some other friends at The University of Arizona, I decided it was finally time to try it out myself. I made the short half-mile walk from my dorm with my friend Kylie. Knowing that Kylie had been to the restaurant many times before, I knew that she was the perfect person to go with. As soon as I walked in, I was greeted by the aroma of fresh-baked bread and I knew my first visit wouldn’t disappoint.

We were greeted by a friendly server who instructed us to seat ourselves in the bustling restaurant. Almost every table was filled. Luckily, we managed to grab a nookish table between a shiny burgundy wall and a floor-to-ceiling window. Unsurprisingly, there were no witches in this quaint little deli; however, the lack of bison on their lengthy menu was somewhat surprising. Despite this, we still found lots of options for various appetizers and specialty sandwiches. I knew that I wanted to try a bread bowl, so we ordered Kylie’s favorite appetizer (the spinach and artichoke dip) to share. Unfortunately for us, picking just one sandwich was going to be tough, so we decided to just split two sandwiches so we could try more menu items. However, once the massive platter (pictured center above) of tortilla chips accompanied by a brown bread bowl loaded with steamy spinach and artichoke dip arrived, we questioned how we were going to eat so much food. The appetizer was delicious, but we were stuffed by the time our sandwiches arrived.

I ordered the Mary Ann sandwich (pictured right), which was about the size of my face! This monstrosity sandwiched ham, onions, green chiles, tomatoes, mayo, and a layer of melty swiss together. Although it was delicious, its size was a bit daunting after our large appetizer. Kylie ordered the Green Turkey Sandwich, which was served on a flakey buttered croissant and stuffed with loads of turkey, sprouts, cream cheese, avocado, and mayo, topped with bacon and the house salsa. Comparably, the Green Turkey (pictured left) was much smaller than the Mary Ann. Regardless of the varying sizes, I personally found the Green Turkey sandwich better than the Mary Ann; however, both were delicious! Needless to say, we had leftovers… You definitely will too!

Adam’s bustling Friday night

I took an impromptu trip to Bison Witches on a Friday night early in my freshman year after friends from the dorms, Diego and Christina, invited me to hop on the Sun link and explore downtown Tucson. I discovered how different Fourth Ave is from my hometown in the Bay Area! After stepping off the sun link and walking along Fourth Avenue, I realized this was far different from the areas around campus with its unique, quirky night vibe. We went into Bison Witches and luckily were able to snag a booth for the four of us right next to the bar with a great view of the playoff baseball game between the Braves and the Astros on T.V. It was crowded, and the place was hopping, but it wasn’t too loud. My friends recommended ordering the chicken and cheese nachos, while they enjoyed sandwiches and bread bowls; which are also Bison Witches classics.

The nachos had every topping imaginable, from jalapeños to sour cream to beans and even chile queso. They were truly a sight to see! Usually, I get tired of nachos about halfway through, but I was stuffed to the brim with these enjoying them the entire time; although I did have to leave a fair amount behind. It was a messy experience to say the least, but you can’t expect to stay clean when eating nachos in a bar-style restaurant. I paired the nachos with a crisp Diet Coke and even tried some of my friend’s Rueben and potato bacon soup bread bowl, which all tasted amazing. I ate half of my friend’s Reugen. The swiss melted perfectly through the tender corned beef and was topped with a phenomenal sweet vs. sour balance of sauerkraut and thousand island dressing. We had ourselves a feast; all of the food could barely fit on our booth table! We had great conversations and laughs, but we also enjoyed the silent times where we were focused solely on our delicious and tasty food.

Our Final Thoughts

Later, we three co-authors compared notes. There are no real bison, witches, or broomsticks in this deli; however, we agreed that there is still magic within this restaurant. Now… maybe not literally… but it is safe to say that we have not had deli food this good in a while. Of course, if you don’t believe us, you’re welcome to experience the magic yourselves…


Kimberly Hoyt is an undergraduate student majoring in Veterinary Science. Audrey Hazlewood is an undergraduate student double-majoring in Political Science and Psychology. Adam Jue is an undergraduate student studying Pre-Business.