September 2013 - Ms. Karen & I are going in search of the Best Brunch in Tucson. We decided to start with the Cushing Street Bar & Restaurant because we had wanted to dine there for years and just never got around to it.
Part of the reason is we seldom go out at night. We typically rise at 4 AM. By 4 PM we’re spent. Many people have told us how great the jazz is on Friday & Saturday nights, and generally, their food & service get high marks. But we just never made it. Read More
Then we heard they serve a great brunch. Late Sunday morning … we can do that. So off we went a few weeks ago. We knew where it was located because sometime ago we were down in the Barrio Viejo photographing the old neighborhood for a slideshow. We wanted to create the slideshow to give our website visitors a sense of the way the barrio was in the late 1800’s.
The Rollings family owns Cushing Street Bar and is responsible for preserving & restoring many of the old adobe buildings in Barrio Viejo. Many Tucsonans appreciate what they have done for the city, and more would-if they would take the time to wander around the city blocks just south of the Convention Center.
I had made a reservation under my name. When we arrived, the hostess asked, “You’re Jim, right?”
“Good guess,” I thought, considering we were only the second couple to arrive. Our hostess seated us toward the back of the main room just beyond the long bar & next to the antique upright piano.
Soon our waitress came to our table to take our drink orders. “Odd”, I thought, “our hostess must have an identical twin.”
As it turned out, our hostess & waitress was the same cheerful young woman. Dylan is her name, and on this Sunday morning, she excelled at hostessing & waitressing simultaneously.
Ms. Karen ordered the Blow Your House Down Bloody Mary with Jalapeño & Habanero infused Tequila, garnished with slices of Jalapeño stuffed with Mozzarella ($10).
Normally, I don’t care for Champagne, but I ordered the Mimosa: Bubbles with Pom & Fresh Squeezed Orange Juice ($9). I found it pleasantly refreshing.
It wasn't so much that we wanted alcoholic beverages this early in the morning, but we do enjoy a traditional cocktail with brunch. Besides, sipping on our drinks allowed time to look over the old place. What a wonderful job they have done restoring and furnishing in period.
According to their menu, portions of the main dining room and private dining rooms date to the 1860s. The oldest parts of the building feature the original 2-foot-thick adobe walls.
The cut glass chandelier above the bar is from a French mansion in Mexico City, as is the Art Nouveau statue of Cleopatra that is their trademark. The tall display cabinet at the entrance was used in the 1880s as a legal bookcase in Hermosillo, Sonora. The upright Steinway piano we were seated next to is an American centennial piano, made in 1876.
Nineteenth-century photos of this neighborhood can be found throughout the restaurant. Cushing Street Bar is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, as well it should be. It opened in October 1972, 41 years ago.
Ms. Karen ordered the Huevos Rancheros, partly because that’s what she always orders, and partly because this popular breakfast dish consisting of eggs, traditionally-served as mid-morning fare on Mexican farms, just seemed to go with the ambiance. Huevos weren’t exactly on the menu, but Dylan didn’t hesitate a second. “Huevos Rancheros, of course. No problemo.”
I ordered scrambled eggs with sausage & corned beef hash. I also ordered a half-stack of pancakes for good measure. No point in leaving hungry.
The flapjacks were delicious. Light & fluffy, with a sprinkle of powdered sugar and maple syrup. Both main dishes were very good, but I noticed that my dining companion ate more of mine than her’s. What’s up with that?
As we finished our brunch, Ms. Karen made an unusual observation. I asked her how she liked her Blood Mary. “Very good,” she said, “but it’s the only Bloody Mary I couldn’t finish before I finished my breakfast.” I think she was referring to the fact that it was exceptionally spicy-hot, which required very small sips if she was going to have a chance of surviving brunch.
After we finished our meals, our hostess/waitress Dylan graciously gave us a tour of the patio & the private dining rooms. That did it. The next time our extended family gathers in Tucson (13 counting children & grandchildren), we’re reserving one of these delightful back rooms for our family dinner. It will be on a Friday or Saturday night and we’ll FINALLY get to hear “all-that-jazz” so many people have told us is the best in Tucson.
Given its location, Cushing Street Bar & Restaurant is ideal for a late dinner & drinks after a musical at the Convention Center or a play at Temple of Music & Art just a couple of blocks away.
We’re awarding Cushing Street Bar & Restaurant 4-Saguaros for food & service; i.e., very good. Plus another Half-Saguaro for authentic Southern Arizona history and cultural heritage. If the music is as good as they say it is, we’ll elevate this wonderful place to a 5-Saguaro rating: Best of the Best. Of our 80+ dining reviews, so far, only 9 Southern Arizona restaurants have earned 5-Saguaros. Cushing Street Bar & Restaurant could be #10. Stay tuned.
Cushing Street Bar & Restaurant
198 W Cushing St
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