Infused spirits at The Parish.

Infused spirits at The Parish.

  • Cathalena E. Burch / Arizona Daily Star
  • Nov 9, 2011

It took Tucson awhile to warm to the idea of gastropubs, but with four now open and a fifth coming soon, we seem to be enthusiastically embracing the concept of good beer and good food at one table.

Last week, Union Public House in St. Philip's Plaza opened. Two weeks ago, The Parish debuted in the former Game On sports bar at 6453 N. Oracle Road. They joined Wilko near the University of Arizona, which converted to a gastropub theme in spring 2010, and Oro Valley's Noble Hops, which opened last May.

And coming soon: Jackson's Grille & Gastropub in Marana's Continental Ranch area.

What makes all of these businesses more than just bars that serve food lies in their menus and missions: To put food and drink on equally high playing fields.

That means craft beers and specialty cocktails - The Parish has hand-infused alcohols including cucumber tequila - are served alongside inventive upscale dishes - Wilko employs drunken goat cheese in its Murcia pizza (topped with marinated cherry tomatoes and fresh mint).

For The Parish's owner Bryce Zeagler, who ran the French Quarter Cajun restaurant in Tucson for seven years, gastropub was the all-purpose culinary glove for his creative purposes. He and partners Steve Dunn and Travis Peters - both came from Hotel Congress' Cup Cafe, Dunn as manager, Peters as executive chef - transformed the former Game On at 6453 N. Oracle Road from burger-and-beer joint to fine-dining and drinking establishment.

"This is a vehicle for all three of us to share our own flavors," said Zeagler.

The partners bring to the plate flavors of New Orleans, Texas and the Southwest, Zeagler said. Entrees include a spicy Haitian pulled pork sandwich ($9) and the namesake Parish burger topped with blue cheese, bacon and red onion marmalade ($10). Small plates include bacon and eggs - poached egg served with braised pork belly and white cheddar grit cake ($9).

Union Public House, located in a space that last housed Acacia, has 30 craft beers on tap, from domestic lagers to double Indian pale ales, including microbrews from Flagstaff, Sedona and Tempe.

Owner Grant Krueger described the menu as "chefed-up pub food" - American comfort food like a house pork chop given a dressing-up with smoked cherry barbecue sauce and plated alongside gouda and Nueske's bacon hash browns ($15). A house-ground burger is dolled up with Red Dragon English cheddar cheese, arugula and pickled onions, then slicked with bacon jam ($11).

Jackson's owner J.R. Jackson, a longtime Sahuarita Realtor and district manager for GNC nutrition stores, hopes to open Jackson's Grille & Gastropub by Thanksgiving at 8235 N. Silverbell Road in Continental Ranch, a space recently vacated by Jimmy's American Bistro. Jimmy's closed in late September.

"My passion has been to do this for a long time," said Jackson, who was going to open a similar restaurant in Sahuarita before the deal fell through.

Jackson's will have 16 beers on tap, including several local craft beers. The menu, still a work in progress, will include pretzel bread sandwiches, meatloaf sandwiches, pizzas and a chicken pine nut salad. Prices will be $10 and under, with small plates priced at $4.

Did you know?

Gastropubs, which have been around in England since the 1990s, made their U.S. debut in cities like Chicago and New York in about 2000. Popular gastropubs include Father's Office in Santa Monica and Los Angeles, and Manhattan's the Spotted Pig.

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