5 out 5 stars for places to eat in Tucson
Proper proves that food can be rich and delicious with deep complexities through modest restraint and a sophisticated balance of flavor and texture. If it’s pork belly, it is both rich and crunchy. If it’s gnocchi, then the texture will serve to highlight how the palate receives the rest of the ingredients. As far as I’m concerned they could have prophetically named it “Prosper” instead of Proper, because that’s what they are going to do if they keep serving the food we experienced on both of our visits.
You will find Proper across the street from Congress, in what is turning out to be a vibrant and eclectic collection of best places to eat in Tucson’s downtown district. As you walk up, weather permitting, the first thing you notice about Prosper from the outside is that the bar is open air to the surrounding sidewalk. That open and honest first impression turned out to be a metaphor for our dining experience. Farm to table, natural ingredients prepared with extraordinary attention to presentation and balanced ingredients, they boast having no freezers or microwaves in the building.
I am thrilled to finally have a restaurant that knows the freakin’ proper way to create a “small” plate set of menu offerings on the Tucson food scene. And as a result, we the lucky diners get to take an adventure through the menu of multiple chef’s offerings in a single setting, sharing with each other tapas style for maximum collective enjoyment and celebration. Or, you can just order a large entree and still not be disappointed.
I started the meal by asking for Grey Goose vodka, they answered with, “We have Vodka from Texas and Minnesota, which would you like?” We at Tucson Eats Dinner believe in keeping it as local as we can, so Yee-f’n-haw, send me the Texas Vodka! We ended this meal in a bowl of curried lamb stew, as in, I would have crawled into that bowl if it were possible. Here are some highlights of the rest of the meal.
We lead off with my wife saying, “Hey it’s nice to see people a little dressed up for dinner, and not just a bunch of alta kackers sitting around in Tommy Bahama shirts.” By dressed up she refers to the funky comfortable hipster downtown cool that is showing up around Tucson, where you find young women with pigtails, tattoos and a few piercings inter-dispersed with Tucson’s “just got off work business casuals.” And everybody is as they should be at Proper. Properly enjoying one another’s company and the bountiful vibe of the meal and drinks they are about to receive.
We ordered 5 items from the menu. Three smalls that included Bocadillo Jamon, pork belly sliders, and their gnocchi. Bocadillo jamon is minimalist sandwich-esk perfection, with Serrano ham and fresh herbs served on crusty bread. It was balanced with an creamy aioli which was acidic enough to set the whole thing off as a couple of perfect first bites. The pork belly sliders come as a pair, twin handfuls of juicy crispy rich pork sandwiches, they are now our favorite item on the menu. I wanted more and threatened to order another round, but that indulgence would not have been proper. So I ordered another round of that Texas Vodka instead. Yee f’n hoo.
Next came the gnocchi, which was perfectly rich and light, along with a side of leek gratin. The gratin is, in and of itself, a good reason to stop in to try Proper. It is served as savory bubbly goodness in a little iron skillet of irresistible leek perfection.
And the fifth and final course to end our tastings was possibly the best lamb stew I’ve ever had, bar none. Hearty with a proper balance of root vegetables immersed and amalgamated into a perfect stew. Who needs dessert when you have lamb stew? (Though we did get a bite of their desserts, and they will leave you rolling your eyes and murmuring OMG’s over and over).
The drinks along the way were prepared to perfection and the table service is attentive and intelligent without being all hovery. The overall experience has been, on each subsequent visit, consistent, and has prompted us to say over and over again, “You should try Proper across from Congress.”
If I could offer one suggestion, it would be that grab all the Proper chefs and head out into Tucson to try 10 of a hundred incredible places to get a Sonoran Hotdog, and try again, because I’m dying to have your better version of your current version.
Proper also boasts breakfast, lunch, as well as dinner seatings. The breakfast menu looks incredible and we are looking forward to giving it a whirl.
We suggest you get a reservation. The cost of our meal, drinks included with over indulgence as our guide, was about $75 dollars for two.
The chefs and owners are in sync with Tucson and have brought a unique and high quality dining experience to you while maintaining an inviting space to come as you are. There is a back story that includes the original Diablo Burger, from Flagstaff, as a sister restaurant which is located next door. We’ll be trying them next.
Everything they want you to know about one of the best restaurants in Tucson is here. http://www.propertucson.com/menus/