3.5 out of 5
Up date 2/3/11
We reconsidered the entirety of our visit and rating and decided to raise The Abbey from a 3.5 to a 4.
Although I give this offshoot of Jax, and new to Tucson, only a solid B, I still think you should put it at the top of your list. My inner narcissist wants the chef to somehow stumble across this blog and for my opinion to have a profound effect on him/her, and all to the greater benefit of culinary mankind. My inner narcissist actually hopes for a phone call telling me I am right. Again . There are two problems with that. That while I am busy blathering on and writing, the chef and kitchen crew are busy actually preparing and serving food. Second thing is that most chefs work about 100 hours per week, so food blogs are the least of their worries. Nonetheless, it was the best and the just okay of times. But don’t let that stop you, you must try this place. If you love food, you should also be able to really appreciate when a chef is taking chances and not quite playing with a full deck of cards.”
Before I start this, I want to recognize and thank my soon to be in-laws who often ask us out to the latest restaurant openings in Tucson. We usually give the place a couple of months to work out the kinks and then try it out. We are so thankful for their generosity and no matter where the food experience takes us, we love them and want to a moment to say thank you for all the meals. Thanks L and J — you know who you are.
Now to the food!
It’s a very unique perspective for a menu. It’s sort of fine dining, with a healthy dash of great service, wrapped in the enigma of home cooking. Beg pardon? Yes, “enigma of home cooking.” Well maybe if your mom was a chef? Our table ordered the meatloaf sandwich, shrimp and grits, lamb pot pie, and a burger. Since my better half and I arrived early for a glass or three of Malbec, we took the liberty of ordering “The Board” as an appetizer. The Board is described on the menu as, “Lots of Cool Stuff.” Yes, it was indeed cool, and I looooooovvveeed it. I’m not even going to tell you what is on it. Let’s just say that ‘The Board” is the kind of thing that once you try it, you must have it over and over again. Ok here is a little hint: Cheese.
Let’s stop just a second and talk about the service and the wine selection. Our server deftly connected their wine list to our order and our somewhat daft expressions of personal preference. The service was excellent. The waitress’s knowledge of wine and The Abby’s options were exceptional. From the front door greeting, to our table being ready, all the way until we paid our bill and bid them adieu, their service was spot on perfect.
The Shrimp and Grits off the special menu (“Fish No.2”). I’m afraid we found this one to be a mediocre effort at this classic southern dish. Note of disclosure, my North Carolina roots may make my standards a bit high on this one, but let’s just say I know how it “should” be done. The Andouille sausage overwhelmed the shrimp with its smoky flavor. And if you know anything about shrimp and grits, you know two things: Less is more when it comes to putting it together and the real name of this dish should be Grits and Shrimp. The grits should be the canvas, with the shrimp being the splash of proverbial culinary color that brings the dish to life. I appreciate the effort but we couldn’t even find the grits until we shoved everything else aside. Lose the sausage, quadruple the grits, add a little rich bouillabaisse and let it be. If I wanted jambalaya, I would have ordered it.
Then there was “Sandwich No. 2” off the menu. We hit the jackpot because this quirkily named special was a meatloaf sandwich on the day we dined. Like “The Board” appetizer – this dish was out-of- this- world-phenomenally-delicious and unique. Order it. Order two and take one home for the next day.
The lamb pot pie. Again, we were on a roller coaster ride through this main menu item. Not nearly enough lamb, and although I love Rosemary and Lamb, for me it was just a little overwhelmed by the herbs and lacked enough imagination to make me want it again. I did love the biscuits and the sauce was nice and silky. But overall, would not order this again unless advertised as “now with more lamb and less rosemary.”
Before I wrap up with the Burger, I also want to commend The Abby for the look and feel of the restaurant and the bar. It’s modern with a little touch of dark dining. Everything is understated as they clearly let their food, staff, and imagination speak. I also appreciate the “comfort” with a little relaxed-class approach to the dining experience they have created.
We’ll wrap up with their signature “Abbey Burger” and fries. Obviously, when the chef and owner agree to put this kind of simple representation of all American food on a menu, they must have a passion for it. It showed. Though there are many choices for burgers and fries in this town, if that is your thing, you’ll love The Abbey’s version(s).
Will we go back? Absolutely we will, and probably often. The prices are surprisingly affordable. I would even venture to say underpriced. Make a reservation and bring a date. It is packed, and rightfully so.
3.5 stars out of 5
A for Effort
A for Ambiance
A for Service
B+ for the food taste
B for the presentation
A for not somehow screwing it up (this is my own special rating category)
We had an excellent experience and not every restaurant can get the A rating. Frankly, because they aspire to be a great restaurant makes me a little tougher on them. Go! Enjoy. The wine list and staff are awesome. Order The Board, try the house Malbec and create a little joy.
Everything you need to know is here http://theabbeytucson.com
All Opinion, mostly mine, and credit goes to my Fiancée for editing and saving you from my first drafts.
Whats up with the Iphone spell check? Sucks more than the phone itself.