All hail Janos! The ORIGINAL Tucson Original. King of the Tucson dining scene. Foie gras burger man of the hour. Known to all Tucson foodies. If there’s anyone in this town that can get it right it’s Janos, right? Right?! Wrong.
I’ve been to Downtown Kitchen + Cocktails three times now. And I want to go again because I want SO BAD for it to be SO GOOD but it just isn’t. Is it horrible? No. But I hold Janos to some high standards that I don’t hold many others to.
The ambience/decor of the place has shifted since my first visit. It really isn’t that much different than Barrio Grill was. There’s a different palette and some modern art piece hanging above the kitchen. They took out that cool wine bottle holder with all the holes in it. And, at first they actually had booths crammed up against the bar seating with no way into the bar other than meandering through the guests sitting in those booths. That has since changed. Also, the door that was the main entry for Barrio Grill is no longer an entryway, which is a little irritating since that’s where the parking lot is, but I’m sure they have their reasons.
The service is just okay. On my first lunch visit, the female server was nice and seemed to be knowledgable given the length of time they had been opened. Second visit (evening, sat at bar) I wasn’t greeted, I had to call the bartender over from the other guests she had been overly focused on (eyes up!) and she seemed overwhelmed. Food took a while to come out. It seemed like I had to call her over every time I needed something. Third visit – the server was not rude but definitely not very nice. In her defense, everything was spot-on, however. So, that’s all I’m looking for. A smile does go a long way but… serving’s hard work.
Now, how about the food? For a restaurant of this caliber, with Janos name behind it, here is where I think there should be no exceptions. None. Perfection should encompass every plate that comes out of that kitchen in every way. As should the items on the menu. And the presentation. Let’s start with the menu. It’s okay. Nothing too creative (except for the burger, which I might add you CANNOT order at dinner in the dining room – only at the bar. Make sense? No, it doesn’t.). The burger was good. Almost as good as Zinburger’s. I tried the Dr. Pepper Marinated Pork Shoulder. S’ok. Tried The Game Changer. Not changing any games there. Seasonal melon and roasted beet salad was delicious but the beets were chopped into such large chunks that I couldn’t understand how they could pay such little attention to detail. Ahi ceviche was bland. I added salt. Also both the beets and ceviche are served in dark bottom bowls. This is probably the worst presentation you could dream up. For one – the beet dish, which was tasty, and I’ve had before elsewhere, is a beautiful dish. Show it! And chop those beets down to bite size. And what’s up with the gigantic portion size? No one needs to eat that many beets. Jeez, Janos. I tried the lamb sausage pasta. Not bad. Not great. Had the roast trout. Better than anything that ever came out of Barrio Grill, but still not there, yet. The Crispy Calamari was pretty good, but hasn’t that been on every restaurant’s menu since, oh… 1992?
Other than that, it was a good experience and I applaud Janos for taking over that space. I hope they work their kinks out because I do have faith. Until then, I’ll stick to Maynards or 47 Scott.