Breakfast is a funny thing. Not the meal itself, but the places that serve it and our fondness for them. Whether they’re grimy and gritty, upscale and luxurious, or anything in between, it seems the majority of people – myself included – can appreciate almost any place and style of breakfast and complaints will be minimal to non-existent. Of course, there are exceptions, but you won’t see such a broad acceptance for lunch spots, and surely not for dinner spots.
With that said, there are a number of places in Tucson that have risen above diner fare to serve a breakfast that caters to those looking for higher quality ingredients and an attention to menu item detail that you don’t often find. Examples might include The Cup Cafe, Prep & Pastry, Ghini’s, Agustin Kitchen’s brunch, Baja Cafe, and a number of others. Luckily – or unluckily, if you’re one of those that’s still refusing to venture downtown – we can add another place to the list: Nook.
Located at One East Congress in the former Vila Thai, the 60 seat Nook serves “New American” breakfast, lunch, and brunch. You might have heard the term “New American” before. Many restaurants use it. It’s safe, accurate, and understood. After all, if you’re fusing a number of different cuisines into something that’s still mostly “American”, New American makes sense. But, for each restaurant, New American can be quite varied. In Nook’s case, the result is a touch of da kine.
Nook is owned and operated by husband and wife, Matt and Nikki Thompson, along with partner Todd Anderson. The young Thompson couple, one of which is a native Tucsonan, met at Scottsdale’s Le Cordon Bleu where they trained in classic French cuisine. After Le Cordon Bleu, the couple moved to Hawaii where they worked in some of Waikiki’s most notable restaurants including Alan Wong’s Pineapple Room, Roy’s, and for chef Danny Morioka.
After returning to Arizona, catering, and running a couple of cafes inside government buildings – which they still own and run – it was time for a full-fledged restaurant.
With Nook, a strong Hawaiian influence is pleasantly noticeable, but it’s not a Hawaiian restaurant. Dishes such as Dani’s BCLM, a modern interpretation of the Hawaiian loco moco which includes rice, gravy, cheese, bacon, egg, and hamburger patties; the edible flower accented Nickle and Lox; and BBQ Pulled Pork Hash all echo the Hawaiian sentiment in approachable ways.
In addition, most breads and all baked goods are made in house. Breakfast sandwiches, such as the BLTE (bacon, arugula, egg, and tomato jam) are served on a warm, house made brioche bun and all Benedict dishes are served on house made crumpets.
“We’re food for food lovers,” said Nikki Thompson. “Our heart and soul is in everything we make.”
Price points are more than fair, as well, with only two items – Hanger Steak & Eggs and the Godfather Benedict over $8.
“We wanted to make it affordable for people to eat here everyday,” continued Thompson. “We’re not trying to slaughter anybody’s wallet.”
As an added bonus for the downtown morning crowd, Nook features a “grab and go” counter for coffee, a full range of espresso drinks, and baked goods such as muffins, scones, and brioche. For coffee, Nook uses Exo Roast beans exclusively.
Nook opens for breakfast Monday, March 2. Business hours are weekdays from 6:30 to 11am for breakfast, 11am to 2:30pm for lunch, and Saturdays from 8am until 3pm. Nook is closed on Sundays, however plans include expansion into Sunday, as well as into dinner. A liquor license is currently pending, so no Mimosas or Bloody Mary until then. In addition, the 60 seat patio will open in April.