Duck Empanadas at Commoner & Co. (Credit: Jackie Tran)
The team behind Prep & Pastry knows how to do breakfast and brunch. Their from-scratch approach and mindful hip vibe helped it quickly grow into one of Tucson’s most popular restaurants. Last summer, they ventured into new territory with Commoner & Co.
Tucked away in northeast Tucson in the space that formerly housed The Abbey, Commoner’s stunning mountain view was preserved, but the space was revamped to make it their own. Shades of teal and dandelion work with a marble bar countertop to provide a welcome and luxurious experience.
Most importantly, the talent was preserved through Executive Chef Virginia “Ginny” Wooters, who co-owner Nathan Ares considers one of the top five chefs in Arizona. They first met when Ares was was a 16-year-old back server at North Italia and Wooters was a line cook, so they’ve both come quite a long way.
Wooters is exemplary for her talent at balancing refined cuisine with fun, which is easier said than done. Her southern roots provide a base for playful comfort food, while her background as an executive chef at various upscale Tucson classics such as McClintock’s, Wildflower Grill, and various Metzger Family Restaurants helped refine her technique.
While Commoner shares a few items with Prep, it’s no clone. Brunch is only available Sunday. Commoner is more focused on dinner and happy hour.
For a glimpse through the fun yet refined menu, check out the happy hour specials, which include:
- $2 off select menu items
- $3.50 for beer on tap except for Ballast Point and Left Hand Stout, which are $6
- $4 wine on tap
- $4 house vodka, gin, or rum
- $6 house whiskey, scotch, or tequila
- $3 small snacks
For a modern take on a classic, try the Sous Vide Honey Old Fashioned ($7). The classic bourbon, orange, and bitters are all present, while local sous vide honeycomb and a cabaret cherry add a warmer sweetness.
The Rosé All Day ($8) is a floral refresher with rosé, Hendricks gin, St. Germain, and strawberries. Rosé all night is also acceptable, despite the cocktail’s name.
Commoner’s most popular drink, the Melon Gimlet ($7), mixes house-made melon vodka, fresh cantaloupe, and lime for an invigorating summer cocktail.
Melon Gimlet at Commoner & Co. (Credit: Jackie Tran)
The Duck Empanadas ($3 each) feature roasted duck, smoked Gouda, golden raisin red chili jam, and cilantro créme fraîche. The combo of rich duck and sweet golden raisins is a Wooters special, surrounded by flaky, tender, fall-apart crust. Order one for every person at the table and use it for brownie points down the road. It’s impossible to forget about these irresistible savory pastries.
Mussels & Fries ($12) are a Belgium classic combo that’s a happy hour staple, but Wooters’ spin adapts flavors from 5,000 miles away with coconut Thai curry, shallots, and ginger. Though fries are as American – or French – as it gets, they absorb the curry broth beautifully.
If you’re really hungry, The Suit ($8, add $2 for another patty and bacon for another dollar) will hit the spot. A house-made sesame bun sandwiches a nicely-charred juicy beef patty, American cheese, horseradish pickles, shaved yellow onion, and dijonnaise. The layer of dijonnaise helps prevent the bottom bun from absorbing too much juice and falling apart, but the flecks of mustard seed also provide a welcome zing. The thinly shaved onion provides just enough onion flavor with none of the harsh onion bite. You’ll want to add bacon for the quintessential experience. There are no gimmicks here, just a well-executed, marvelous burger.
The Suit at Commoner & Co. (Credit: Jackie Tran)
For a small snack, try the Brussels & Apple Cider Bacon ($3). If you think you don’t like Brussels sprouts, these are the ones to try. The roasted leaves provide nuttiness, which complement the rich bacon and apple cider tang.
The Grapefruit Salad ($8) balances sweetness and earthiness with grapefruit, roasted beets, shaved baby heirloom carrots, arugula, Greek yogurt, raw sugar candied ginger, pine nuts, and olive oil while the Asian Pear Salad ($7) stands out with its variety of textures using blackberries, Asian pears, shallots, golden raisins, warm pancetta lardons (we won’t tell your diet if you won’t), goat cheese, pistachios, and an Earl Grey tea and blackberry dressing.
With eats this awesome, you’ll forget about Prep & Pastry… until you’re hungry again in the morning.
Commoner & Co. is located at 6960 E. Sunrise Dr. and is open daily. Happy hour runs 2 – 6 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, 4 – 6 p.m. Monday through Friday. For more information, visit commonertucson.com. To keep up with specials, visit Commoner & Co. on Facebook. For a list of other hot happy hour picks, click here.