The Garage Eatery & Pub on 4th is hitting its stride.
Since opening in February, the Garage has drawn an audience of people looking for a quieter place to get beer. Recently, management changed with the addition of Nikki and Matt Thompson, who own and operate downtown brunch spot Nook.
Although the duo has always been hands-on at Nook, they've reached a point where they were comfortable taking on the Garage.
"Nook has been around two-and-a-half years and it's in a space where we can step back and let it do its own thing," Nikki said.
While the Garage's decor and space is the same, the other changes have helped bring it to life. "The building is nice, but we thought we could bring a little more soul into it," Nikki said.
Service is noticeably more attentive and prepared to answer questions. Additionally, the focus has shifted to food. "Before, people came in for the beer and ordered off the menu," Nikki said. "We want people to order the food and order a beer because they're here."
Foodies at heart, the Thompsons wanted to amp up quality. However, they also wanted to make food more accessible. "We have a family, we have a kid," Nikki said. "It's important to us that people can afford to come in and eat."
Rather than being a destination restaurant, the Thompsons want to make sure they have a sustainable business with regulars. "We want to be your neighborhood local family bar and restaurant." Matt said.
Accessible doesn't mean vanilla, however. The overhauled kitchen and menu offers recognizable dishes with quality touches a gourmand can appreciate. "We've brought in local meat and are talking to more farms to make it more local," Nikki said.
Previously, the burgers weren't available medium-rare. The Thompsons, medium-rare fans themselves, immediately made sure the burgers are now available to-temp as requested. The newly-added Fire Roasted Green Chili Burger ($11) features green chile, Jack cheese, green mayo, pickled onion, and lettuce on a toasted egg bun from La Baguette Parisienne. The pickled onions are shaved extremely thin. The delicate texture almost melts in your mouth with the cheese along with less of the raw onion bite.
Also newly-added, the Hot Chicken ($10) has taken over as one of the most popular items. The Garage's take on the Nashville specialty features a crispy fried, hot pepper-coated chicken breast with pickle slices, shredded lettuce, and mayo on a toasted egg bun. The juicy chicken is uniform in thickness, cooking more evenly and rendering it less awkward to eat than a whole breast. The spice, on the milder side, pleasantly lingers. The well-crafted gourmet chicken sandwich is even slightly evocative of the McDonald's Hot 'n Spicy McChicken, but without any of the guilt and immediate regret.
One of the simplest yet most exciting additions is affordable hanger steak. "It's so versatile," Matt said. "Braise it, grill it, we love the flavor and it's a good price point."
The Steak-Frites ($15) features a bed of fries topped with an Arizona hanger steak and compound butter and a side of fry sauce. The combination of roasted garlic and raw garlic in the butter highlights the addictive combination of roasted sweetness and raw garlic pungency that drips past the beefy, tender steak onto the fries.
Also a fantastic deal, the Steak Salad ($12) features Arizona hanger steak atop greens with blue cheese, tomatoes, bar nuts, and onion strings with ginger vinaigrette.
While the new additions are already exciting, look forward to additional changes moving forward. "We like to keep it fresh and revolving," Nikki said. "Seasonal beer, seasonal menu, that's our jam."
Although focus has shifted to food, beer lovers need not fear. The Garage Eatery & Pub still features 14 taps of beer from local and southwestern breweries. "We like to have things on tap that you can't find anywhere else," Matt said.
With cornhole outside and ping pong on the weekends as well, the Garage has cranked up their neighborhood appeal. Swing by, grab some pints, share some grub, and enjoy this glorious Tucson autumn weather with their cute patio.
Lastly, don't let the Fourth Avenue parking scare you away. If you don't want to use a street meter during the weekday, they have their own free parking lot hidden across the corner.
The Garage Eatery & Pub on 4th is located at 802 N. 4th Ave. For more information, call the restaurant at (520) 329-3115 or visit thegarageon4th.com. Keep up with The Garage on Facebook.
Jackie Tran is a Tucson-based food writer, photographer, culinary educator, and owner-chef of the food truck Tran's Fats. Although he is best known locally for his work for Tucson Foodie, his work has also appeared in publications such as Bon...