As of Monday, the menu at Thunder Canyon Brewstillery has made the most dramatic menu changes in its history.
Not only that, Thunder Canyon has also undergone a complete rebranding with a new logo and new management.
The now scratch kitchen pushes the limits of what to expect from a brewery. The Black Bean Hummus is made with house-made black sesame tahini and served with house-made flatbread. The Caprese Burger features house-pulled mozzarella, Merchant's Garden basil, roasted tomato aioli, and stout balsamic reduction on brioche, also house-made.
While the menu still features pub-friendly fare, the ambitious menu's style may look familiar to frequent downtown diners — executive chef Matt Kraiss previously spent considerable time in the kitchen of neighbor Ermanos Craft Beer & Wine Bar. But don't expect the same dishes.
Thunder Canyon invited Tucson Foodie to a staff tasting for a chance to taste and photograph the new menu. Here are the highlights.
These Pub Chips are a uniquely light take on nachos. House salt-and-vinegar potato chips and house pickled red onion add layers of acidity, complimenting the scallions and fresh jalapeños to brighten up the traditionally heavy dish. The Oaxacan beer cheese and smoked blue cheese provide satisfying creaminess and sharpness.
The all-natural Red Bird chicken wings are also available in Lemon Lime, BBQ, and Chili, but Pad Thai wins for creativity. The crushed peanuts, sesame seeds, and scallions accent the sweet and savory house pad thai sauce. All wings are frenched for that Flintstones drumstick look and a bone handle that's slightly less messy to hold.
Possibly the strangest item on the menu, the Scallop Bread doesn't sound like it should work. But it does. While these scallops are small and not the fancy large diver scallops usually served as an entree, they pack potent scallop flavor that carries over into the delightful leek whiskey cream sauce. The soft, fluffy house ciabatta soaks it all up and becomes the star of the dish. Champagne vinegar-pickled celery provides bursts of brightness.
If you enjoy the Manhattan cocktail, get this. The house pulled mozzarella curd is filled with sweet vermouth ricotta cream and served with house ciabatta, roasted Arizona grape tomatoes, fresh basil, and stout balsamic reduction.
No Szechuan Sauce here; instead, have the nutty, spicy garlic chili vinaigrette. The smashed cucumber and braised chicken easily absorb the dressing, while the carrots and bell pepper add sweetness and color. Toasted peanuts and sesame seeds provide subtle richness and crunch.
Similar to calabacitas, the Vegetarian Tacos feature a combination of Deep Canyon Amber-marinated summer squash, garlic, black beans, tomatoes, fresh dill goat cheese, and scallions. The goat cheese provides more tang than the conventional queso fresco or cotija.
While the Burrata Toast is closer to an actual caprese salad, the Caprese Burger highlights qualities of the classic caprese ingredients in a way that makes sense in a burger context. The house pulled fried mozzarella adds crunch and warm gooeyness. The umami of roasted tomatoes is concentrated in the aioli, while the Merchant's Garden basil is kept simple for its freshness. The sweetness and acidity of the stout balsamic reduction helps balance the richness of the Arizona-raised Forbes Meat Co. beef patty, cooked medium-rare unless requested otherwise.
The traditional Reuben uses corned beef, but this version utilizes house pastrami. House-fermented sauerkraut mingles with Thousand Island dressing and Swiss cheese on house ciabatta for a seemly simple sandwich greater than the sum of its parts, thanks to careful execution on each of the components.
Happy hour is 11 a.m. - 6 p.m. daily with $2 off appetizers and taco plates. Add a beer to a happy hour dish for $3 more.
Thunder Canyon Brewstillery is located at 220 E. Broadway Blvd. For more information, call (520) 396-3480 or visit thundercanyonbrewstillery.com.
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...