Integrity & honesty on a plate
This is the first of three articles in a series that highlights the past, present, and future of The Coronet, Meyer Avenue Cafe & Mercantile, and Nightjar. Stay tuned for the succeeding stories.
Oftentimes, people unfamiliar with the city ask me which restaurants they need to check out while in town. Other folks aren’t visiting, though, and have lived in Tucson for years — mostly eating within their comfort zones. Sure, I can suggest they explore the wide world of Sonoran hot dogs. Or I could take an even easier route and propose a journey into the vast Tacotopia that Tucson has become.
However, on the corner of Cushing Street and Meyer Avenue, there’s a group of concepts harboring enough allure, artistry, and charm to attract anyone with an appetite for something new. So, whether it be an intentional visit or you’re simply passing by, The Coronet, Meyer Avenue Cafe & Mercantile, and Nightjar are collectively the cat’s meow. Let’s start by shining a light on Sally Kane, the history of The Coronet, and how it all came to be.
A historic run
Each concept on the property is owned and operated by Kane — a property with a history that extends back to the late 1860s. Things got started when Joseph Ferrin, originally from Germany, moved to Tucson and built a home on Meyer Avenue. Family members came and went, children were born, and a corner store came to fruition.
Fast forward to 1971, when Kelly Rollings and partners took over the property and opened Cushing Street Bar and Restaurant in early ’72. Rollings had a keen eye for art and is responsible for the inherent look and feel of the property as well as many of the art pieces. For instance, he imported the chandelier and Cleopatra sculpture (originally made in France) from Mexico City, which is where they had lived since the late 1920s.
Hanging onto history
Today, you can still see some of the same artworks such as the Thomas Bredlow sculptures and built-in furniture from the late 1800s, but Sally Kane has since added to the scene — fabricating light fixtures, hanging more art, and resetting the tone a bit.
Sally Kane, born in 1968 right here in Tucson, grew up in an environment that inspired a passion for style and cuisine. Her family’s restaurant, the Tack Room at Rancho Del Rio, boasted Arizona’s first wine cellar and was awarded the southwest’s first Mobil Five-Star rating.
From studying at the California College of Art and Design to tasting her way through the classic eateries of the Bay Area, Kane spent a lot of time pursuing a career in the culinary world. She was a dishwasher, prep cook, baker, recipe developer, barista, bartender, and waitress at restaurants across the world (from Berkeley to Galway to Nashville to San Miguel de Allende).
With strong ties to the community, an ardor for food and drink, and a passion for her hometown, Kane opened The Coronet in 2014 on the corner of Fourth Avenue and Ninth Street. In 2019, the restaurant moved into the historic Cushing Street location, continuing the property’s journey and gathering a team that shares the same vision.
In the kitchen, there’s a lot happening. While Kane is the mind behind the concept, she couldn’t be happier or more proud of the relationship she’s got with her executive chef, Tanner Fleming.
“I like how incredibly honest he is on the plate and how easy it is to work with him,” said Kane. “I’m driving the concept, but his voice is obviously the most prominent on the plate. So, we’re true partners. I believe in that and the attention to detail. It’s important to me.”
“At the beginning of most dishes — not every dish — we have a conversation,” Kane explained. “Then he goes away and then involves me again once there’s something on the plate. I taste it and we talk again. He’s not just in the kitchen either. He’s involved in everything here. I think we make each other better. There’s nothing that Tanner isn’t completely involved in.”
Changing with the seasons
As was mentioned earlier, it’s sometimes difficult to step out of the box and try something new. It can be overwhelming for some to even consider eating something they’re not used to. Kane touched on the fact that they’re sometimes asked what type of cuisine is served at The Coronet.
It’s not always an easy question to answer, but it all comes down to the general love of food. Kane admires dishes from all over the world and the importance of the ingredients used in each.
“We make the kind of food that you’d make for someone you love,” said Kane. “We really believe in having integrity and honesty on the plate so we don’t use a lot of salts or sugars. We try to let the ingredients speak for themselves.”
Perhaps the best thing of all when it comes to paying a visit to The Coronet is the surprise of new additions landing on the seasonally inspired menu. The fully scratch kitchen involves 100% sustainable proteins and products from local bakers, makers, and vendors like Barrio Bread and South Winds Farm (to name a couple).
Plus, there’s a sense of harmony included in each dish, much like the Steelhead, which is paired with Persian sweet and spicy marinated olives, walnuts, herbs, Iranian rice tahdig, and pomegranate arils. It’s a dish that’s just as fun to look at as it is to consume.
“We love to elevate the humble carrot,” said Kane. “We have dishes with one star — like a vegetable. That’s kind of our food approach. So, it’s hard to say whether it’s an Italian restaurant or a French restaurant. We’re not that thing. We’re a restaurant that celebrates food and eating — we’re omnivores.”
A perfect blend of proteins and vegetables is the Thai Mussels and Grilled Shrimp. The lemongrass coconut milk fumet, Thai chili, edamame, green chickpeas, and fresh herbs really tie it all together. That side of Barrio toast, though, really allows you to make the experience your own while enjoying that desired glass of wine.
And speaking of wine, beverages of all types, sizes, and flavors are at hand waiting to lift your spirits, so to speak. At first glance, the bar’s beauty — warm woods and marble accents — is what catches your eye, but there’s a lot more happening behind it.
From the mind of bar manager Keila Herrington, a bevy of cocktails, fine wine, draft beer, and more await your palate and honest opinion.
The It’s Not Me It’s You, Watermelon cocktail has a bit of a kick to it being that it’s mixed with watermelon jalapeño Tepache, gin, sweet vermouth, Aperol, and lemon. If you’re looking for something on the sweet side, take flight with The Dandy Bee — Bols genever, Velvet Falernum, apricot liqueur, lemon, and honey.
If wine is what you’ve got in your thoughts, there’s plenty to choose from in their expansive collection. By the glass or by the bottle, you’ve got your choice of white, red, rosé, and even some bubbly.
Revamping Cushing Street
While it’s the flagship restaurant, The Coronet is just a taste of what Kane and the crew have going on in downtown Tucson. During the pandemic, the idea of making the most out of the property came to mind, and there grew an aspiration to activate all of its available space.
Today, the restaurant, together with Nightjar and Meyer Avenue Cafe & Mercantile, form a united front that offers breakfast, lunch, dinner, and an “old world feeling pub.” In the coming weeks, stay tuned for articles that spotlight Nightjar and Meyer Avenue Cafe & Mercantile as we dive into what makes them so special.
The Coronet is located at 198 W. Cushing St. For more information and menus, visit coronettucson.com.