4 December, 2022, 09:53

This must be the place: BATA named one of the ‘Best New Restaurants in America’

A very welcome addition to downtown Tucson, BATA is an innovative, modern, upscale gastronomic restaurant by our very own native Tucsonan and self-taught chef Tyler Fenton. Inspired by a modern European approach, where the focus of a dish is often on the beauty and quality of the ingredient itself, BATA enriches the Tucson dining scene with fire and finesse. As of late, the restaurant has earned some national spotlight by being recognized as one of Bon Appétit’s “Best New Restaurants of 2022.”

Chef Tyler Fenton of BATA

Chef Tyler Fenton of BATA

But the journey to what BATA is today, and what it soon will be, started in 2012 in a way that many great ideas do: as a vision sketched on a napkin following inspired trips to Europe and Asia with Copenhagen, Denmark making the strongest impression on the vision for Fenton. Copenhagen is famous for creating a whole new generation of chefs and champions seasonal and often locally-foraged and fermented ingredients to innovate and reinvent, creating totally new tastes and new formats in the process.

Chef Tyler Fenton in the Kitchen at BATA

View of the kitchen from the bar at BATA

Opening in March of this year, Fenton’s journey to BATA was a bold path forward and a totally new concept for dining in Tucson. While he was already successful with the well-loved Reilly Craft Pizza & Drink, both BATA’s future location and design had to be precise to match the unique culinary proposition. From that first sketch, two years of feasibility studies ensued to find and assess the ideal space. Fenton knew it had to be downtown and offer enough character for his expansive plans, something that could accommodate more than just a restaurant and fully embrace a place for people to come together around food and drink in different ways. An abandoned warehouse in Tucson’s Warehouse Arts District on Toole Avenue was identified and reconceived by Fenton himself, and, many years of renovation later, Bata was ready to welcome its first guests.

BATA’s current incarnation consists of a main dining room, an elegantly long bar facing the open kitchen and hearth, as well as a private dining room for larger groups. Additionally, off the back of the main dining room and up a small flight of stairs is a very special space where at any one-time Fenton can be found concepting, testing, and experimenting with various fermentations and crafting his own accompaniments for the main fare. It’s unlike anything in Tucson and a small but magnificent area where he really comes to life.

Dining room at BATA

The two distinguishing factors elevating BATA’s vision are fire and locally sourced ingredients. In fact, almost all dishes at BATA are touched by fire in one way or another in the open hearth. It’s a beautiful medley of ingredients with a concentrated flavor meant to be appreciated and enjoyed in small bites. Further, BATA is proud to source 80% of its ingredients from within 20 miles of Tucson and the remaining 20% within 400 miles to ensure San Diego’s coast is reached for fresh seafood. The goal is locally-inspired, seasonally changing, just as Fenton first experienced in Copenhagen, but with a deep respect for our region’s ingredients and cooking traditions.

And soon, BATA will offer a green garden to cultivate its own produce — call it urban foraging — as well as an open garage indoor/outdoor event space, and finally an intimate downstairs speakeasy with a separate entrance and standing tables. The new bar will feature a focus on small changing plates, classic wines, and cocktails. Fenton describes the concept for the space as a casual way of starting off the evening with a pre-dinner aperitif or simply enjoying an after-work cocktail with friends. There’s so much more to come this fall at BATA.

BATA is open from 5 – 9 p.m. on Wednesday – Thursday, 5 – 10 p.m. on Friday – Saturday, and 5 – 9 p.m. on Sunday. The restaurant is closed on Monday and Tuesday.

BATA is located at 35 E. Toole Ave. For more information, call (520) 367-4718 or visit batatucson.com

Anna Smirnova is a photographer and creative director from London with a focus on gastronomy and hospitality currently embracing desert living in Tucson.