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Downtown Kitchen + Cocktails 
Tucson, AZ  

   

DOWNTOWN KITCHEN + COCKTAILS

 

            When Downtown Kitchen + Cocktails opened in October 2010, owner Janos Wilder still had his other two restaurants, Janos and J-Bar. Regarding the menu at the latter, Wilder always relied upon the region’s culture and ingredients. And the menu at Janos always went through a French filter.

            Wilder wanted to make Downtown Kitchen different. The French filter went—didn’t need that anymore. And the regional emphasis of J-Bar, well, it appears here and there. The flavors filter only through Wilder’s and his chef de cuisine’s (Devon Sanner) palates, which never stray too far from their diners’ tastes.

            “I intended to make a different culinary statement,” Wilder said. “Some things I wanted to reaffirm, such as local products. From there, we wanted to tell the story of foods not only from this region, but all of America’s flavors. The flavors of the foods people bring in from the homes of the latest round of immigrants—Asia, Africa, Middle East, Latin America.”

            If you’ve followed Wilder over the years, you know he’s always “played with the Asian flavors.” For a chef that loves his craft, “everything is game” and he liked the cuisine’s big flavors.

            “These flavors,” Wilder said about the Asian leanings, “are so immediate and alive. Big flavors. That was the culinary launching point. I wanted to do something different.”

A RESTAURANT REBORN

            The food was not the only element of change. Wilder’s restaurant location went from a tony resort built around the time when the Millennial generation came on board to historic downtown digs built during Arizona’s territorial years, five years before it became a state.

            Diners from older and larger cities will like the feel of Downtown Kitchen’s century-old building. If you saw the before-and-after pictures of the remodel stages of Downtown Kitchen, you’d understand Wilder and his wife, Rebecca, really had to have a vision do achieve this complete remodel.

            The building, built in 1907 as a restaurant, over the years transitioned into an Odd Fellows Hall and then a car repair garage. The mechanics’ bays became seating areas with plate-glass windows that look out to the restaurant’s sidewalk café.

            “I thought the streetscape was the charm of this location,” Wilder said about the outdoor seating made possible through an easement.

            The restaurant’s south brick wall became a rough-hewn (literally) background for paintings created by local artists.

            “We knew there was a brick wall,” Wilder said, “because it was a brick building. But we had to dig through several layers to get to it.”

            The gathering of diners is as eclectic as the food and interiors. From twenty-something to elders. This will remind some of the budding days in the foodie scene on the West Coast. People of all walks and ages know good food when they taste it.

            “That makes me the most proud than anything else,” Wilder said about his varied clientele. “I look out over the dining room and see everything. From blue hair to tattoos and body piercing to business suits. The whole dining room just comes alive. It’s great.”

            The bottom line? We can’t imagine anyone’s taste buds being bored at Downtown Kitchen + Cocktails. The food might be missing those old “filters,” but almost three years later, Downtown Kitchen + Cocktails it is still fresh as the foods it serves.




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