The Coronet Brings Anything but the Usual Drag & Tackle To Downtown

May 13, 2014

 by James J. Jefferies

Sitting just north of the Fourth Avenue underpass, The Coronet is just a sweet spot to meet friends over baked goods and coffee, but also has an extensive and intriguing menu.

Sitting just north of the Fourth Avenue underpass, The Coronet is not just a sweet spot to meet friends over baked goods and coffee, but also has an extensive and intriguing menu.

No one seeking a fast buck goes into the restaurant business, and if that is their sole source of motivation, they are generally in for a brutal education. Half of all new ventures close their doors inside of the first two years. The conventional wisdom says that it takes five years to really begin showing a profit. The workload is never-ending, especially in that early phase when a new eatery is desperate to get the word out about its existence, bring people into the place, give them the best possible experience, and keep them coming back. (It should also be said, this phase doesn’t really end. Not for the good establishments who know they must win repeat customers love on every single outing.)

Having spoken with a variety of restaurant owners the last seven months, a consistent theme emerges. Restauranteurs are generally motivated by one or more of several things: a love of food, a desire to play the warm and welcoming host, and because they have a fondness for a particular kind of establishment that they don’t see represented in their own community. In the case of Sally Kane and Gregor Kretschmann’s brasserie-style restaurant, The Coronet, it’s very much all the above.

The 2x3 Porridge was an exceptional way to begin the day, with a hearty, fist-sized dollop of warm oats accompanied by seeds, almonds, dried fruits and milk.

The 2×3 Porridge was an exceptional way to begin the day, with a hearty, fist-sized dollop of warm oats accompanied by seeds, almonds, dried fruits and milk.

“I love cooking…and I love entertaining in my house,” said Kane, as she cut a small, delicious olive oil cake into bite-sized sections, which she insisted I partake of over coffee. Kane has spent a lifetime in the hospitality industry, as a waitress, barista, prep and pastry cook, you name it, she’s done it. “I really missed this kind of a joint, and I felt like there was a real gap between what we have here (in Tucson) and what is relatively common in big cities,” said Kane.

On this point, I’d really have to agree. One look at The Coronet’s menu is enough to tell you that there’s something really different going on by the underpass at Fourth Avenue and Ninth Street. There’s a variety of things, from the very lovely early 20th-century decor, to the tartines and the unique sides and small salads that can accompany entrees on menu, that one doesn’t come across regularly in the Old Pueblo. More importantly though, there’s a certain sense of terse whimsy that pervades the entire thing, given the fact that there are no photos, with items given just very brief descriptions amid really cute, old-time illustrations.

There’s also a sense of humor present, the kind of thing you might not find with your average purveyor of old world rustic cuisine, with the use of phrases like “drinkies” and “all the usual drag and tackle” (used to describe the Ploughman’s Lunch) sprinkled throughout the menu. “It’s all very narrate-y, and I really like children’s literature,” said Kane, explaining the choice for the menu’s aesthetic. This underlying idea of storytelling even extends to the wait staff’s uniforms. “As far as the dress code goes, (prospective staff) would ask, ‘Well, are there uniforms?’ and we’re like, no, we’re trying to tell a story here. Do what you can to fit into that picture, and bring yourself to it,” said Kane.

The Ploughman's Lunch. Afterwards, I felt a surge of strength, as if it was time to harvest the fields or something else farmers do that I probably never will.

The Ploughman’s Lunch. Afterwards, I felt a surge of strength, as if it was time to harvest the fields or something else farmers do that I probably never will.

Part of this story also means adapting to the environment itself, as The Coronet actually has an incredibly small kitchen, which necessitates the restaurant ramping down daily between midday and dinner to completely rearrange the food prep areas for the evening menu. Much like any artificial limitation, though, it has proven to be more of an engine for creativity rather than something that severely curtails the menu. Given that they are moving into the summer months, though, you can look for some changes to what’s being offered to reflect the heat of the season.

Of course, none of this really amounts to much if the food itself isn’t worth the trip. Luckily, The Coronet’s actual offerings meet the elevated sense of expectations created by the artistic flair present in the environment and the food itself is quite good. On a breakfast run, I opted for something really simple, the 2×3 Breakfast Porridge, which I had with dried fruit, seeds, almonds, brown sugar and whole milk. It was a decent-sized bowl of powerful breakfast goodness, with the porridge itself being warm, soft, sticky, and nutty, and the whole thing was just a terrific, energetic shot in the arm as I went about my day.

This olive oil cake was moist, with that dusty texture you only get when something is incredibly fresh.

This olive oil cake was moist, with that dusty-to-the-touch texture you only get when something is incredibly fresh. Fantastic for dessert or as a sidekick to a hot cup of coffee.

If you’re on the run, I’d call this a terrific choice, however they also have a pastry case within the counter that seems populated with a variety of excellent treats daily. As I mentioned, I did have some of an olive oil cake that first visit talking with Sally, and it was quite moist and delightful, and if the other baked goodies are in the same ballpark, then that’s a great option. The coffee is sourced from local roasters Caffe Lucé, and the cup I had on my first visit was perfectly brewed, as was the Irish Breakfast and Lapsong Suschong varieties of tea I tried.

On another venture there, I enjoyed the Ploughman’s Lunch, which is a sizable spread consisting of ham, cheese, an assortment of vegetables, toasted bread, a really tasty champagne style mustard, soft-boiled eggs, and some fruits thrown in for good measure. It was an incredibly blustery day on the patio, befitting a lunch ordered from that Winnie The Pooh-style menu. The platter was very fresh, tasty, and filling without being overbearing, though it is also tailor-made for sharing if you’re intent on trying a variety of things with a group. This really seems to be the thing with The Coronet, is being a laid-back trove of simple, fresh, but well-considered pleasures. There’s a lot of unexplored territory on the menu, and I definitely plan on another outing with friends.

The Coronet is open most days from 7am-9pm, with slightly extended hours on Thursday and Friday, on Saturday from 8am-10pm, and 8am-2pm on Sundays. They are located at 402 E. Ninth St., and you can find them on the web here, or on Facebook here.

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