Proper Bursts Into the Already Bustling Downtown Restaurant Scene

May 2, 2013

by Bree Collins

Paul Moir is putting the finishing touches on Proper.

Paul Moir is putting the finishing touches on Proper before the May 6th opening.

Downtown Tucson is experiencing a renaissance with a parade of new restaurants, including Proper, the most recent vision by Flagstaff-based Paul Moir. Taking up the entire corner of Congress St. and 5th Ave. where the Rialto Exhibition Center used to be, this upscale eatery will be opening its doors Monday, May 6th. The restaurant arrives just in time for residents moving in to several new apartment buildings Downtown.

The attention to detail at Proper is amazing. Wood salvaged from the walls is being made into table-tops. Tiny window panes toward the very top of the building add texture and whimsy. Dark metal lanterns hang above the space, echoing the gray, black and white color scheme. There are plans for a wall of tiles made from beetle-kill pine, striated to look like a softer, sound-absorbing brick that Moir will put up himself. “It wouldn’t be enough if I didn’t put myself into the restaurant,” he says. “When you contribute, the personality comes through.”

But Moir insists that Proper’s best décor will be the Downtown streetscape. The bar area takes full advantage of this, located on the corner and extending to an outdoor bar and patio. The outdoor bar wraps right around the building, and during restaurant hours the windows that separate outdoor from indoor will open, allowing bartenders to serve patrons on both sides. The light-filled space will become even more expansive, showcasing the Downtown area for the entire restaurant.


Moir spares no detail in the decor at Proper.

Other features include a casual meeting room, separated from the rest of the regular dining area by wine racks that cleverly serve as wall and storage space, that will have a table that seats twelve. Hopefully this is only the first of small, specialty meeting places in the Downtown area. About 8 seats are situated in front of the exposed kitchen to allow interested parties to feel part of the action. The dining area is set before large windows that look out onto 5th Ave. with Playground Bar and Lounge across the street.

Dishes do not strive to seek balance between protein, starch and vegetable, and instead the intent is for people to order what they desire and share with each other. The point is hit home with the inclusion of a ‘Sharing’ section. Clever, creative touches light up the menu. Ingredients like watercress and bee pollen. A cold berry soup just in time for summer. Sour lemon croûtons. Macaroni and cheese with “rarebit” – no rabbit or any other meat involved, instead it’s cheese sauce over toast. And just thinking about their pickling operation and jams made in-house makes it hard to sit still.

Proper will add another much-needed brunch location to Downtown. Savory and sweet are equally represented, with diverse choices like churros and pork belly that will entice any early riser. Why do anything usual? Moir is even excited about beer for breakfast. Everything is made in-house, so if you have special dietary needs just ask and they will work to accommodate you.

Moir was a Tucsonan in the 90’s. He remembers when Downtown was derelict, transients sleeping in the nooks and crannies of the very building Proper now occupies, and was excited to transform it into a place of connection. Moir and friend Derrick Widmar, owner of Diablo Burger, hope to create a sense of community between their businesses with a set of windows in each separating wall. You can wave to patrons visiting Diablo Burger just a few doors east, or take a peek in Proper’s next-door butcher-shop/charcuterie that will be opening at a later date. Moir was pleased to hear that the space used to be the Rialto Meat Market almost 100 years ago. “I must be doing something right.”

We think so, too.