Both Southern food and gastropubs have enjoyed rises in popularity, and on the northwest side, there's a contingent of old-school Tucson talent at The Parish that is combining the two trends.
Travis Peters and Steve Dunn, formerly of the Cup Café at Hotel Congress, and Bryce Zeagler, of the French Quarter restaurant, teamed up to open the Southern-fusion gastropub in the space once occupied by Chuy's and Game On Sports Grille at Oracle and Orange Grove roads.
The menu is relatively small, and leans more toward the Cajun/Creole side, featuring mostly sharable appetizers ("noshes") and sandwiches. The restaurant seats about 50, and it's a clean, modern space, albeit a bit dark, and probably gets quite boisterous when busy.
Of course, having a pleasant ambiance and lots of culinary talent are all well and good, but if you're advertising as a gastropub, the food and drinks had better be up to par. Luckily, The Parish delivers.
The beer selection is modest but well-chosen, highlighting a dozen or so microbrews from across the country; the cocktail menu features some inventive drinks, as well as the classic New Orleans drink, the Sazerac. Ted and I had pints of the Abita Amber, from Louisiana, and the somewhat-local Sleepy Dog Red Rover Irish Ale, out of Tempe (both $4), on our first visit to The Parish.
Bacon seems to be a common ingredient on the menu, as it should be at any proper drinking establishment. The frog legs ($8) were a particular delight, tightly wrapped from end to end in crispy bacon, sealing the juicy, tender meat inside. I wasn't especially impressed with the remoulade they were served with, but the frog legs were so well-prepared that they didn't need any sauce.
The bacon popcorn ($4) is the perfect accompaniment to a nice, cold beer. The popcorn was salty, buttery and not overly bacon-y; we soon polished off the whole bowl without even a second glance.
As I mentioned, the "noshes" on the menu are large, sharable appetizers, and the crawfish hushpuppies ($8) is definitely one of the dishes to order ... and to share. The big, dense balls of deep-fried goodness could be a meal in themselves, and the salty crawfish flavors paired perfectly with the syrupy-sweet green onion dip. The pretzel bits ($7) are similarly paired—dense, salty and delicious, and served with a spicy cheese dip.
The entrées are just as impressive as the smaller plates. I opted for the Haitian pork sandwich, a spicy mess of pulled pork on a bun with coleslaw ($9), with a side of gumbo ($2). The pork was almost too moist—it soaked the bottom bun before I even had a chance to pick up the sandwich—and it was seriously spicy. By the last third of the sandwich, I could no longer feel my lips. This sandwich is delicious, but not for the faint of heart. The gumbo was quite delicious as well, at least as far as I could tell through the afterburn.
Ted decided to try the lamb flatbread ($12), one of the more unique-looking dishes on the menu. It was a pizza-like toasted flatbread topped with ground lamb chorizo sausage, a kalamata olive tapenade, and heaps of gooey goat cheese. It was really tasty, though at $12, seemed disproportionately priced for the portion, compared to my sandwich at $9.
On the subsequent visit, the entrées were again fabulous. My fish and chips ($10), which is noted as the "world's crispiest" on the menu, was indeed the crispiest fish and chips I've ever had, and ensconced in all that crispiness was sweet, tender, fresh white fish. The fries are also killer. The menu says that they're seasoned with spicy saffron and charred onions; I couldn't pick out those flavors specifically, but they were very, very tasty.
Ted's oyster po' boy ($10) was massive, and was one of the better po' boy sandwiches I've had in Tucson. The oysters were battered and fried crisp without the tender meat being overcooked, and each bite was punctuated by that lovely salty, briny, ocean flavor.
In short, The Parish lives up to its claim as a true gastropub, with house-infused liquors and tasty, inventive twists on traditional cocktails, as well as a nicely varied beer selection. The food is delightfully bold and robust, prepared with attention to detail, and can really only be described as such: damn good drinkin' grub.