tater tots aren’t just for kids, and beer can be part of a nutritious breakfast
If it sounds a little odd, that’s because more than most places, tallboys has an interesting history, much like Tucson itself. Tallboys was originally in its own building, and doing quite well until shuddered by the covid-19 pandemic. Owned and operated by local musician Ben Schneider, it had been previously located among 4th avenues lively college bars, cafes and music venues, it was already a quirky spot on a quirky street that catered mainly to the city nightlife. It was a place you could roll in after a long night out or wake up and get some decent food with your bandmate, and enjoy with a good morning cheap beer shamelessly. In case your not familiar with one, a ‘tallboy’, which is the establishments namesake, is a type of taller than normal beer can, that originally focused on quantity, not necessarily quality. Usually a cheaper beer, they became iconic as the choice of cash strapped musician types. But since the craft beer boom in the US, they’re not just for the economy domestic brews anymore. And along with the other standard and craft offerings, there exists an extra large selection devoted to the tallboy to choose on the extensive drink list.
well anyways, things have happened lately, in particular, the pandemic. Leaving Tallboys doors closed and empty by city order, along with many other Tucson establishments. One of the other restaurants also closed for most of the pandemic was La Cocina, or LaCo as its usually referred to. Located not too far away, and neighboring by another local favorite Ceres, La Cocina is run by Ben’s mother, Jo Schneider. And Ben, growing up in the shadow of the restaurant industry around him followed his mothers entrepreneurial lead, and struck out on his own. in 2017 opening the original tallboys, reflecting his youthful values and suiting a musicians lifestyle.
So, suffice to say, that during all this time of industry upheavel and pandemic uncertainty, Tallboys, did what many an american millenial have had to do, and when businesses started reopening around town, Ben and Tallboys, decided to close the 4th ave location and move in with mom. Since then, tallboys has moved in and set up as part of the la cocina space, moving its breakfast and brunch menu and love for early morning beers on over. Tallboys did gave up some of its initial individuality, but then brought its originality and excitement over and added it to La Cocina. -As a side note: during the pandemic, when tucson mayor Regina Romero closed restaurants to contain the spread of covid-19, Jo began serving free meals to out-of-work dishwashers, servers, entertainers and others. about 80 free meals 3 times a week, just to help out the struggling community and nieghbors!
Well, there is a lot going on here to describe how this place works. i will try my best. The Tallboys/LaCo seating area consists of the interior courtyard of an entire city block. It’s a smaller than usual size city block, with old 19th century sonoran style adobe buildings, one that now houses old town artisans. it consists of a collection of interesting small shops that have entrances on the outer street, but also have storefronts into the seating area of the courtyard. It has the airy feeling of a spanish plaza. Contained among these peripheral shops, there is a record store, tattoo parlor, curio shop, art wares and more. There are two different bars on the premises offering mimosas, cocktails and wine. In the back, an often used stage for musical performances, and central fountain and a variey of seating throughout the varying nooks and open spaces created by this unique arrangement.
There are several entrances along the containing side streets to walk in through. The ambience as you enter, is of a lush semitropical desert garden with full of trellises, flowering vines, shade giving palo verde trees, cacti, and aquatic plants around the central fountain pond. It doesnt take long for someone to come by and take you to a seat, and despite being a little chaotic at times, the atmosphere is very relaxing, and never rushed. I’ve only been here in the mornings, so my experience is just ordering from the tallboys breakfast and brunch menus. But keep in mind, that in the evening, the two adjoining bars come alive, and the La Cocina menu takes effect. However, the breakfasts and brunches here are also pretty exciting! The weekend brunches are often accompanied by an eclectic DJ sometimes, or a live instrumental set by tucson music legends ‘golden boots‘.
Let’s hear about some food! So far, the dishes i’ve tried are the ‘vegan tallboy tots’, ‘vegan breakfast scramble’, ‘tallboy tots’ and the ‘heuevos rancheros’. there’s also breakfast tacos and burros, pulled pork hash, biscuits and gravy, avocado toasts and the standard 2 eggs w/home fries, toast breakfast plate. The food has always arrived hot and relatively quick. Every time presented well, always with an array of tasty sauces drizzled, dolloped and spoon swooped. Every plate in well balanced ratios with a perfect portion size. And of the entrees i’ve tried, they’ve all been full of flavor having a distinctive southwest flair. With confidence i suspect the other menu items are also well prepared and equally as tasty. It’s been a perfect experience every time, and things are also reasonably priced. For a place that bills itself as diner food, quality and taste are exceptional. There’s enough variety among dishes and plenty of vegan/meat options to satisfy the needs of almost any group or complicated individual. the spaces here are gracious and the setting is beautiful and exciting. its a super interesting way to organize a a collection of unique business that all make the whole even better.
And now, i’m gonna talk tots. love em or hate em, you should at least try a side order, if not one of the tot based entrees. They are perfectly crisped and dusted with a paprika or ground chili powder, and make the perfect base for several dishes offered here. İt would be a crime against cuisine to not at least order a side with a tasty chipotle crema to dip them in. Perhaps there is a reason both Ben and i are drawn to tots. İn Tucson’s illustrious past, there was once a 24 diner on congress st, called ‘the grill‘. İt was a late and overnight mainstay, it was a central place for the Tucson music and art scene to gather after shows and events, to sober up to an amazing pile of tater tots. İf i recall correctly, i think tots were the only potato option at this legendary greasy spoon. Perhaps, it was just the novelty, but the ritual of ordering up tots has been an endearing part of the Tucson scene well before tallboys popped up.’
Tucson loves breakfast. There’s a plethora of morning options in the city to try out, more than most it seems. But this one stands out, for many of its unique attributes and contributes so much to the local dining and entertainment scene. it’s The first place i would send a newcomer get a good breakfast and to get a idea of the creativity, diversity and community Tucson offers. get directions here. And if you want to visit the most interesting historical site in the area visit El Tiradito shrine.