Creole food fans, rejoice: Sazerac Creole Kitchen & Cocktails, part of the JAM Culinary Concepts family of restaurants, opened January 2017 inside St. Phillip’s Plaza. With a generous amount of picturesque outdoor seating and indoor dining, Sazerac is a great spot for guests to take their ease while enjoying the foods of The Big Easy.
We arrived during happy hour (every day from 2 – 6 p.m.), and took the opportunity to try some of Sazerac’s “pre-prohibition and prohibition-era specialty cocktails.” The Snaiquiris ($4 at happy hour), described on the menu as “like a daiquiri but smaller,” were like sipping a petite glass of grown-up lemonade; not a lot of liquor to taste, but very refreshing as a day drink. We followed that up with two of their full-sized cocktails, the Brass Band ($10) and the Louisiana Porch Swing ($10). The Brass Band, made with bourbon, velvet falernum (a spiced citrus syrup), lemon, and ginger beer, was very sweet. I recommend drinking while eating something extra savory. The Louisiana Porch Swing, while also sweet, presented multiple layers of complex flavor that kept developing as we sipped. Made with gin, orgeat (an almond syrup), cherry heering (a brandy first made in 1818), orange juice, lime juice, and averna (an herbal bitter created in 1868), this cocktail’s tea-like flavor and floral aroma was enjoyable both on the nose and on the tongue. Executive Chef Robert Kimball credits bartender Tiffany Eldredge as the “genius behind the bar,” and I’m fully inclined to agree after a sip of the Louisiana Porch Swing.
Sazerac’s New Orleans BBQ Shrimp ($14) appetizer started things off. The six shrimp were tender and juicy, in an herby, savory barbecue sauce that transitioned from rosemary to barbecue spices and chiles, with an emphasis on Worcestershire sauce, which Chef Kimball describes as “as original of a barbecue sauce as one can be.” Thin and less syrupy than many barbecue concoctions, we couldn’t get enough of this sauce, and used the provided bread to soak up every last drop.
We followed up the shrimp with a cup of Chicken Andouille Gumbo ($6). The stew was thick and smokey, with a medium level of spice, and served over fluffy white rice. As Kimball says, “Creole doesn’t mean everything is spicy.” Large chunks of celery and green peppers added to the stew’s variety of textures, while the pork flavor of the Andouille sausage shone through. Kimball says they order sausage straight from a Louisiana purveyor, “because we want authentic everything.”
If sample-size servings don’t sound like your thing, the item our server recommend most was the Crab Cake entree ($26). Kimball says the cakes are “a huge point of pride for us,” and it was easy to see why. Lightly breaded and fried, without being oily, the recipe for these crab cakes is simple: seasoning, a bit of egg, and giant chunks of both Lump and Sugar Lump crab. The only “filler” present is the crumb coating on the outside. Kimball believes “a crab cake should taste like crab – and that one ingredient I mentioned before, love.” Also of note: a side of vibrant, squeaky green beans, which were cooked in ham hock broth and finished with onion and butter.
For dessert, we ordered the Bananas Foster ($9), accompanied by a Sazerac Past cocktail ($9). Fair warning: this drink doesn’t just look fiery; it definitely burns going down. While there are pleasant citrus and herbal notes on the nose thanks to the orange peel, herbal liquor, and bitters, the cognac that makes up the body of the drink is not messing around. This is a drink best saved for sipping as an aperitif, and I recommend making sure to stir in the remaining sugar crystals prior to drinking. Luckily, the Sazerac Past turned out to be a perfect complement to the Bananas Foster. Caramelized and sweet, with two big scoops of vanilla ice cream on top, the Bananas Foster was rich enough to share between four people and still feel satisfied.
While Kimball reports that Sazarac still has a number of culinary goals in the works (from housemade sausage and ice cream to one day building a visible flambé station), he says their number one goal is to allow guests to “be transported to the feelings that only New Orleans can give you.” For him, that feeling is “home,” and he says that the staff of Sazerac is “dedicated to giving everyone that experience.”
4340 N Campbell Ave
Tucson, AZ 85718