I love the idea of the restaurant-market combo, and the Five Points neighborhood, which is ripe for gentrification with the growth of businesses downtown, has a new eatery at which you can both enjoy a locally sourced brunch or lunch and take home some fresh produce.
Five Points Market & Restaurant is the newest addition to the blossoming neighborhood, situated next to Café Desta in the Stone Avenue/18th Street slice of the Five-Points pie. There are a few tables outside (some are even semi-shaded for the scorching summer months) and the interior is warmly decorated, with plenty of open space and wood, playing the part of rustic market well.
Many of the ingredients are locally grown or locally sourced, often with the name of the farm or producer highlighted on the menu—Sleeping Frog Farms seems to be a favorite. Ted and I stopped in for a weekend brunch (served from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. weekdays and until 4 p.m. on weekends) and the place was abuzz with a variety of patrons. It's a seat-yourself policy and there are no reservations, so you might expect a short wait on busy weekend mornings.
Overall, everything we ordered was tasty, but a few minor adjustments would have skyrocketed the experience from good to stellar. First, they freshly squeeze all of their juices ($5 for a glass of grapefruit juice). And by fresh, I mean, by the glass. Which tastes awesome, but is a little disappointing when it takes nearly 10 minutes to deliver a glass of juice to the table.
The smoked salmon Benedict ($11) was definitely the star of brunch, with crispy English muffins and a beautiful heap of lightly smoked salmon. However, there was too much balsamic reduction on it, overpowering the delicate flavors of the salmon, poached eggs and garlic-basil cream cheese. My Bandito Blanco ($10), described as a potato pancake with shaved ham and poached eggs, had pretty good flavor, but the potato pancake was mushy and soggy, and the texture hurt the entire dish.
The kitchen staff at Five Points needs to be a little more aggressive with the seasonings, too. When we asked for seasonings, it took our server nearly 15 minutes to bring us salt and pepper because, as she informed us, "There's only one, so I had to track it down." Five Points also doesn't serve decaf coffee by the cup, as it does with regular coffee. In order to get decaf, you must order a French press carafe ($5). This wasn't a big issue for me, as I much prefer French press over drip coffee anyway, but if you're just looking for a single cup, $5 can be a little steep for plain coffee.
I took my friend Karen with me for a weekday lunch at the market, and it was again busy, but not overwhelmed. We decided to try some of the soups and sandwiches from the lunch menu. I opted for the cup of French onion soup ($6) and the Korean barbecue and kimchi sandwich ($11), while Karen went with a cup of the soup du jour —tomato basil bisque ($4)—and the pork torta ($10). Hibiscus tea ($2.50) and rosewater lemonade ($6) were the beverage choices. Our server informed us that Five Points hopes to have beer and wine available soon.
The drinks and soups were delivered promptly and at the correct temps—drinks ice cold and soups steaming hot—and our server was attentive and friendly. My rosewater lemonade was far too tart, and I prefer unsweetened beverages as a general rule, but both my French onion soup and Karen's tomato basil bisque were delicious. However, we were only about one spoonful into the soups when our sandwiches were delivered, so by the time we were able to dig into the sandwiches, they were no longer hot and the bottom bread had started to get soggy.
My beef barbecue and kimchi sandwich, served on a crusty baguette, I would put squarely in the "tasted pretty good, wouldn't order it again" category. The individual components were all good, but combined they didn't quite work, and there was an overwhelming vinegary element that seeped into all of the ingredients. Karen's pork torta was quite flavorful, but the pork tended a bit too much toward the sweet side, without enough of the pickled onion to balance it out. With more precise timing, and attention to proper seasoning techniques, Five Points has the potential to dish up some fantastic local food in a quaint, welcoming environment—and Tucson can always use more of that, no matter which neighborhood.