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Retooled 

Narrowly escaping a cheesy out-of-state concept, The Garage is the locally rousing pit stop Fourth Avenue deserves

click to enlarge The Garage’s split fennel sausage sandwich, calamari and a Dragoon ale.

Mark Whittaker

The Garage’s split fennel sausage sandwich, calamari and a Dragoon ale.

A humble suggestion to all who want to open a comfortable yet highly effective, and successful eatery here in Tucson: If you build a patio, they will come.

"Right now our patio is our biggest draw," Garage owner and operator David Blair said. "We just planted a line of bushy trees for shade, the awnings have been ordered and are on the way as well as a mister system. When summer hits we plan on being the place to go to on Fourth Avenue."

Of course it gets hot here during the summer months—this is the Sonoran desert—but the nights cool down enough to enjoy quality time and libations with friends outdoors and the other six months our weather is the envy of the rest of the globe. Blair is a wise man on so many levels.

The first being that instead of putting up walls and a ceiling on the old parking area from the longstanding corner garage that was built in the '50's, he left it open knowing that patrons would bask in the whimsy of Fourth Avenue while sipping on one of their select craft beers on tap or enjoying a tasty selection from their refreshingly tight menu. Another reason is because he decided to light out on his own instead of giving in to a small corporate taco and burger chain, one that would be more of an eyesore than a welcome addition to the popular strip of shops and food stops.

"I really didn't like where the original concept was going," David muses while his energetic staff deliver hot food and ice cold beer to waiting customers. "It launched poorly up in Phoenix and I knew this neighborhood would prefer something different. So, we took what we had here and just ran with it. Originally, I am a homebuilder, still am, but now that I found myself in the restaurant business, I knew I had to find someone that really knew what they are doing. That's when I found Tim."

Timothy Stevens has a long history of turning concepts into consummation. An experienced chef and still quite young, Timothy has created a menu to reflect the attitude and aspect of The Garage which is no-nonsense, comfortable, inviting and, above all, playfully direct.

Both David and Timothy say most people stop by The Garage due in part to try one of their signature burgers. Of course, you can get a burger made and topped with anything you like here, but currently they have just a few separate house varieties they suggest. One standout was the #4, which is a third-pound patty cooked to order and smothered in smoked gouda, thick cut juicy bacon, perfectly caramelized onions and finished with a hearty beer mustard aioli. Paired with a generous portion of seasoned hand-cut fries or a fresh green salad if you like, the #4 is a standout of messy flavors and throwback childlike merriment that is all grown up.

The garage just doesn't offer burgers, that would be too simple if they did.

To go with your Saison Blue or Scout Porter beer, they have included, and keenly so, a variety of tacos that are a glorious match for a delicious nibble on a warm Tucson evening. The fried fish option is delectable and won't fill you up so you can buy another round and partake in one, or a few more yourself. Paired with a cilantro pepita pesto, a roasted garlic aioli then completed with chipotle tomato and shaved cabbage this is a refreshing take on a Southern Arizona favorite.

If you are craving something heartier though, you need to step up and order one of their split grilled sausage sandwiches. If you want spice and something that gets right to the point, get the andouille, but if you want savory combined with a mouth-dancing fervor of textures, it's the fennel sausage option you need. This colorful brute served on a pretzel roll comes equipped with tangy blue cheese, fresh avocado, pickled onions and a zesty lemon aioli and is a joy to be privy to. In the mood for a quick tasty bite for you and your pals, there are also a few starter plates to choose from.

Do yourself a favor and get the charred guacamole. Rich, robust and slightly roily, it's what you need as you while away on the deck watching the small world of Fourth Avenue and University scoot by in a shuffled haze.

"We plan on expanding our menu someday, not so much by volume but by variety," said Timothy. "We can make anything here to your liking and customers are just finding out now that there is a secret menu. You just need to stop by and see for yourself."

To make your visit to The Garage even more agreeable is the fact that there is free parking. You just need to go to their website to get the map.

Free parking on Fourth Avenue? They will come indeed.

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