As a person who lives somewhere else, I think of Tucson as a city of uncommon eats: Topopo salad and Sonoran hot dogs, cutting-edge locavore cafes, counter-culture menus with intriguing vegetarian and vegan innovations, masterful tortilla shops and heritage bread bakeries.
It’s all good; but there are times when I crave a normal, un-inventive diner meal. For those occasions, there is Bread & Butter Cafe. A storefront eatery that opens for breakfast at 6am, it offers a dining experience that is guaranteed not to be outside the box. In this case, the box is short-order square meals, from biscuits and gravy to hot roast beef sandwiches and coconut custard pie. For those of us enamored of blue-plate specials, it’s 100% comfort food.
An enthusiastically-tenderized chicken-fried steak arrives in a gold coat of crust, topped with unctuous cream gravy and sided by a web of griddle-crisped hash browns, plus a couple of eggs and toast. A recently-baked cranberry orange muffin is good enough to eat as-is, better when toasted to a point that its edges get a nice crust.
Breakfast’s big surprise is apple pie. The white board lists it as “fresh apple” under the heading Delicious Homemade Pies, and I agree with both claims. This slice of pie, an ungainly wedge with thick slices of apple falling out all over, really is delicious and it does taste homemade, its fruit agreeably al dente, its flavor bright and autumnal.
As is proper in this sort of place, dining is an easy, in-and-out experience with efficient service and reasonable prices. I look forward to returning for an emblematic diner lunch such as a bacon cheeseburger, liver & onions, meat loaf, or hot turkey sandwich. There’s even an old-fashioned diet plate of bunless burger, cottage cheese, lettuce, tomatoes, and fruit.
For a nostalgic, no-nonsense diner meal in Tucson, Bread & Butter Cafe is a good place to be.