- 621 N. Fourth Ave., Tucson, AZ, 85705
- Overall User Rating:
- (1 rating)
- Sun-Thu. 7 a.m.-9 p.m., Fri.-Sat. 7 a.m.-10 p.m., Sun. 7:30 a.m.-8 p.m. (breakfast till 11 a.m. weekdays, till 12 p.m. weekends)
- Official Web Site:
What we ordered: One “half and half” pasta and salad ($9.95) and one Italian sausage and peppers ($9.95) for a total of $19.90, just short of our Cheap Eats goal of $20 for two people.
Comments: It’s not surprising that the quintessential Fourth Avenue eatery, The B-Line, is really more like a restaurant in San Francisco. After all, our Fourth Avenue is pretty much a smaller Haight-Ashbury district anyway. The new-age gem shops combine with hip thrift stores, touristy art boutiques, college bars and chic restaurants to make an inter-generational hangout mecca.
And The B-Line knows it. It’s one of the most diverse restaurants on the Avenue, catering to a business crowd with grab-and-go breakfasts in the mornings, quick lunches and more leisurely, alcohol-inspired dinners.
Their counter-style ordering approach, which attracts students who can’t afford to tip well, gives the restaurant an urban-casual feel. The walls are lined with paintings and vintage posters, making the small space feel cozy and chic at the same time.
Food: The person who helped open The B-Line in 2002 is the same guy behind the hipster grocery stores Wilko and Time Market. And while he’s not exactly a culinary prodigy, he does know how to dress up the familiar. B-Line’s Mexican food, for example, tastes like it’s made by upper-class gringos. I’ve never seen the words “mesclun greens” or “caramelized onion” on the menu at Mi Nidito, but at B-Line, it seems natural.
Nothing on the menu looks particularly hard to make, but the beauty is in the details. (Or more specifically, the dressings.) If nothing else, the B-Line really knows how to toss its salads, adding heavenly homemade sauces like soy ginger or raspberry vinaigrette to typical Trader Joe’s-like greens.
The “half and half” pasta and salad came dressed up with a side of blissful buttermilk horseradish—a creamy white dressing with a subtle bite. The salad itself was ordinary: baby greens with sliced cucumbers, feta, tomatoes and red onions. But when it’s stuffed into the same bowl as a hearty orecchiette pasta in red vodka-cream sauce, the salad need not steal the show.
The "pasta alla vodka” was shaped like little Spanish helmets, all crammed inside one another like hats on a stick. I used to be in love with this pasta, but after tasting a homemade version in Chandler (which, admittedly, was twice the price), I was left less impressed. To its credit though, the orecchiette was topped with refreshingly raw leaves of arugula, giving the dish a lighter, more sophisticated touch.
The Italian sausage and peppers, which my dinner partner ordered, came with greater accolades. The pasta it was paired with—herbed penne rigate—was plainer (pretty much just penne covered in butter and herbs). But it went well with the perfect hunks of sausage, green peppers and marinara sauce. The sausage dish was billed as a sandwich, but I couldn’t imagine eating it that way. The pieces came out between two slices of sourdough bread, but were smothered in a lava explosion of marinara sauce.
Service: Service there is a little confusing. You order at the counter, but are pressured to tip at least a little, even though your server doesn’t help much beyond bringing out the food and occasionally refilling drinks.
Bar: The B-Line has 13 microbrews on tap, as well as a decent selection of wines. Tuesday nights, bottles of wine are $10 off, making them very affordable.
Bottom line: The B-Line is my favorite place to eat well on a budget. While the dishes aren’t exactly gourmet, they’re much better than what I can make at home and, to be honest, it’s a lot cleaner, too. My only suggestion is to stay away from the Mexican food, because it’s Tucson, dammit. Go across the street!