Tomorrow night I will have the pleasure to dine at one of my most favorite Tucson restaurants: Kingfisher.
This year Kingfisher celebrates its 25th Anniversary. Congratulations, Good Wishes and thank you for the many wonderful meals I’ve had thanks to the fab team.
What follows is from my book, “Historic Restaurants of Tucson“:
One of the greatest compliments a restaurant can get is when other restaurant people eat there. Kingfisher is just such a restaurant. In interviews, when local chefs are asked to name their favorite restaurants, Kingfisher comes up again and again and again. But the midtown restaurant is also popular with the regular diners, as evidenced by being named the ‘Best’ seafood restaurant in all major Tucson publications.
Jim “Murph” Murphy, Jeff Azersky, Tim Ivankovich and John Burke had worked together in various combinations at other places in Tucson. So, when they opened Kingfisher in 1993, they had a built-in crowd that followed, but they also attracted a larger audience who loved the casual atmosphere and the delicious American fare.
Murph had learned the ropes of seafood at Jerome’s and Azersky was a transplant from the South Shore of Massachusetts so there was plenty of knowledge and experience in that area. Ivankovich and Burke had years of experience in the front of the house. But the team knew they needed more than just great seafood.
Marianne Banes was the perfect choice. Banes had a stellar culinary resume and was hired to create desserts. Kingfisher introduced Tucson’s first late night menu. They lightened up the dining room. (In its previous incarnation, the building had been home to The Iron Mask which had the look of an old English tavern.) The bar, though, retained much of the same look including the original Iron Mask bar chairs. Murph talked about how when they moved a heavy refrigerator from the kitchen to behind the bar all went well until they had to lift the item over the bar. Somehow, the mission was accomplished, but it hasn’t move since.
In 1999, Burke left to open Fiorito’s, an Italian eatery nearby but the friends continued. In 2005, they opened Bluefin Seafood Bistro on the northwest side. That restaurant closed in 2015.
In 2012, Ivankovich died unexpectedly at the age of 54. The team felt the loss deeply, but they moved forward always with their friend in mind.
Aided by a team that has been with them for years, Murph and Azersky take turns in the kitchen and in the front of the house. On any given night, the dining room is full to capacity and people stand three-deep at the bar.
The regular menu always contains a choice of oysters from every coast and other fresh seafood options. Annual festivities include an Oysterfest, Fat Tuesday celebration and a summer-long Road Trip around America.
Murph credits the longevity to attention to detail. Tucsonans credit the longevity to a fine place to relax over great seafood, a couple of cocktails or a glass of wine from the American-centric wine list.