Kingfisher is Keepin' it Fresh With New Dishes, Wine & More (2024)

In 1993, longtime friends and chefs Jeff Azersky and Jim “Murph” Murphy opened Kingfisher with the vision of bringing fresh seafood to the desert. In November 2022, local chef Jacqueline “Jacki” Kuder and Ted Burhans took over the restaurant, giving Jeff and Murph the chance to enjoy a well-deserved retirement.

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Fast forward to today and the restaurant is cruisin’ and riding the waves of Tucson’s food scene — introducing new dishes that pair perfectly with the longtime favorites on the menu.

Kuder, who has worked as a chef with Janos Wilder and at several Tucson institutions like the formerOld Pueblo Grille, is having a blast introducing new additions to the classic menu.

Check out our Nine on the Line with Jacki Kuder.

She’s been adding her own spin to the menu while incorporating ingredients that have made Tucson nationally and even globally recognized.

Entrées Galore

“With the entrées, we keep the same basic proteins every time but we try to mix up their preparation,” said Kuder. “This time, we tried to take a lot of inspiration from Tucson being a City of Gastronomy — a city with some of the best Mexican food. Obviously, we’re not serving Mexican food but we can draw on those flavors.”

The dishes are easy to remember, too, because of their one-word names but there’s nothing simple about them when it comes to Kuder’s craft.

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Take the pan-seared Atlantic Salmon, for instance — simply named the Salmon. This beautiful dish comes in a saffron tomato fish broth, topped with a serrano corn salsa, and alongside roasted yuca root and sautéed zucchini.

“Our Salmon dish, it features yuca roots and a really nice serrano corn salsa,” Kuder added. “So, we’re just using things that we can try to source locally.”

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“The lamb is awesome,” she continued. “It’s just this beautiful plate! It’s lamb so it’s a little heavier, but it has this really bright, beautiful green pea-pancetta risotto and pistachio crust.”

Appetizing Appetizers

“We’re making some fun changes,” said Kuder. “We’re expanding our oyster selection! So, we’re kind of famous for our oysters, right? Now you can get them on the half-shell or you can get them grilled and fried. I haven’t seen grilled oysters anywhere else in Tucson, but they’re definitely prevalent in California and along the West Coast. And then, we always have the Rockefellers — so four different preparations are now available for oysters.”

With the addition of the new oyster preparations, a group of new appetizers are making a splash.

“This menu — I took the opportunity to kind of freshen up some small plates and appetizers,” said Kuder. “We’ve got different preparations on our Poke and Ceviche.”

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The Ceviche (marinated scallops and shrimp, chimichurri, roasted tomatillo, mezcal, lime, avocado, cilantro, pickled red onion, and red bell pepper) comes with a side of yuca root chips, and the Poke (yellowfin tuna, yuu-shallot-miso-honey marinade, Asian pears, avocado, basil oil, wasabi-mango sauce, and black and white sesame seeds) comes equipped with a side of taro chips.

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“We brought back the calamari,” said Kuder.

She brightened up knowing that an order of calamari was being made in the kitchen as we spoke.

“When I originally purchased the restaurant, I put calamari on the menu because that was always a fan favorite. They come with sweety drop peppers, a sweet chili sauce, and jalapeños. It’s awesome!”

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“And then the Boquerones, I think, are something just so interesting,” she added. “They are pretty unique to us. They’re these beautiful little marinated Spanish white anchovies and even if you aren’t an ‘anchovy person’ they’re definitely worth trying. When you think of anchovies you think of fishy or salty — you know, really intense. Ours are really citrusy and light. They’re beautiful.”

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“I really like the Sea Bass,” said Eric Smith, longtime employee and now General Manager at Kingfisher. “It’s really good! I’m not a huge ‘trout guy’ but the chimichurri that comes with it is ridiculously good. I don’t think I could ever get enough of that sauce.”

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What’s to Drink?

Speaking of Smith, he’s the go-to guy when it comes to ordering that perfect glass of wine with your meal. Being a “beer person,” it’s easy to listen to Smith explain the differences between blends. Most, if not all, of Kingfisher’s wine selection is from the U.S.

“The vast majority of our wine list is domestic,” said Smith. “Which is fun because it sets us apart! I will admit that sometimes it’s challenging for me as a ‘wine guy’ because I know what I’m missing outside of the U.S. But I think it allows us to bring in some really cool smaller producers that a lot of people won’t see in a lot of places.”

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“Although, I’ve got to have something that’s kind of like a New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc because that is a big thing,” he continued. “Well, we’re domestic so I try and find something that will check those boxes, which is one we have from Arroyo Seco in Monterrey. It’s a single vineyard Sauvignon Blanc made with organic grapes, and it has that really nice kind of kiwi gooseberry, New Zealand characteristics to it. There’s some structure and body to it.”

Smith has also been focusing on finding organic, sustainable, certified wines.

“The Pali Pinot Noir is really fun because it is 65% Santa Barbara fruit, 35% Sonoma fruit — just sees a little bit of new French oak but really nice pomegranate on the palate.”

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Kingfisher also offers deals on wine throughout the week.

“The real reason I brought out the Pali Pinot Noir is that normally this is a $40 bottle, but on Mondays, Tuesdays, and Wednesdays at the bar, this is one of three offerings that are $30 on those days.”

Non-Alcoholic Beverages

Kingfish now also has a dedicated mocktails section on the bar menu like a virgin Mojito — mocktails that have been specifically made for this menu rather than a classic co*cktail that lacks alcohol.

“We have one that uses preserved lemon in it and it’s kind of like a Greyhound co*cktail with grapefruit juice,” said Smith. “There’s another one that uses basil and with some ginger beer and lime juice — I really like that one. I like our co*cktail list because it’s a mix of old favorites. We have our version of a Cosmo and a Lemon Drop.”

A Team Effort

Kingfisher has become a home for several employees over the years — some have been working at the restaurant for more than 20 years. Everyone seems to be involved in the daily flow of the restaurant in some way.

In fact, Kuder’s son helped craft the Kid’s Menu.

“It’s full of actual food because he’s the son of a chef,” she said. “So, it’s got a salmon entrée, ribs, and of course chicken fingers. He’s asked, ‘Can we do half a ribeye?’ I was like, ‘It’s your menu, man!'”

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In conclusion, there’s always something new happening at Kingfisher, giving you multiple reasons to stop by often. For example, they’ve started their summer road trip menus, and .

Kingfisher is located at 2564 E. Grant Rd. Reservations are highly recommended, so give them a call at (520) 323-7739 or

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Kingfisher is Keepin' it Fresh With New Dishes, Wine & More (2024)
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