In this edition of Tasting Tucson, the team is visiting a spot in the heart of downtown where you can grab a bite al fresco.

The concept is new for this piece of Congress, but the kitchen staff at The Monica are tapping into comfort recipes with a modern twist. Head chef Arturo Cisneros and his team walked us through their take on a classic meat-and-potatoes dish.

Before we even stepped inside The Monica’s kitchen, it was easy to see how the restaurant turns into an outdoor hangout with impressive mural art to marvel at while you dine.

“You can see our installation, the patio or dining room, it’s the thing that’s the reason why people will always come back,” Cisneros said. “I think it’s mostly due to the newer generation, young people (are) the ones who will join us out the most.”

This being Tasting Tucson, we want to see the kitchen sharpening their knives and flipping ingredients. We followed Cisneros’ lead as he prepared his version of the French-style classic ‘steak frites.’

First, Cisneros said, he has to take off the silver skin on his cut of New York Strip, so that the end result isn’t too chewy. “(We’re) trimming it carefully, of course — taking care of myself, first of all, trimming the bad fats as I call them. You’re always trying to leave a little bit to make it not too dry…”

We commented that knowing where to cut exactly takes years of practice. “I’ve been doing this for over 23 years now,” he said. Season the steak with salt, garlic and pepper; Arturo likes to add cajun seasoning for extra depth. Then it’s time to put in on the roasting rack.

“Let’s throw it the oven just for about 45 minutes to an hour,” he said. The final dish can’t only be meat and potatoes, so Cisneros is cooking broccolini. If you want to try making this at home, he said any seasonal vegetable will pair well with the protein and carbs.

“I usually throw (the broccolini) in the boiling water, salt water blanche it,” he said. Once that’s good, throw it on a hot pan already covered in chopped garlic and butter. “Release all the oils from the garlic; if you like garlic, that will be great,” he said.

Then there’s the ‘frites’ component: six ounces of shoestring potatoes. Cisneros said he likes to use this type of fry because they stay crispy longer. Drain the excess oil and strike them with salt while they’re hot.

“I’ll tell my coworkers, it’s like the glue to the salt,” Cisneros said. “When they’re cold, this salt is not going to stick.”

Going back to the oven, the medium-rare steak is almost ready. Rest it, cover in foil for 8-10 minutes, then slice and plate on a bed that won’t let the steak juice go to waste. “I like to use a focaccia bread or any bread that you have at home, just maybe thin slice it,” Cisneros said.

On our visit, the kitchen team also prepared what many might considered a brunch staple: breakfast pizza. Cisneros said being in Tucson and the desert southwest, it’s only appropriate to drizzle the finished pie with chipotle aioli.