It's a damn cool building, one of the more unique bits of architecture I've seen around the Old Pueblo. And under its roof sits two completely separate restaurants, at least as far as the décor is concerned. There's the "family restaurant" part, and then there's the "sports grille" part. They both have the same menu, but completely different atmospheres.
The "sports grille"--that's a fancy phrase for "sports bar"--is fairly typical, albeit slightly upscale, with the long bar and the sports memorabilia and the TVs tuned to sports. No kids allowed, so says the sign on the door. However, the "family restaurant" obviously admits kids, and it takes on a trendy, modern, hip feel--with large, divided booths, wooden furniture, metallic wall sconces and big-band music in the background. The wait staff is made up entirely of young, attractive men and women--it's a place that screams "cool."
I visited Rusty's on a recent Friday afternoon with John Banks. He's the director of client services for local Internet company DesertNet. To me, he's the dude who posts all of The Weekly's content online each week. We walked in right about noon, and we seated ourselves as directed by a sign in the "family restaurant" side.
Our server handed us the menus, took our drink orders and left us to ponder the expansive menu. It offers more than a dozen different kinds of half-pound burgers, as well as salads, sandwiches and appetizers. There's also a separate dinner menu with steaks, salmon, chicken and pastas.
When our server returned with our beverages, we were still pondering. It's a large menu, after all. However, we had decided on appetizers; John and I ordered a fried zucchini and mushroom combo ($5.45), and I--being a big shrimp fan--requested a jumbo shrimp cocktail ($7.45).
There wasn't much to the zucchini and mushrooms; they were delivered with ranch dressing for dipping, and we requested some marinara sauce as well. The draft-beer batter was quite good, and the whole button mushrooms were perfectly prepared. The zucchini was tasty as well, although a couple pieces were a bit tough, indicating that they could have fried a little longer.
My shrimp cocktail was decent, but not spectacular. Delivered in a large martini glass filled with ice, the five prawns were draped over the sides. The shrimp themselves were OK--in the middle, one or two of them were still a little frozen--and one of them was only half-peeled. Someone was apparently in a hurry.
For our main courses, John picked the club sandwich ($7.95), and I chose The King ($8.45). This is a sandwich that would make a PETA member recoil in horror--it includes roast beef, ham, turkey, corned beef and pastrami, along with lettuce, tomato and melted cheese. The menu described it as "piled so high you'll need the NFL playbook to sit on!"
While I was unaware that there's such a thing as an "NFL playbook"--each team has its own playbook, last I checked--I am happy to report that the sandwich is enormous, as advertised.
When the server delivered it, I asked her how the heck I was supposed to eat the thing. While I've been told before that I have a big mouth, this sandwich was 3 1/2 inches tall.
"I'd say to just smash it down," she replied.
Alrightie then. That, I did, and I was able to eat it with only a few minor messes. Well, I was able to eat half of it, at least. Delivered on toasted fluffy white bread, it was very tasty, although the pastrami and corned beef's spices dominated the flavor. They could have left off the turkey, ham and roast beef, and I wouldn't have known the difference. I enjoyed The King, although I am sure my cholesterol level got a bit of a boost.
John also enjoyed his club. It was packed with turkey and ham, and they didn't skimp on the bacon, either. It was on wheat bread, and featured two types of cheese--American and Swiss. He, too, had to take half of his sandwich home.
John and I both approved of the accompanying french fries (chosen over tortilla chips, coleslaw, cottage cheese or potato salad). They were of the steak fry variety, thick chunks of potato covered in seasonings.
Although we were full and already in possession of to-go containers, John and I pressed on to try out dessert. I chose the chocolate cake ($3.95), while John went for the mango cheesecake ($3.95). Our server said the desserts are made fresh on-site, and we were not disappointed. My cake was moist, fluffy and delicious, and I would have been as happy as a clam had I not tried John's dessert--it made me wish I had ordered it instead. It was one of the better desserts I've had in sometime--creamy with a nice, but not overwhelming fruity flavor. John's a better man than I; I would have scarfed the thing up had I been him, but he was courteous enough to take part of it home to his wife.
After a tour of the sports bar area--it was pretty quiet in there, with no customers and only the noise of a Cubs game filling the air, although I imagine it could be quite a fun place during the Final Four or football weekends--John and I went back to work, full and satisfied. I will be returning to Rusty's; because of the good food, the wonderful service and the nice atmosphere, it's earned my repeat business.