As Phoenix begins to make a name for itself among the culinary elite cities of the world, let’s look back on the originals, the restaurants that have stood the test of time.
8383 S. 48th St.
Founded in 1971, Rustler’s Rooste remains family owned and operated after four decades. Set atop the foothills of South Mountain, legend says the space was once a hideout for cattle rustlers.
Built by Gene Jarzab and Hank Beben in 1971, the restaurant burnt down in 1984 but reopened only three weeks later.
Rumored to be haunted by the original owners, the family believes Gene and Hank linger around their restaurant to ensure things never change.
Steaks are served alongside a phenomenal view of the city of Phoenix, while country western musicians play their tunes and a strolling musician entertains the crowds. The sawdust-covered floor completes the fun, Old West atmosphere.
Tee Pee Mexican Restaurant
4144 E. Indian School Road
Family owned since it opened in 1958, Tee Pee Mexican Restaurant began with Tony and Anna Duran. Anna did the cooking while Tony tended the bar, creating a system that made them one of Arcadia’s most well-known restaurants.
In the late 1970s the Duran’s daughter, Kathy, took over the day-to-day at Tee Pee, along with her husband, Zip. A variety of family members continue to work at the restaurant, with nieces, nephews and longtime employees making up the staff.
Such a staple in the neighborhood, their authentic Mexican food has been served to President George W. Bush, John McCain, ZZ Top and David Spade, just to name a few.
Pete’s Fish and Chips
4121 N. 44th St.
The story of Pete’s Fish and Chips begins in the jungles of the South Pacific.
Peter McLane Grant Jr. was a World War II Patrol Torpedo Boat Skipper whose life dramatically changed when he contracted malaria, dysentery and rheumatic fever. After receiving a military medical discharge, his hometown doctors in Indiana told him his only hope for a full recovery was to move to a hot, dry climate.
Moving to Phoenix, on Christmas Day 1946, Peter and his wife had only $900 in hand.
Instead of showing up for a position as history teacher at a Phoenix elementary school, Pete rented a piece of land and set about building a small wooden shack, where he dreamed of creating a fish and chips restaurant like those he’d seen during his deployment in Europe.
On the first day, Pete made $12. One year later, Pete’s Fish and Chips had expanded to three stores. In 2015, there are eight locations around Phoenix and surrounding cities.
Tragedy struck, however, when in 1987 Pete Grant was shot and killed in his apartment during a burglary. He was 72. His killer was later arrested and sentenced to life in prison.
With their father’s death, two of Pete’s four daughters, Kathy Adams and Pat Foster, took over the operations and decided to stick to his business philosophy. They have changed nothing about the business their father created in 1947, with the eight family-owned and operated stores still serving his fried fish, fries and Pete’s Special Sauce.
3831 N. Scottsdale Road
Pink Pony Steak House opened in its original location on Scottsdale Road and Main Street in 1947, although at the time it was known as Pings (for owner Ping Bell).
Ping’s partner, Claudia Ogden, bought Ping’s share of the restaurant in 1949 and Ogden consulted with artist and friend Lew Davis on a name change. Together they came up with Pink Pony, along with the pony logo still used today.
The restaurant ended up in the hands of bartender Charlie Briley in 1950 after he and Ogden worked out a lease-to-buy option.
In 1970 the restaurant moved to its current location on Scottsdale Road.
The restaurant stayed in the Briley family until it closed in 2009, when it was then purchased by longtime Pink Pony patron Tim Smith and renovated to meet current restaurant styles and food trends.
Pink Pony’s success for over five decades was thanks to the nearby spring training venues. In the 1950s, pitcher Dizzy Dean regularly frequented the venue and raved about it to fans, as well as the press, and Pink Pony became the place to be during spring baseball.
Known as the official spring training “watering hole” with deals signed, contracts discussed and relationships established, stars such as Ty Cobb, Ted Williams, Rogers Hornsby, Jimmy Foxx, Joe DiMaggio and Billy Martin were regularly seen hanging out between games.
Pink Pony was added to Scottsdale’s historic register in 2004 and has undergone many changes in the past few years. In 2013 a complete renovation was done of the interior, while menu changes have been a regular occurrence in the past two years as the owners try to establish a more modern connection to the community.
4005 N. Scottsdale Road
Sugar Bowl, Scottsdale’s legendary ice cream parlor, opened on Christmas Eve 1958.
Jack Huntress retired as a Chrysler service representative and moved his family from Detroit to Paradise Valley in 1958 – a post World War II era Valley trend for people looking for a desert landscape and lifestyle.
Huntress and a partner opened the Sugar Bowl after Jack overheard a man at a restaurant mention that children did not belong in a restaurant that served alcohol. He patterned it after an old-fashioned ice cream parlor in the San Francisco Hotel.
A family spot beloved by area residents, the Sugar Bowl found even greater success once cartoonist Bill Keane, who had visited the ice cream parlor with his own family, began using it as the backdrop for many of his famous Family Circus cartoon strips.
In 1985, Carroll Huntress, Jack’s nephew, purchased the restaurant from his uncle, after working there for four years. Today, he is still the owner, with much of the staff still being Huntress family members.
2611 N. Central Ave.
Phoenix locals have walked through Durant’s, Goodfellas style – through the kitchen – for over 60 years. Red leather booths, waiters in tuxedos and giant steaks are a part of the legend. The gangster roots are the aspects of the history that become a little mythological.
Rumors have flown for decades. Is it the atmosphere that hints at New York mobster connections, or is there really something to these assumptions?
The truth is, there is a connection. Jack Durant worked as a pit boss at the Flamingo Hotel in Las Vegas in the 1940s. His boss was none other than the infamous Bugsy Siegel.
Durant’s was a favorite of politicians, celebrities (hello, Marilyn Monroe) and even Bugsy himself.
Durant died in 1987. Without any heirs the restaurant went to his longtime silent partner, Jack McElroy. McElroy’s daughter-in-law, Carol, still runs the restaurant, which has remained almost unchanged in appearance and menu, for six decades.
Tom’s Tavern & 1929 Grill
2 N. Central Ave.
In 1929, on Adam’s Street in downtown Phoenix, Tom Higley opened Tom’s Tavern as a burger and gin joint in place of the city morgue and an old pipe shop. Known for its eight pool tables and dark, smoke-filled atmosphere, Tom’s was a gathering spot for politicians, lawyers and businessmen.
According to a longtime employee named Leroy, who worked at Tom’s from 1943-1977, “More cases were decided at Tom’s than in the courthouse.”
In 1977, however, with downtown Phoenix beginning to take a downward turn, Tom’s was torn down.
In 1988 the tavern was re-established at One Renaissance Square, in a newer, renovated area of downtown. Longtime menu staples such as the chili and spaghetti red, returned on the menu.
In 2011, the Bidwill family, owners of the Arizona Cardinals, purchased the restaurant and Tom’s went through further renovations.Although pool tables and smoke-filled air are no longer part of the landscape, Tom’s Tavern remains a downtown gathering spot.