First Taste

First Taste: Founding Fathers Kitchen in Ahwatukee Is Still Figuring It Out

The recently opened Founding Fathers Kitchen in Ahwatukee.
The recently opened Founding Fathers Kitchen in Ahwatukee. Lauren Cusimano
When a new spot opens in town, we can't wait to check it out, let you know our initial impressions, share a few photos, and dish about some menu items. First Taste, as the name implies, is not a full-blown review, but instead a peek inside restaurants that have just opened — an occasion to sample a few items and satisfy curiosities (both yours and ours).

Restaurant: Founding Fathers Kitchen
Location: 3820 East Ray Road, #30
Open: Almost two months
Eats: Well-made comfort food
Price: $15 to $35 each
Hours: 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday to Thursday; 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Friday to Saturday

The Mountain Park Pavilion in Ahwatukee saw a lot of action toward the end of 2019. First, Angry Crab Shack closed. Then Founding Fathers Kitchen opened. We’re glad it did — overall, the food went beyond expectation. But here’s hoping the neighborhood restaurant and bar continues to mature.

click to enlarge Drinks were fine, but miniscule. - LAUREN CUSIMANO
Drinks were fine, but miniscule.
Lauren Cusimano
Let us explain.


Walking in, Founding Fathers has the same vibe as a neighborhood pizza joint found anywhere — exposed brick wall, dim lighting, very bright neon signs (do those fade over time?) — but with a few modern twists. The flat-screen TVs are tuned to whatever sports, and an oversize ceiling fan whirls above most of the dining room.

Music is a major part of the atmosphere, which is foreshadowed by the record in the restaurant's logo. Yet, the tonality has yet to find a groove. In one dinner, the music changed three times. First, it was pleasant soul and funk hits. Then it upped to some hair band arena rock. Fine, expected. Then it upped again to Top 40 at a much louder volume. For a late-night crowd, this would be welcome. Not so much for people just waiting for the check.

click to enlarge The Father’s Welcome Punch. - LAUREN CUSIMANO
The Father’s Welcome Punch.
Lauren Cusimano
If it sounds like I just need a drink, I was trying.

The bar seems to still be working things out, as it takes a little while to get a drink. The house’s craft cocktails looked interesting enough, so we ordered a Cactus Cooler and Father’s Welcome Punch. These drinks, though yes, sweet and alcoholic, were minuscule. We nursed ours, aware that it might be awhile before we'd have a chance to order another one.

click to enlarge The Mussels Dynamite. - LAUREN CUSIMANO
The Mussels Dynamite.
Lauren Cusimano
All beers are about a dollar too expensive — though I do want to highlight the few locals on the menu, like Huss Brewing’s Arizona Light and Papago Orange Blossom, and Sunset Amber Ale from Grand Canyon Brewing Company.

The menu at Founding Fathers Kitchen ranges wildly. A full sushi menu? Yep. Reuben sandwich? Check. Short ribs, white rice, grits, red velvet bread pudding? You don’t even have to ask. It’s all here. Luckily, most of it is good.

Wanting to appetize, we couldn’t decide between the crisp calamari or Mussels Dynamite. A server suggested the latter, and we were thankful for it. Roasted green mussels came arranged like a seafood-y flower on the plate. They also came with dynamite sauce, which the server warned us was spicy. It wasn’t, but it was still good.

click to enlarge These could be eaten daily. - LAUREN CUSIMANO
These could be eaten daily.
Lauren Cusimano
The Korean wings are, as the menu states, coated with uber-crispy batter, drizzled with honey gochu soy, and sprinkled with scallions that really shine in the neon light. If I could, I’d don a baseball cap and return to Founding Fathers Kitchen every day to eat these wings. Each drumstick was plump and heavy with juicy meat under crunchy coating. The sauce was sweet but not too sweet. You get six to an order. One round is definitely a meal.

click to enlarge The Reuben on Rye. - LAUREN CUSIMANO
The Reuben on Rye.
Lauren Cusimano
Sandwiches are also a very safe bet here. Both the Reuben on rye and the short rib grilled cheese handhelds were weighty, piping hot, and gooey with cheese and garlic butter. Each mouthful resulted in utter silence. No one was eager to continue their story while eating a sandwich like this.

The fries, the chosen side for both sandos, were also unexpectedly good. Crispy, well salted, and hot. Those who didn’t order fries were clearly envious.

Bar food doesn’t always have to be good, but at Founding Fathers, it is. Being a new restaurant, we’re sure the service will sort itself out, and the music will pick a lane. Until then, I’ll just be daydreaming about those wings.
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Lauren Cusimano is Phoenix New Times' food and drink editor. She is a journalist and food waste writer based in Tempe. Joys include eating wings, riding bikes, knowing everyone at the bar, talking too much about The Simpsons, and falling asleep while reading.
Contact: Lauren Cusimano