Happy Hour Report Card: Rusconi's American Kitchen

Keep New Times Free
I Support
  • Local
  • Community
  • Journalism
  • logo

Support the independent voice of Phoenix and help keep the future of New Times free.

The Spot: Rusconi's American Kitchen 10637 N. Tatum Boulevard, Phoenix 480-483-0009 www.rusconiskitchen.com

-- Michael Rusconi Dishes on Dairy Queen and Fresh White Truffles -- Rusconi's American Kitchen a Nice Add for Paradise Valley Neighborhood

Hours: Happy Hour is offered from 2 to 6 p.m. Tuesday through Friday, 4 to 6 p.m. Saturday.

The Interior: Housed in a strip center containing Z'Tejas, Paradise Bakery, My Big Fat Greek Restaurant, Panda Express and a handful of other utterly mediocre corporate restaurants, Rusconi's seems destined for success by virtue of being the only independent as far as the eye can see. Nope, the bar isn't set very high at the corner of Tatum and Shea, so kudos to DIY chef-owner Michael Rusconi for setting his own, creating a warm, welcoming neighborhood spot featuring simulated hardwood floors, a wine wall, a gorgeous, character-laden community table, an exhibition kitchen, small patio and center-of-the-action bar. Filled with the soothing smell of wood smoke (from the wood-burning grill), the place strikes just the right balance between classy and comfortable.

The Food: Never mind that Rusconi's surname is Italian; his menu's focus is eclectic and purely American, featuring everything from fat burgers to risotto-like paella. Happy hour dishes, most of them pulled straight from the regular menu, are offered for two or three bucks less. Most of them represent an unbelievable bargain.

Take the poblano-glazed pork belly, for instance, a hot-sweet crunchy, melty hunk of meat that's everything pork belly ought to be -- served over creamy grits and spooned with sweet apple relish. Six bucks for this? I'll take three, please.

Also first-rate: Blue Hill Bay mussels, afloat in a Chardonnay-spiked smoked tomato broth lightened with lemongrass and accented with cilantro. It's almost Asian but not quite, and the fresh mussels are the best I've had in ages ($6).

Rusconi's half-pound Angus beef "Kitchen Burger" may not be my favorite in town (my heart belongs to St. Francis on this score), but it comes damn close, a smoky, satisfying fat-boy topped with goat cheese, balsamic onions, tomato, romaine and spicy tomato jam. What a fantastic combo ($9)! Served with fries, it's a deliciously straightforward, all-American dinner you'd pay almost as much for at a fast-food joint. Think about that.

Rusconi's "Kitchen Board" is an antipasto plate of firm Spanish chorizo, semi-hard San Joaquin Gold (a sweet-salty-buttery farmstead cheese from Fiscalini Farms in Modesto, CA), lightly spiced olives, excellent pesto and smoky-sweet, wood-roasted red peppers. It's a great plate for sharing, but I find myself thinking I'd like it even better if it had a bit more meat on it, which I wouldn't mind paying more for ($7).

The only downright dud is the tomato-mozzarella-basil flatbread, topped with Schreiner's sausage, which is marred by a soft, completely characterless crust ($7, $10 with sausage). Shucks, I wish we'd tried the goat cheese and artichoke fondue instead.

Since my visit Rusconi has added short rib sliders and mini Wagyu beef burgers. I'm eager to get back in for them.

The Drink: Happy hour features four $4 draft beers (including Deschutes and Four Peaks), $5 well cocktails and $7 selected wines by the glass. I'd like to see a broader beer selection, but that's just me.

Conclusion: Rusconi's kicks happy hour-butt. It may not be the best in the town (that's a tough bill to fill for anyone) but it's absolutely the best around.

Grade: B+

Follow Chow Bella on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.

Keep Phoenix New Times Free... Since we started Phoenix New Times, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Phoenix, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Phoenix with no paywalls.

We use cookies to collect and analyze information on site performance and usage, and to enhance and customize content and advertisements. By clicking 'X' or continuing to use the site, you agree to allow cookies to be placed. To find out more, visit our cookies policy and our privacy policy.


Join the New Times community and help support independent local journalism in Phoenix.


Join the New Times community and help support independent local journalism in Phoenix.