On a business trip to Phoenix, Arizona in 1997 we went one night to a cowboy steakhouse restaurant called the Rustler’s Rooste. According to legend the original site of the restaurant was on top of a butte in the foothills of South Mountain and it was a hideout for cattle rustlers and outlaws. The South Mountain recreational area is claimed to be the largest municipal park in the world and it has a commanding position overlooking the city. Mike parked the people carrier and we stood and admired the views over the city that was stretched in front and below us like a scene from that Robert DeNiro film Heat.
From the outside Rustler’s Rooste looked disappointingly functional and not especially exciting but inside things were really buzzing. Through the doors we walked over an indoor waterfall and then to get to the dining room there were two options, the stairs were the traditional method of getting down, but there was also a slide that curved around a central stage area and which was both quicker and more exhilarating. We took this option of course and one by one were deposited swiftly into the dining area that had two large plate glass windows that provided a magnificent view of the city lights.
Rustler’s Rooste served cowboy food and a sign on the door said ‘Better come hungry’; so it was a good job that we had Dave and his reliable appetite with us! There was a fabulous menu with an extensive choice of food including rattlesnake as a starter. None of us had ever had that before so we just had to have some but although it sounded dangerous and exotic I seem to remember that it tasted rather disappointingly like chicken. After that we had the full cowboy meal that consisted of crispy shrimp, barbecued chicken, cowboy beans, seafood kebabs, fries, barbecued pork ribs, corn on the cob, and a big juicy beef steak. It was all cooked perfectly and I suspect rather better than a simple cowpoke’s meal out on the open range and the cowboys wouldn’t have had the nine layer chocolate cake to finish either, I’m fairly certain!
The best thing about the Rustler’s Rooste was the entertainment because there was live music playing all night as two bands took it in turn to play good old country music which had people line dancing and playing cowboy in between the courses. My favourite part of the evening was when a man brought a live snake into the room and then, in a carefully rehearsed way, dropped it and it slithered about the floor scattering diners in all directions. We were assured later that it was not a venomous variety and perfectly harmless of course but it did scare the pants off an awful lot of people at the time. It turned out that Mike lived out of town on the open range and he knew an awful lot about rattle snakes and he amused us with serpent stories all the way back to the motel.