First Dish: Rough Rider

Madison RutherfordSeptember 21, 2021
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Rough Rider interior | Photo by Madison Rutherford

This Theodore Roosevelt-themed bar/restaurant fits in with its surroundings.

For starters, a colorful portrait of the former president adorns one side of the Ten-O-One building where Rough Rider resides, not to mention its position in the heart of the Roosevelt Row arts district, which also houses Roosevelt-inspired beer bar The Theodore.

The area is rife with homages to Roosevelt, most of which are done in tasteful and not overly obvious ways. What Rough Rider is not: a kitschy nod to the 26th U.S. president teeming with conspicuous Teddy ephemera. The Roosevelt reference is actually pretty subtle, much like the space itself, which is nestled in the Ten-O-One basement accessible by a nondescript elevator.

Sure, it’s named after the first U.S. volunteer cavalry led by Roosevelt during the Spanish-American war and the décor and menu imitate that era, but an unassuming patron might not even catch the presidential allusion.

Martini of Honor | Photo by Madison Rutherford

For those who do, Rough Rider is a fun ode to the finer things of the late 19th century, from Old World ornamentation (check out such baroque furnishings as a fireplace flanked by old tomes) to Victorian-era cocktails and southern comfort food with a contemporary slant.

The raw bar section of the menu features fish, shrimp and oysters flown in daily from hand-picked, high-quality purveyors. Appetizers include tempura cauliflower with crème fraiche and chile glaze, baked Brie and a charcuterie board. For the main course, we recommend the shrimp and grits, a comfort food classic turned up a notch with Creole gravy, pickled corn and watercress, or the wild mushrooms with mascarpone ravioli, crispy Brussels sprouts, pine nuts and a roasted veggie demi. We’ll be back for the seared scallops with sweet corn risotto.

Wild mushrooms and shrimp and grits | Photo by Madison Rutherford

The expansive cocktail menu is divided into four sections: traditional tea punches made with tea from local shop Loose Leaf Market, cobbler cocktails concocted with house-made jams, time-honored tipples dating back to the 1800s and modern classics (think an Old Fashioned with walnut and a massive pre-chilled and bottled martini).

Since opening in June, Rough Rider has seen a steady stream of success for its speakeasy-esque vibe and authentic drinks and dishes with savvy twists. Though its theme fits in well with the area, it also decidedly stands out.

1001 N. Central Ave., Phoenix, 602-675-0439,


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