a little history
RUTABEGORZ TUSTIN is housed in a historic building with a neoclassic colonnaded front at the corner of Main and C Streets in “Historic Old Town Tustin”.
Placed on the Register of National Historic Places in 1994, our location was built in 1914 by the son of Columbus Tustin. It is one of the oldest buildings in town. The building first served the community as a general store owned by Charles Artz, and has since been home to many various businesses. During the Depression, the building for a short time even became a classroom for local school kids.
RUTA’S TUSTIN opened its doors in June of 1978. At first, only occupying one half of the building, customer demand and Tustin’s booming population caused us to take over the whole structure.
RUTA’S has been serving the community of Tustin for over 25 years. Long term employees often comment that kids they first saw in high chairs, are now bringing in their husband or wife and their own children!
Surviving and flourishing for the past three decades was certainly not as simple as baking the famous cheesecakes and carrot cakes that locals have grown to crave. In fact, for the first six months of operation, finances were so tight that the owner, Paul Berkman, could not afford a stove. This required him to transport all the baked goods from the Fullerton restaurant everyday.
In recounting those tough times Paul said, “In the early days (of Tustin Rutabegorz), it was uncommon to have a work week less than 100 hours… it’s just the time that needed to be put in to make things run.” With no extra funds to advertise and little publicity in the then small hovel of old town Tustin, Paul would spend his Saturdays walking through the surrounding neighborhoods, introducing himself and distributing menus.
Throughout the years, Rutabegorz has also survived other external circumstances that challenged its solvency. On three different occasions, the streets near or adjacent to the restaurant were completely torn up. Besides the uninviting mood this engendered, access to and from the restaurant was significantly hindered. The relative lack of redevelopment in the old town area has also posed a threat to its popularity.
Aside from the initial start-up costs, the Rutabegorz idea was still very avante garde for a restaurant in conservative Orange County. The massive magazine menu, though not solely vegetarian, focuses on tasty healthy food, a variety of salads with original dressings like the balsamic vinaigrette or thai, soups like Chicken Tortilla, a mountain of munchies, appetizers ranging from fruit dishes to Grande Nachos, and a vast array of sandwiches and house favorites.
To decide what to drink, you may find yourself swimming in a sea of options. The coffee beverages are so varied, they have their own page. A variety of teas, shakes, and smoothies are coupled near fresh carrot juice and health boosters. Beers include a broad selection of unique and traditional beers like Stella Artoire and Flying Dog Pale Ale. An assortment of wines and drinks with booze are also offered.
Very little has changed in the philosophy and image of Rutabegorz. While other large restaurant chains and ideas have come and gone, chasing after the ‘in vogue’ food trends, Rutabegorz has a pact with its customers to give them what the larger chains or even independent imitations of them cannot: personality, substance, and stability.
That customers, 80% of which are ‘regulars’, return weekly for a meal at this quaint restaurant, is a testimony to the fine service, food, and ambience it offers. Rutabegorz remains a permanent fixture in Tustin because the locals want it to be there. Its as simple as that.