Historic Old Town Tustin is a nice place to take a stroll because there many trees to provide shade and interspersed throughout the district are interesting historic homes and buildings to see, often of the large Victorian style.
Another reason to take a trip into Old Town Tustin is to have a meal at Rutabegorz, either outside on the patio or inside where a section for private parties is separated from the main dining room.
Stepping into Rutabegorz is like visiting Grandma's house, where photos, mugs, vases, watering cans, and other kitschy knick-knacks line the walls and the straight-backed wood booths are narrow. The restaurant is a very homey place reminiscent of the surrounding area.
In researching Rutabegorz before our visit, I learned that every month they offer a new appetizer sample for $1. For the month of November, they are offering Roasted Red Pepper Tapenade served with Tortillla Chips, which is a great way to appease your hunger while you thumb through their newsletter of a menu. Seriously, their menu kept going on and on, ranging from soups, salads, bagels, wraps, crepes, and smoothies, to House Favorites, including lasagna, enchiladas, ratatouille, fondue (dinner only), Chicken Cacciattore, and a Mu Shu Burrito. I was a little overwhelmed by my options as I munched on the sweet tapenade.
I ordered The "Italian" Vegetarian Sandwich which consisted of sourdough garlic bread slices stuffed with cucumbers, tomatoes, red onion, and swiss cheese, served with a side of Mediterranean dressing, pasta salad, a pickle slice, and a slice each of pineapple and carrot.
Now, I don't cook very often these days, but I can cook (kind of), so when I eat out, I like to get something that I can't/won't cook myself. I also know that I can only expect vegetables on a vegetarian sandwich. That being said, I was not impressed with this sandwich because it was just cold, sliced vegetables between dry bread slices. The thin spread of garlic butter that made up the garlic bread slices didn't provide much flavor or moisture, so I ended up dipping each bite into the Mediterranean dressing, which helped flavor the sandwich tremendously. I like my vegetables crunchy, but when they're sliced too large, like the cucumbers were in this sandwich, it just makes for a hard sandwich that falls apart because there was nothing to hold the vegetables together. A mayonnaise-based spread or bruschetta (continuing with the "Italian" theme) would have helped to hold the vegetables together and also provide flavor and moisture.
Similarly, I thought the side of cold pasta salad that comes with each sandwich was pretty plain. Tossed with cuts of green peppers, red onions, tomatoes, parmesan cheese, and herbs, the vegetables gave the pasta salad all of its flavor. Unfortunately, there was much more pasta than there were vegetables.
The pineapple slice was really great though. It was a thick slice of fresh, juicy pineapple that was perfectly balanced between sweet and sour.
Devin got Joe's BBQ Chicken Sandwich which was found on the specials page inserted in the menu. This sandwich had BBQ chicken, red onions, tomatoes, lettuce, avocado slices, and jack cheese on squaw bread. Like my sandwich, Devin's was accompanied with pasta salad, a pickle slice, and a slice of carrot and pineapple. Even though Devin was apprehensive about the squaw bread, he really enjoyed his sandwich with its creamy avocado and the tangy BBQ sauce on the chicken.
My sandwich was a miss, but I'm eager to give Rutabegorz another chance, probably sticking with their cooked dishes listed under their House Favorites or even their crepes. The Mu Shu Burrito sounds particularly intriguing and I've also heard their salads are both great and gigantic.
If you do give Rutabegorz in Tustin a try, behind the restaurant is a parking garage with free parking.
158 W. Main St.
Tustin, CA 92780