STOMPING GROUNDS: Classic diner draws loyal followers

The sign at 3301 E. Grant Road lets patrons know where to turn in for popular diner treats. (Aztec Press photos by Eddie Celaya)

The sign at 3301 E. Grant Road lets patrons know where to turn in for popular diner treats. (Aztec Press photos by Eddie Celaya)

By EDDIE CELAYA

If you’re like many Tucsonans, you wake up in the morning craving breakfast from one of our city’s many diners.

And if you’re anything like me, you definitely wake up craving a cinnamon roll with icing and roasted pecans on top. That’s where Robert’s Restaurant comes in.

Take a drive down Grant Road any morning except Sunday. Heading east, you’ll see a little stucco building on your left-hand side just after you cross Country Club Road.

Here, owner, operator and manager Boyd Bartke promises you’ll find the finest diner food and atmosphere in all of Tucson.

“I’ve been around the food so long it’s all my favorite, but a cinnamon roll grilled is something you can’t find anywhere else,” he said.

Boyd, the son of the restaurant’s namesake and original owner Robert Bartke, explains that Robert’s Restaurant has been a tradition for almost four decades. After learning the ropes at another local diner, Gus Balon’s, Robert decided to open his own restaurant.

“Dad married Mom, who was one of Gus’ daughters,” Bartke said. “He decided to open Robert’s with Mom back in 1978.”

The original Robert’s Restaurant could be found at Speedway Boulevard and Alvernon Way, until the city started a widening project on Speedway in the early 1990s. “The city came through and pretty much made us move,” Boyd said.

The owner of the land on which the building sat sold the property and razed the original Robert’s Restaurant structure.

The current location at 3301 E. Grant Road has been going strong since 1992, serving the same homemade recipes that make it a mainstay with Tucson breakfast and lunch crowds.

“What really sets us apart is how it’s all made from scratch,” Boyd said. “Most places will say they make their own bread, but the dough is shipped to them each morning.”

Among the many menu choices, customer favorites include the famous chicken-fried steak, pumpkin pancakes during the fall and winter seasons and, of course, the cinnamon rolls.

That made-from-scratch taste was apparent to both Jane Walling and Jon Agee, two longtime Robert’s Restaurant regulars.

“You can tell that it’s all homemade and they are so quick with their service,” Walling said.

Those customer reactions keep Robert’s Restaurant busy, according to Boyd. “We have people ordering the cinnamon roll with an extra bowl of icing and butter,” he said.

The cinnamon rolls have gained lots of attention over the years, and are often the first mention in a food review.

Boyd credits head cook Renan Felix, who has also added creations such as jalapeño biscuits with chorizo gravy.

Ultimately, the personalities of the staff make the restaurant special.

“We have people that have been working here 20 years,” waitress Jenna Raynor said. “I’ve just been working here for two years, so I’m the baby.”

So, while time may march on (and Grant may need widening), Robert’s Restaurant will continue to churn out the best diner cuisine in Tucson.

Owner Boyd Bartke (in white) looks over the dining room and lunch counter from the counter at Robert’s Restaurant, 3301 E. Grant Road, as a hungry breakfast crowd chows down.

Owner Boyd Bartke (in white) looks over the dining room and lunch counter from the counter at Robert’s Restaurant, 3301 E. Grant Road, as a hungry breakfast crowd chows down.


FYI

Robert’s Restaurant

Address: 3301 E. Grant Road

Phone: 795-1436

Hours:Monday-Saturday,6a.m.-2p.m.

Website: robertstucson.com

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