Happy Rooster Owner to Open Richie’s Café in Former Todd’s Restaurant at Ryan Airfield

In less than a month, another restaurant is slated to be part of Richard Flory’s coop.

The 48-year-old owner of the Happy Rooster on South Sarnoff Road plans to open Richie’s Café by June 1.

The two restaurants possess similar characteristics — both will only serve breakfast and lunch, and both will offer generous portions of homemade comfort food at a reasonable price.

When Flory found out from one of his customers that the former Todd’s Restaurant at Ryan Airfield was up for lease, he was interested.

“It’s a good location really because there’s nothing else out there,” said Flory, noting the building is adjacent to Ryan Air Field and is owned by the Airport Authority. “It’s a nice building. They just remodeled the whole thing.”

The 2,300-square-foot building is about the same size as the Happy Rooster, only with a larger kitchen. There will be no outside seating at Richie’s, making its capacity 105 — a bit smaller than the 120 at the Rooster.

Flory plans to employ six to eight people and keep the same dining hours as the Rooster – 6 a.m. to 2 p.m. daily. Christmas Day is the only day both locations will close.

Additionally, Flory plans to keep making a majority of things homemade. For example, he already orders 10 to 15 pounds of raw turkey breast each week, which he then bakes and slices to give his stuffed sandwiches more of a homemade flavor. All of the bread, except for the English muffins and bagels, are baked in house.

Todd's Restaurant at Ryan Field interior, soon to be Richie’s Café (Credit: Todd's Restaurant at Ryan Field on Facebook)

Todd’s Restaurant at Ryan Field interior, soon to be Richie’s Café (Credit: Todd’s Restaurant at Ryan Field on Facebook)

Flory said the Rooster attracts about 100 diners Mondays through Fridays and up to 300 on weekends.

He originally hoped to name the new restaurant Pork and Peeps, but it confused some people. He chose Richie’s Cafe “due to lack of imagination,” he said, laughing.

Flory said that Richie’s lease will be for five years with a five-year option, while the Rooster has a 30-year lease.

Richie’s menu will borrow heavily from the Rooster, but Flory plans to add other items, such as a Monte Cristo sandwich and a chicken Caesar salad. There also will be daily specials, and he plans to continue making a variety of homemade soups every week. Flory also plans to offer hand-cut meats such as a New York strip.

Flory, who has been “cooking forever,” first was a baker at The Good Earth restaurant and later eegee’s in the 1990s. For about eight years, Flory cooked at the Overpass Café on Miracle Mile Road near  I-10.

He grew up in Tucson and attended Sunnyside High School but moved to North Dakota to finish school.

As for cooking, he said he just “kind of fell into it.”

“I needed a job,” he said, noting that he started as a dishwasher but picked up cooking techniques while in the kitchen.

One of his cooks will move over to Richie’s, but Flory also plans to get back into the kitchen. It will be easier, being that his Five Points home is about five miles from Richie’s versus the 30 miles to the Happy Rooster.

The Rooster first opened in 2001 with Danny Ballomo at the helm. Ballomo also had owned the Overpass Cafe, so he and Flory had a long history. On Jan. 1, 2013, Ballomo retired and handed over the reins to Flory. He and his wife still dine at the Rooster weekly.

“The food is good and there will be nice people working there,” said Flory, including his 17-year-old daughter, who will serve as a hostess on the weekends. “It’s good food at a good price.”

Richie’s prices will remain comparable to the Rooster, about $7 to $10, and there will be occasional coupons available.

As far as the decor, Richie’s won’t have the colorful airbrushed walls like the Rooster, but the cafe will retain its aviation theme with photos on the walls and a giant propeller stationed out front.

Melissa Jardin has eaten several times at the Happy Rooster and is looking forward to trying Richie’s Cafe.

“I love their turkey sandwiches and their french fries,” said the 56-year-old teacher. “The waitresses are so nice and the food is well-priced. If the new place is anything like the Happy Rooster, I think it will do great.”

Valerie Vinyard has written for newspapers and magazines for over 20 years, including a stint as a food writer and critic for the Arizona Daily Star. The Cleveland native has lived in Tucson more than 15 years, and still dines out daily.

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