That barely noticeable chill running through the air at Rustler’s Rooste Steakhouse Restaurant on South Mountain may not be completely in your head. The famous Ahwatukee-area restaurant is rumored to be haunted.

The ghost that haunts the place is nothing to fear, according to owner and manager Cathy DeMars. DeMars has been working at the restaurant since she was 11 years old and says while there have been a few cases of unexplainable happenings, it seems to her the ghost is protecting the restaurant more than anything.

Rustler’s Rooste was built in 1971 by DeMars’ uncle, Gene Jarzab, and her father, Hank Beben. There was an electrical fire that devastated the Rooste in 1984, but the restaurant was reopened bigger and better in just three weeks. It’s been the same ever since.

Beben passed away in 2000 and Jarzab died last year. DeMars said she believes it’s her father and uncle whose spirits still linger.

“We put our heart and soul into the Rooste,” she said. “At first I was scared because I didn’t know but as time went on and the years wore on, I think if something bad were going to happen, it would have. I believe it’s a happy ghost watching over the Rooste and I still think my dad is involved in it.”

DeMars usually closes the restaurant and said there have been a few times when she’s heard footsteps or creaks in the restaurant late at night, but that’s not uncommon for an old building. Once, when she had shut the entire place down and was doing her final walkthrough she came back up to the bar only to find a glass of water on the bar and a light on, but no one in sight.

“I’ll never forget it,” DeMars said. “It was eerie.”

Her daughter, Ashley Allen, also works at the Rooste and lives in a condo just down the mountain. She said there has been several times where she has heard loud music coming from the restaurant but when she calls to tell them to turn it down, she’s told it’s not them. She said it’s possible it’s just a nearby neighbor.

In pictures taken of Allen inside the restaurant, there’s often a sort of aura surrounding her that can’t be explained.

“My mom thinks it’s my grandfather and I’m happy to think that,” she said.

Allen believes the strange things tend to happen more often whenever there’s construction happening near the restaurant, which is what leads her to believe whatever the ghost is, it wants the Rooste to be unchanged.

“There are a lot of people that this restaurant means a lot to in the Valley,” Allen said. “People have grown up in the restaurant. I think there’s a lot of emotion connected to this place that might help that perception. It’s by no means bad.”

Rustler’s Rooste doesn’t do anything special to celebrate their “ghost” on Halloween, but they honor the founders every night with live music and good food from 5 to 10 p.m.

Rustler’s Rooste is located at 8383 S. 48th St. For more information, visit or call (602) 431-6474.

• Contact writer: (480) 898-7914 or

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