Rusty Rudder

20210 Henderson Road #101, Cornelius



By Molly Reitter

The Rusty Rudder is shining up the place. It will still be the favorite party place on the lake, but the soggy fried fish sandwiches and uninspired menu are things of the past. “The owners say it’s like we’re finally graduating from college,” laughs Head Chef and Kitchen Manager Josh Arnold. Graduation day looks delicious.

The Rusty Rudder sits on a prime piece of land, overlooking Lake Norman with a huge patio and tiki bar. People have flocked to the bar by boat or car for a daytime beer on the weekend for years. The parties have been legendary with live music and plenty of fun. But the food was never the primary reason for customers to visit the restaurant.

In the winter, the restaurant was nowhere near as busy as summer. But Arnold is hoping to change the reputation of the restaurant with the new menu featuring lighter, healthier and tastier fare.

Arnold is a graduate of Le Cordon Blue, a highly respected culinary institution. He has been cooking and managing kitchens for over 20 years. He came to the Rusty Rudder almost a year ago and is excited about all the changes at the restaurant.

The brand new menu that he spearheaded with the owners is now available. It is a little bit low country, spicing the food with a Southern feel; but is still very much American cuisine.

“The restaurant already has a vacation feel to it,” said Arnold. “In fact, the tiki bar has it’s own Facebook page. But we needed to make the food as good as the view.”

Arnold worked in Charleston for a bit and learned some secrets from a low-country chef.

So the Shrimp and Grits uses real stone-ground grits and authentic spices. The county ham is soaked in coffee to give it a rich taste. The beef stock takes 20 hours and starts with real veal bones. The blackening seasoning is homemade and contains no salt. Pulled Duck Quesadillas and Po’ Boys are nice additions to the menu, giving some diversified options for the customer.

The Rusty Rudder will still offer a fried fish sandwich and a hamburger, but the sides can lighten up the meal.

A customer can order tomato and cucumber salad, potato salad or fresh, seasonal fruit instead of fries. And the sweet potato fries are more like puffs or a tater tot.

There is also steak for the first time on the menu and it is covered in a rich, concentrated, beefy demi-glace sauce. The salmon is blackened or grilled and uniquely covered with bruschetta.

“It will still be bar food,” Arnold said. “But the mozzarella will be made from curd, the dressings are all made in-house and we are buying the best available ingredients.”

There are more changes in store for the Rusty Rudder.

There is now brunch on Saturday and Sunday from 10 a.m.-2 p.m. with a 20-item menu, plus customers can still order off the regular menu. Arnold hopes to set up omelet stations by the tiki bar this summer where customers can mark their options off on a sheet and then watch their meal being cooked outside.

“It will be a great, different, fresh option for brunch goers,” Arnold said.

The restaurant his also adding six new tables on the lower deck so even more customers can dine outside on top of Lake Norman. And, as always, free to come as you are.

“People can come in flip flops and tank tops, but won’t feel out of place in a suit,” Arnold said.

So the Rusty Rudder can be the go-to place in the summer and the winter, combining that amazing view with excellent food.

“Come try us,” Arnold said. “You are gonna love the food!”