Dean Ogan, the owner of Rocky Top Hospitality, has a hit. After closing our two favorite restaurants in Raleigh, Bogart's and Red Room, and opening upscale burger joints, Draft and Tribeca Tavern, our faith in Ogan was dwindling, but Rockwell's has American classic written all over it. That is, as long as it keeps up the high quality people associate with Rocky Top. I must say that I am excited about the idea of family-style dining, which Rockwell's offers. This is something that you don’t see done very often, but it can be a welcome experience.
Megan ordered one of their gourmet grilled cheese sandwiches. She got the Local Brie with thick cut bacon and house made Granny Smith apple chutney, all on honey wheat bread. The grilled cheese was good. The bacon overpowered the subtle Brie, but overall, it was a good sandwich. For a side, Megan ordered the Smoked Gouda Mac n' Cheese. It was creamy and delicious, plus a Smoked Gouda is one of her favorite cheeses. While it wasn't the best side dish on the menu, you can't go wrong by ordering it and I guarantee she’ll have it at least one more time.
Rockwell's offered me my first opportunity at a Deep-South classic, Chicken and Waffles. I'll definitely be back for this dish. The chicken was a thick, full breast of chicken, hand breaded, then fried to a deep golden brown. The waffle was fresh-made too. It was similar to a Belgian waffle, but thicker, and able to handle and pair with the chicken. The chicken & waffles comes with a small bowl of the chef’s daily marmalade; today’s was strawberry, which was sweet, but unimpressive aside from the fact that it was made in-house. To top it all off, they advertise Kenny’s Honey. It is a locally made, bee-farm-fresh honey created about five miles from Rockwell’s. The honey was simply amazing! I use honey often, but I guess I have never had fresh honey before. I literally would have drunk a glass of it. The dish was incredible, and to top off the hot chicken with a piece of waffle drizzled with honey was magic in my mouth. I can’t wait to take friends here to try this.
For my side, I hit gold with the Potato Dumplings & Slab Bacon. Our waiter described these as “French fry pillows”, which was a fairly accurate description of the side. I would explain these as slightly fried gnocchi, just twice the length. Then, it is mixed with diced slab bacon, small slices of asparagus, and an abundance of blue cheese. While, we were both hesitant about this side, it was fantastic. The cheese was slightly melted on the hot dumplings. The salty crunch of the bacon and the tartness of the asparagus perfectly complement everything. We devoured this side! It is unlike anything else that you might find at a restaurant and it was fabulously delicious.
Rockwell’s American Grill provided us with a fantastic lunch. The waiter was knowledgeable about all of the dishes, and the manager took the time to visit with us and explain the honey, their desserts, etc. We couldn’t have asked for a more pleasant time or a better lunch than we got at Rockwell’s.
Addendum: We went back two weeks later with one of our favorite couples, after raving to them about Rockwell’s. Wow, had things changed for the worse. The rapidness of the decline is shocking. We sat for twenty minutes and still no waitress, we had to go back to the hostess to ask for one. Then, she had no knowledge of the food. Our friends asked what two of the dishes were like, and instead of knowing or even finding out, she just said that she didn’t know…end of discussion. First off, the menu had changed, less than 2 months into opening. Prices had leveled off, many decreased, and only the grilled cheese combo increased, some selections had changed, and Kenny’s honey, which we obsessed about, was removed from the menu (it is still there, on every table, but it is not advertised). Megan still got the Chicken & Waffles, but the marmalade was super tart and the chicken was no longer the fresh, thick breast; it was two chicken fingers that you could find in any frozen section of a grocery store. My pastrami sandwich had very little mustard or cheese on it, the pastrami itself was great, but I needed more on it. We never got refills on our drinks, and both of our friends’ sandwiches were sloppily made. All in all, for Rockwell’s to have deteriorated that fast is astounding. We had high hopes, but I am definitely worried about it. We'll give it one more try to figure out which day's visit was more accurate.
Scale 1-5 stars
Value for the Price