Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Rocky and Carlos: Is It Worth It?

Rocky & Carlos' made the classic list fairly quickly. Lindsay and I were all set for a visit, but the joint caught fire in February. Whenever people asked me what spots were on the list, Rocky & Carlos elicited the strongest replies. "Ohhh, I love that place!" or chants of overrated promptly followed. The divide was about fifty fifty, with either side firmly convinced they were right. Fact is, they are both right.

We postponed our visit until this past weekend when the opportunity presented itself to drive down to Chalmette. The line snaked through the tables lined with families, baseball teams, old high school sweethearts, and more than one pregnant lady with a craving for the Rocky & Carlos macaroni and cheese. After a twenty minute wait, we had made our way to the counter. Lindsay went and snagged a table in the bar area, and left me to choose from about twelve options running the familiar neighborhood course: po boys, hamburger steak, fried shrimp, and breaded veal.

The onion rings had tremendous potential like a seventh round draft pick out of Hofstra. Unlike our beloved Colston, they failed to live up to this potential. The pros: thinly sliced with a thinner batter. The cons: under-seasoned and flabby.  But catch these onion rings on a good day and you will have no reason to complain.

Rocky & Carlos wins major points in my book for continuing to call lettuce topped with olive salad by its proper Christian name. Here, you see the last remaining, wild Wop Salad. If I were a betting man, I'd wager the dressing is Kraft Zesty Italian, but the olives are salty and the celery brings some nice crunch.

Soon the long awaited and much coveted (by some) long noodle macaroni and cheese arrived sharing a plate with a beyond lackluster plank of veal parmesan. This jury is still out on the goodness of the Rocky & Carlos macaroni and cheese. On one hand, it has pasta, cheese, and butter, so it can't be bad. On the other, it was missing salt and the red sauce on top didn't bring much other flavor to the party.

The bread for the roast beef po boy was too soft by half and the fillings left a lot to be desired.  I realize now that I can't really recommend any of the food at Rocky & Carlos, or at least, anything we tried on this last visit. But, the waitress who takes your order will deliver your food quickly and with just the right amount of sass or flirtation. The prices are fair, allowing you to get out on the cheap.  The food is cafeteria style, held for hours on steam tables the size of Cadillacs, and lackluster. If you have been weened on the farmer's market inspired menus of the late Aughts, this place is like viewing  the displayed fossils of a prehistoric beast in a museum.

However, Rocky & Carlos is important for that very reason. This restaurant is a culinary time capsule and a touchstone for the community of St. Bernard. The kitchen's failings are largely the result of the sheer volume that the restaurant does. So let's settle the debate on whether Rocky and Carlos is worth it right here and now. Get in the car, drive down St. Claude, pull into the parking lot, find a seat at the bar, order a drink, and watch the people who love Rocky & Carlos have a great meal.

Rocky & Carlos: Is It Worth It? For a visit, yes.

Rocky & Carlos
613 W. St. Bernard Hwy.


Anonymous said...

"Aughts" Nice. Hadn't seen that in print yet. CharlieH

Wilson said...

Very diplomatic conclusion. That was my assesment on my first visit last fall. Was looking forward to another soon as B. Anderson of our fair daily had the roast beef po-boy pegged as one of the best around. Perhaps it was an off day due to a deluge from the re-re-opening.

nikinik said...

I have always found it to be mediocre.

Brian C said...

I think the place is great. Go there knowing it is what it is and you won't be disappointed. I took my Dad there one time and we actually got waited on vs. standing in line. He asked the waiter for a whole oyster dressed. The guy brought him one oyster on the half shell with some lettuce and tomato on it. Hilarious. My wife swears over the mac and cheese with red sauce on it, with a side of WOP salad. Is the cheese sauce more times than not broken (due to the use of velveeta)? Yes. Is it slightly underseasoned? Yes. Does she care? No. I actually think their red beans are pretty good (I know). Maybe it's due to the sitting time making that dish better. They also have a cool bar, but I haven't tried their bloody mary (which is how I keep score). Oh well. Sue me.

Fump and Manny said...

which way did you do take down? Next time take 90 and hit Taqueria La Coyota in the lower 9th. Little taco truck, low prices, big Flava.

BTW, i am dyed in the wool R&C fan, dawling, even if they did kill a few people with bell peppas once upon a time.

Rene said...

Took 90 down and St. Claude back. Picked up some Powerball tickets. As you can tell by the continued publication of this daily, our numbers were not in that number.

Anonymous said...

"I can't really recommend any of the food at Rocky & Carlos"

...i think that really settles it. we are, after all, here for the food. the volume excuse is not really valid -- plenty of restaurants do mad volume and do it well.

lets not start grading on a curve.

Anonymous said...

It's Rocky and Carlo's, y'all, not Rocky and Carlos.

Paolo said...

As an Italian I am offended by the terms used to name your salads or other food items, as being degrading to anyone of Italian heritage!