Tuesday, June 5, 2012
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.