I had a friend in town for a day, and she wanted to have lunch on Las Olas. You don't really how many bad choices there are until you have to pick a place for a one-time deal; I met her at the water taxi stop by Mangos (because she just had to do the Water Taxi) and we agreed on Rocco's Tacos, because it has the coolest name of all of the choices with outside seating. She seemed surprised that Fork & Balls and Sweet Nectar were empty at 12:45pm; I explained that the grandiosity of Las Olas was wildly exaggerated.
We approached the hostess stand with the restaurant about 1/4 full, and she told us that we couldn't sit outside because the server had a big group and couldn't handle another table. Say what? So get another server; there were 2 tables occupied on the patio. Another hostess came along and overruled her, and we sat outside on a nice, sunny day.
The furniture is definitely cool, particularly on the patio. We went for the tableside guacamole, because when you're with a tourist you do stuff like that.
We ordered our entrees and some beverages; a "rita" for her and iced tea for me. Our server didn't ask us anything like "salt or not?". I asked for extra lemon as usual. The tea was delivered with one wedge of lemon.
A dude named "Abraham" rolled over the table and started to make the guacamole. You can get it mild, medium or hot; we went with mild; neither of us were fans of spicy guacamole.
Rocco's Tacos Guacamole
It's really a waste; you're not going to eat an avocado each and also have lunch; this is really for a table of 4. But in Corporate restaurants, portions don't make sense.
They give you a load of chips also; probably 2000 calories if you eat it all. We tossed more than half of it.
Decent guac, but certainly nothing to rave about. Too much lime for my taste. I don't put lime in guacamole at all when I make it.
We'd barely tasted the Guacamole and the food came out; Really, do you need the table or something? If you're going to push the guacamole, at least give us some time to enjoy it.
She'd ordered the shrimp tacos; $4.75 each.
I didn't ask her how it was; it's a taco, so I assumed it was ok. I'd ordered the Chiles Rellenos; I'd had a combo plate my first time here and I like them. It comes with red rice and black beans.
I complained that the red rice was tasteless junk 3 years ago and it hasn't improved. Way to stick with bad recipes despite the fact that they suck. How hard it is to season some rice? The chiles were small but good; they're stuffed with chihuahua and goat cheese; the beans are well seasoned also. Tasteless red sauce. Overall one of the better dishes at Rocco's. Too bad they're too arrogant to fix the rice.
Now for the service. Our server dropped off the check when we were about 1/2 done with our lunch, which I find annoying. This isn't a diner. He didn't offer my friend another drink, and didn't refill my $3.25 iced tea. Her water glass was empty also , and the ice in mine had completely melted. While she went off to the Ladies room, I gave the server my card and asked if we could get some water. Every time I asked for something he seemed to jump back; not sure why. This is when a real server would notice my empty glass and say "Would you like a refill on your iced tea"? But not this Bozo; instead, he actually filled the empty tea glass with water.
Roccos Water in my Iced Tea glass
Message to Rocco: while you're partying in NY, your place here in Fort Lauderdale has turned into a clown show. Please fix it. These people can't even handle an empty restaurant.
Rocco's was entertaining when it first opened, but you can get better Mexican food just about anywhere in the city at a much lower price. The service I got today was the worst I've gotten in many months. Being rushed is bad enough; but this guy is guaranteeing that his customers never return.
Roccos Tacos Fort Lauderdale
I've been thinking about trying Rocco's Taco's Brunch for a few weeks, but I've had other things to do. It wouldn't come on a Sunday as "Brunch" has become the in-thing for the industry crowd, and I really don't want to eat in a crowded room of waitresses and busboys. They serve until 4pm, so I figured I'd go late so I wouldn't be stuck sitting at the bar.
They have their own parking lot, but it's cheaper to park across the street. $1.50 will get you an hour; long enough for brunch.
Rocco's Tacos Entrance
It wasn't too crowded at 3:10pm, they gave m e one of the booths that are messed up by the brick columns. The one bad thing about Rocco's is all of the brick columns that just mess up the flow of the place.
Roccos Tacos Fort Lauderdale Interior
My server seemed bubble enough. I ordered some coffee and the Huevos Ahoghada Con Short Rib, which is described as
Poached eggs on short ribs and poblano hash, salsa verde, corn, spinach, Manchego.
Sound pretty good, eh? The coffee showed up shortly.
Rocco's Tacos Taco
Bad coffee is expected these days.
They play club music all the time here; which is why it's mostly young people. It is a very visually cool place; there's all kinds of stuff hanging on the walls and these big chandelier's that they imported from Mexico.
Rocco's Tacos Fort Lauderdale Interior
The food came out pretty quickly; maybe 10 minutes.
Rocco's Tacos Huevos Con Short Rib
My first thought was "Why isn't the Manchego melted?". At first glance the eggs looked like scoops of sour cream. I popped open the first egg to discover that it was soft-boiled. Just Fantastic.
The other one was slightly better, but there wasn't nearly as much runny yolk as I would have liked. One thing about food; this didn't LOOK anything like I expected. When I think about poblano hash, I'm thinking about onions and diced poblano with diced potatoes; something spicy with the Manchego melted over it. There was nothing spicy about anything in this; the salsa verde was authentic in color only; it tasted like a puddle of green food coloring. And the Short Rib was tasteless; unseasoned and it was more like stew meat. In fact, this dish reminded me of a couple of soft boiled eggs over some beef stew. Not very exciting. I'm not even sure it was Manchego cheese; It's expensive stuff. I wouldn't be surprised if it was something else. The people that come here wouldn't know the difference.
Manchego pairs well with spicy meat like Chorizo. There nothing like a chorizo and Manchego omelet.
Bottom line: this dish was terrible. Not spicy. Like a plate of stuff. Nothing that I was hoping for.
As for the service; no refills on my $3.50 cup of coffee. My server didn't come by to check on anything while I was eating, but even when I asked for the check and I had an empty cup she didn't offer me anything. It was bad coffee, but it cost her a buck. Let's just call it a cherry on top.
Rocco's opened with some amazing fanfare last winter and for a while, the place was so packed all of the time that it was ridiculous. I was there 3 times in the first few weeks, and it was always so crazy that service was terrible. While I realize that it's difficult for a new restaurant with new staff to properly train when it's so busy every night, but it was still an issue. I decided to try them at lunchtime; the menu is largely the same and in the summer it certainly wouldn't be too hectic.
Rocco's is partnered with the Big Time Restaurant Group, the same folks who own Big City Tavern. I've been to Rocco's in Boca Raton; both of the "other" Rocco's are retrofitted Big City Tavern's. This one is unique. It's the first Rocco's that's all Rocco.
The layout isn't much different than Smith and Jones; the bar is in the same place and there's not much you can do with the big brick wall that ruins the entrance. But everything is a LOT cooler; the bar, the lighting and the cool mexican antiques that decorate the place.
In the evenings, they have a DJ who cranks out good music all night long 7 days a week. The place just plays like a big party all night long.
The biggest problem with the place is space. The big brick wall kind of ruins everything; it makes the entrance strange, it makes the bar too tight in the front, it blocks the view. They have big tables near the bar; there's really not a lot of room to stand. Up front they've cut a hole in the wall to make a big window; but the outside area is right in front of the front entrance. They did what they could with what they had to work with, but you just can't move a big brick wall.
The food at Rocco's is generally pretty good. I've had a couple of entrees that were very good, and a couple that were just ok. The guacamole is very good; although I'm not crazy about the chips. When it's not too crowded they make the guacamole "tableside"; they have a cart with all of the stuff they roll around. If it's crowded they won't make it in front of you.
On my first visit I ordered a Bistec Con Chiles Rajas; an adobo grilled skirt steak covered with peppers and served with "red rice" and black beans. I'll sub out the rice next time; but the steak was fantastic. Perfectly medium rare and just a great dish.
Roccos Bistec Con Chiles Rajas
On a subsequent visit, I wanted to try the Chile Relleno, but I needed some meat, so I ordered one of their combo plates. The "Campeche", is a skirt steak, chile relleno and salsa rojo.
Roccos Tacos Chile Relleno and Skirt Steak
The skirt wasn't as good as the previous; a bit underdone. The Chile Relleno was top notch, as good as I've had in many years. I didn't know the dish came with rice otherwise I would have tried to sub it out. The rice really serves no purpose. It doesn't have much taste despite the reddish color. The chimichurri sauce also is fairly benign; it's nothing like the garlic-crazy stuff you get at the latin places like El Tamarindo and the old Beef Eater.
When I went at lunch time, it was really dead; 4 people at the bar and 1 table in the whole place. I was thinking about the fish tacos, but I wasn's sure I wanted to pay $16 for 3 tacos. Rocco's lunch prices are largely the same as his dinner prices; most items are about $1 less, so there are no bargains. I settled on the Enchiladas Rojos; pulled pork with guajillo sauce. I subbed out the red rice for black beans.
The food really LOOKS good here. I asked for a thing of sour cream. This dish was pretty good, but it wasn't anything spectacular. It was notably bland. The sauce tasted "smokey" but didn't have much taste; it's almost as if they were so worried about about making it authentically that they didn't consider the taste. The pork was about the same; cooked just right, pulled nicely, but no seasoning. It just didn't taste like much.
I was surprised to see how empty Rocco's was on a Saturday night; at 11pm, with the DJ blaring dance music, the bar was empty and there was virtually no scene. Rocco's is apparently more an early drinking spot than a late night hangout.
Grand Opening Feb 20, 2011
Rocco's Tacos is finally here. Rocco's grand opening on Friday was an event for the ages, as locals lined up for Free drinks and good music. The place was filled shortly after the 8pm start, and the party was still rocking at 11pm when the free drinks expired. The line to get in is something that this particular venue had never seen before; Smith and Jones opened quietly. Louie, Louie's? Who even remembers that.
The opening of Rocco's is the most significant hospitality event in Fort Lauderdale since I've lived here. All of the openings in the past few years: Yolo, Vibe, The W, Rare, Solita; all represent a forced transition to some misguided vision of a more upscale, Miami style scene. Rocco's is the kind of place that embodies everything that drew so many of us to Fort Lauderdale in the first place; a casual drinkery with good, unique food, crankin' music and a seemingly unending flow of drunken babes who are more interested in having fun than being "seen".
Yolo and Vibe are for other people. They're for the people out west who come to Las Olas to pretend they're important. Rocco's is for us. A place for everyone in the neighborhood to share guacamole, watch a game and knock down a few. There's been a lot of speculation about whether Rocco's or any other place could be successful on the "other" end of Las Olas. Problematic parking, a doomed location, blah, blah, blah. Mark my words; Rocco's will be a major hit. Not because they have the best food or the hottest bartenders; but simply because it's so much better than anyplace else in the entire city in terms of overall appeal and ambience.
I've been accused of many things, but shilling isn't one of them. While I will disclose that I graduated from the same high school as Rocco (boy could I go for a Branchinelli's pizza..); I've never met Rocco, either now or then. He's done a tremendous job with this place. All I can say is get on line now for Cinco de Mayo; it's going to be out of control.
The grand opening was quite a party; a 3 hour open bar that seemed to reinvigorate an entire class of people. I could try to describe it , but you can get a better idea by watching a video.