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.
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.
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.