While in South Florida last week, my cousin introduced my son and I to a super fun and popular restaurant here that I thought was worth sharing with you for this week’s Foodie Friday. This column’s designed to get us talking about a range of culinary experiences across the price spectrum. My only rule for Fridays: While the places can be out-of-the way or easy to find either in the US or overseas – and known either locally of globally, they must be different, worth experiencing and/or have an interesting story.
The spot we’ll chat about this week is Rocco’s Tacos & Tequila Bar, a small Florida chain that specializes in food, fun and drinks and entertaining Mexican art including Mexican wrestler masks. We ate in the Fort Lauderdale location on the city’s main drag, Las Olas Boulevard. I’m going to go out a limb here and say that this is a chain we’ll be hearing a lot more from. I really liked my food and experience, and saw that it has broad appeal with people of all ages. Later this year, Rocco’s will open its first out-of-state restaurant in Brooklyn. (Last year, local publication DowntownBrooklyn reported that a location going to open at 339 Adams St., shown in this Google image.) Since my cousin Brittany Markin, a veggie/foodie in her early 20s, introduced my son Joaquin, 10, and I to Rocco’s, I asked her to write the review (below).
First, a few notes from me: The founder, Rocco Mangel, like me, is from Long Island, N.Y., according to Mangel’s LinkedIn profile. His profile also notes that his grandfather was the general manager of Manhattan’s famed Copacabana nightclub, so entertainment runs in his blood. One of his best-known schticks is hopping on the bar and offering tequila to customers when he shows up in one of his restaurants. Markin’s review:
FORT LAUDERDALE – I would normally go to the Rocco’s Tacos & Tequila Bar location in West Palm Beach, where I live, for happy hour, but decided to try this location with some family. Walking up to it on a Sunday afternoon, I noticed right away that it was just as busy as I would expect on a midweek evening. It turned out to be a fun place for the weekend.
During our wait of 30 minutes, a mix of electronic dance music and remixed 1980s music jammed in the background while we check out the great Mexican art from classic photography to the funny little wrestling paintings on the walls.
When we were finally sat, the first thing the waitress asked us was of course what we would like to start off to drink. Unlike most of the restaurant customers, we chose not to have one of their popular margaritas. Instead, I ordered a twist on a margarita called Ranch Water ($10), which consisted of Patron silver tequila, club soda and muddled lime, and my cousin ordered more of a safe beverage – a Stella Artois beer. I was very pleased with my cocktail. It was refreshing to the hot and humid weather I had just stepped out of.
She insisted on an appetizer, and the guacamole experience was a show! The “guacamole man” came out to make it fresh at our table, customizing our order with questions like “how spicy would you like it” or “chunky or smooth.” Once placed on the table, we were able to taste it with Rocco’s Tacos’ special chips made in-house with a secret seasoning that includes cinnamon and chipotle. I prefer a simple tortilla chip, but for others it seems to be a hit.
For my main dish, I ordered the Ensalada Mixta, which from the description sounded like it would have my taste buds dancing, and a black bean taco. The salad’s flavors, however, were a little mediocre; to me, it felt and tasted like any other Mexican bean and corn salad. Where others might would enjoy this, sadly, it wasn’t my favorite. And the tacos, let’s just say they weren’t made in your abuela’s kitchen. My favorite dish was the guacamole by far.
Walking out, we couldn’t help but notice the crowd at the packed bar was enjoying themselves with people ranging from their young twenties to fifties. We also saw that the line to enter had grown longer, and now included couples with their babies in strollers. I’d say from this experience that I’ll probably stick to my happy hour cocktails and guacamole.
Readers: Have you tried Rocco’s? Tell us what you thought!