Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Rockwell Tavern and Grill

UPDATE (11/15/2011):  We said some rough things about Rockwell Tavern in some posts and tweets since their original review. Statements that we stand by and statements that we aren't going to remove. Since ownership changed we had a total of four meals at Rockwell that were average or worse. I had a chicken sandwich at one time that was so hard you could literally brain a person with it. The burgers? They'd fallen off. Hard. BUT GOOD NEWS: Rockwell did a Houston Beer Week event and I was lured back in with the promise of bottom-feeding some leftover of Rahr & Sons Casked Winter Warmer the next day, and in the course of drinking some beers, I was convinced to give the burgers another go.

Without going into too many details, I am pleased to say that Rockwell once again makes a fantastic burger that lives up to its legacy and I highly recommend stopping in. Their beer selection has gotten really nice too, although shockingly, they appear to have gone the route of forsaking any light beers whatsoever. Even I enjoy a Keystone Light or a Miller Lite ever so often, and I think every place that serves beer should have something at a value price, but I digress, go chow down.

ORIGINAL REVIEW FOLLOWS:
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It's been awhile. It's time to get back on the burger wagon.

I must apologize in advance. This review has zero pictures. The place wasn't well lit enough for cell phone cameras and the regular camera had a dead battery. This is a shame, because this is one of the first times I can remember where the burgers that were brought out of the kitchen looked just as good as the burgers on the menu. Fortunately, we will definitely be back, and we hope to get some pictures of these burgers out to you soon. UPDATE 5/12/2010: Got a new camera, took that sucker to Rockwell, ate a fat cheeseburger, and collected some pics. ENJOY!!

So, we decided to go to the Rockwell Tavern. The original reason we went was simply because it was right next to PO's Burgers. Both of them have signs out front claiming that they had the world's best burger, and it sounded like we needed to go in there and settle it for ourselves, and for the rest of the world. Then, when we decided to fire it back up yesterday we found this glowing review from Houston Press and were suddenly watering at the mouth to get out to Rockwell.

Rockwell Tavern is located in Cypress, within a few miles of Highway 290 and Telge. It's in a very unassuming location smack dab in the middle of a small strip center. Inside are about fifteen or twenty tables, a bar, and a little standing room only area between the two. Tonight when we went in we quickly noticed that the combination of a Tuesday night and Houstonians acting like it doesn't get cold this time of year had the place completely empty. We took our seats and had the full attention of the entire restaurant staff, who were very friendly, for a large portion of our visit.

The restaurant itself is a dive. Not a big deal. It is clean, but the furnishings are old and the decor is definitely "average bar". The exception? The restrooms are decked out in old car parts. The best little touch? The stall in the men's restroom has badging for Dodge's 5.7 liter Hemi engine. It has a strong "you knew what this was when you came in here" kind of vibe.

On their menu they have a ton of custom burgers. Several that break the usual trend. They have burgers with a fried egg, burgers with teriyaki and pineapple, italian style burgers with marinara sauce and even a burger called the "El Diablo" that is so hot that you have to sign a waiver to eat it, but the reward is a free t-shirt. (Next time, honey.)

Our party of three sat down and ordered up an Iron Man burger, a Swiss Goddess and a Samurai burger. The Iron Man was the definitive spicy chili burger. It had a GLOB of habanero-spiced chili, jalapenos and cheese. The Swiss Goddess was a mushroom swiss burger that was advertised as a "pile of mushrooms and cheese" that was very true to its word, and the Samurai burger had Bacon, Pineapples thrown in with a sweet teriyaki sauce. All of them came armed with a 1/2 pound, hand formed patty and was served on a custom sweet sourdough roll.

No time to wait, time to eat. That first bite was a showstopper. The guys at Rockwell don't play generic cheeseburger. Every single flavor that they tell you is on the menu shows up with it's A-game. The flavors are all incredibly rich, which allows you to taste every single ingredient almost seperately. Different parts of your tongue are firing different sparks directly into your brain, all screaming for more. By the time I got to the center, where all the ingredients are concentrated the most, we had all agreed that we had just taken on the best burger we've ever eaten. Not just in Houston, not just on this burger quest, it's the best burger any of us have ever had. Period. And another period for good measure.

Eating it was interesting. The chili burger had entire ladle-fulls of chili with a little habanero kick, so it had to be eaten mostly with a fork. The bun stood no chance of holding back firepower of that magnitude. I almost had the same situation with my burger. By the time I was done with the Samurai burger I had delicious pieces of teriyaki pineapple and bacon ready for my fork and the bun spent the entire time on life support due to the pineapple juice. The mushroom swiss burger left a trail of delicious sauteed mushrooms behind it simply because the bun could not contain them all.

Side dishes? Good news, it gets even better. They have, hands down, some of the best onion rings I have ever had. They are fried up crispier than any onion ring I have ever had, and still aren't burned at all, and the onion doesn't shrivel up and disappear either. The french fries are well above average, nothing too special, but still damn good, and then to top it all off they also have some rocking sweet potato fries.

Stop reading this site and go to Rockwell Tavern and Grill. The quest for the best burger in Houston continues, but we don't know how these burgers could possibly be topped!!! We have adjusted the top 3 on the sidebar. You are now looking at the Rockwell Tavern as the best followed up by Miller's Cafe and then The Backyard Grill.

3 comments:

  1. I keep trying to tell people this place is awesome, they also have over 130 beers which is a plus, as far as the place next door, please their burgers aren't even close, not EVEN close. BTW their bacon wrapped asparagus is delicious as well

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  2. Give this place a try again. It isn't on the menu bu try the "Outlaw" by far the best burger that I have ever had. I haven't been able to finish it yet. And the place looks completely different. The new owners are doing it right, and clean unlike before. And if you like fried pickles, I got to sample the new batter, they are amazing!

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  3. Oh we've definitely been back since the ownership changed, but I have to disagree with you on them "doing it right." The place is clean? I don't mind eating in a dive. They aren't serving filthy food. No restaurant is in the business of getting customers sick. The new decor? I think it's soulless. Looks like a wannabe Chilis, and a very uninspired one at that. The burgers are good but they are a shell of what they used to be, which is a pretty impressive drop considering they bought the recipes from the old owner.

    In fact, last time I was there about 2 months ago I bought a chicken sandwich and it was cooked so hard that I literally had trouble chewing it. They couldn't be any more clueless in the kitchen.

    I can't say anything about the fried pickles though, as much as I love fried pickles, I doubt I'll be back at Rockwell anytime soon to try the new batter. The old owner of Rockwell just opened up his new spot, The Love Shack, and the food there is simply so much better. I recommend you check it out ASAP.

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