I was a nerd for the holiday. I worked. My husband, The Pilot, stayed home since the chance of thunderstorms meant he couldn’t fly. I thought I might come home from my eight hours to some great dinner plans, or a nice meal I didn’t have to cook. When I asked him what he wanted to do, a five-year-old boy’s grin spread across his face and he said, “Guess what’s finally open?”
On Main Street in Manchester, a BBQ joint named Rockhouse has been “coming soon” for months. Every time he goes running, The Pilot brings home a status report: “They’ve been painting!”, “There’s a counter in there!”, etc. So after all this excitement and anticipation, I couldn’t deny him. Now, I am not a BBQ fan. What I like about BBQ are the sides–mac & cheese, greens, cornbread, slaw, baked beans…mmmm. But the smoked meat just isn’t my thing. It’s too…meaty. We once stopped for some in North Carolina, and it wasn’t bad. Perhaps it was the novelty. Or the sweet tea.
So July 4th was their opening day, which meant that everything was 50%. Go us. We were greeted by a tatted chick with purple pig tails and some impressive sleeves, which I thought boded well. The place is small and casual with about six tables. You order at the counter and the decor is sparse. As in two framed pictures and two pig figurines. But what does it matter if the food is good? We had every intention to “dine in”, but the places was H.A.F.–Hot As Fillintheblank. The one window unit was doing diddly squat and made me pity the staff in the sweltering heat. So, we decided to take out.
I had a pulled pork sandwich with a side of mac & cheese and The Pilot went with a combo plate of pulled pork and brisket with sides of baked beans and potato salad. Mine also came with slaw and his came with cornbread. The main dishes were more than generous in their portions. However, the pork was not “pulled” so much as “chopped”, which meant there were some really fatty pieces that usually sort of just blend in when it’s pulled. It had a nice flavor to it and was tender enough. The brisket had a nice “smoke ring” to it, which is apparently important in BBQ. I guess we have the wood burning smoker to thank for that.
The sides were decent–some better than others. The slaw didn’t use mayo and had some more interesting vegetables in it, which I liked. The mac & cheese was tasty in a small quantity, but I wouldn’t want to eat a big bowl of it because it was pretty rich. It was also a sort of an odd mustard brown color, which was a bit of a turn off visually. The beans had a nice smokey flavor to it, which proved they weren’t just out of a can…I hope. The mustard flavor in the potato salad made it lighter and more interesting too, and the corn bread was crumbly, but not dry with some corn kernels in there. (I’m not sure why–to make it seem more homemade? Like they ground the corn themselves? Whatever the reason, it was yummy.) I would have love some collard greens, but there weren’t really any true veggies on the menu, which surprised me.
Now onto the sauces. Their BBQ sauce didn’t seem to be ketchup based, thank goodness, but was thicker than a pure vinegar based sauce and had a decent smoked essence to it. However, they only have one where many places have a sweet one and spicy one. I would appreciate a little more variety. I mistakenly thought another sauce was their hotter version, but to my tastebuds’ pain, soon realized it was just pure hot sauce. Dammit.
For a genre of food I am not a fan of, it did okay for itself, especially on its first day. I’ve had BBQ that I liked better–even in CT. The same goes for The Pilot, who, growing up in the South with true BBQ, knows his stuff better than I do (or want to). I’m sure they have some kinks to work out, some recipes to tweak, and AC to fix, but I will make allowances because I think they will find their groove. So I would give them two salt shakers for effort. But, had this been an establishment open for a while (or if they continue with these recipes/style and lack of AC), it would earn one salt shaker.