Jan 21, 2017

River Rock: Beer, food, pool and rock-and-roll history starting at 7 a.m., complete with a car bomb anytime

River Rock: A cozy corner bar
The hairy guy's report:

It's the middle of winter. The hairy guy is doing his best to look ahead to warmer days.

Mrs. Hairy Guy has been lobbying for a trip to Florida. Harry has been studying the Burpee plant catalog that came in the mail, with its flowery prose. A hardy fig tree, for instance, is said to "bestow a luscious cavalcade of golf ball-sized deep-purple figs." Figs and golf, together at last.

on a snowy weekday afternoon, everything was going well at the welcoming River Rock Cafe on Midland Street -- until those warm thoughts were blown away by an Irish Car Bomb.

Harry has to admit that he asked for it. But it was staring out at him from the menu. And after some beer, it sounded, well, intriguing.

No, this wasn't an actual bomb. It was a mixed drink, a concoction of Jameson, Baileys and Guinness -- all Irish liquids, get it? -- that appears at the bottom of the bar's menu.

The bomb part comes in when a shot glass of Baileys is dropped into a glass of the other two. The idea, says Henry, River Rock's longtime day bartender, is to down the whole
Henry preparing the Car Bomb
mixture quickly.

One reason for the haste would be that the Baileys quickly curdles when it hits the other two; staring at the result isn't very appealing. Another reason may be that the whole thing doesn't really taste very good anyway. 

The $5 car bomb, though, isn't a key part of the River Rock scene, and we'd be leading you astray if we made too big a deal of it.

We can make a big deal out of the impressive collection of music posters, album covers and photos filling the walls -- everyone from Sinatra to the Grateful Dead, but mostly names from rock-and-roll history. Some are reproductions but many are authentic.

Not quite as extensive but worthy nonetheless is the food menu, including sandwiches, dinners, burgers (the River Rock Classic is $6.95) and Mexican dishes, some items with cute names: Onion rings are called River Rings, wings are Whamma Jamma Whangs. And there are daily specials. On a Tuesday, Harry opted for one, a Reuben, which was good.

The bar has 20 brews on tap, everything from Miller Lite and Bud Light to a changing list of craft beers, as well as bottled beers, wines and a full stock of liquor. And a pot of coffee. On a
Back wall at River Rock
return visit, Harry got a large Manhattan for $6.25, complete with three cherries but some kind of off-brand (and off-putting) bitters.

And you can partake of all this starting at 7 a.m. (8 a.m. on Sundays). Breakfast -- eggs and all that -- is available until noon weekdays, 2 p.m. weekends. (And ignore the hours on the front door. The bar is open likely till midnight in winter, 2 a.m. in summer.)

Happy hour is 4-7 p.m., with drafts 50-75 cents off the regular prices. On Thursdays, drafts are half-off all day.

River Rock sits on a corner of Midland Street that includes Lucky's bar and Unclaimed Freight. O'Hare's and Duso's are a couple doors down. Henry, who says he's been tending bar there for 20 years ("I came with the building.") recalls its previous incarnation as Monique's Corner Lounge. Before that, the building was a clothing store.

The bar (the formal name is River Rock Cafe, but we'll call it a bar) has one good pool table ($1 a game), lottery offerings and a jukebox. TVs show sports.

There's a good lunch crowd before the place mostly clears out for the afternoon. One day we

Irish Car Bomb on menu
stopped in, the phone rang a lot.

But let's back up for a moment and just note that you aren't likely to find a drink called an Irish Car Bomb in an Irish pub.

Yes, we know, the world is full of possibly offensive drink names. You may think some people are too sensitive about such things. But one poster on Reddit cites an Irish coworker as noting "I might as well walk into a sports bar and order a School Shooting."

Point made. Next time, we'll stick to the Whamma Jamma Whangs.

See Doc's report: At River Rock Cafe, the history of rock is on the walls (with thoughts of a Virgin Mary and Marilyn Monroe)

  The particulars:
  River Rock Cafe

  614 E. Midland St.


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