DINING: East-side retro diner serves up the classics

May 11, 2009
With a fading classic car painted on the side of the building, Rock Cola 50's Cafe looks a lot older than its 16 years. But that's the idea.

The themed restaurant (5730 Brookville Road, 357-2233) is a throwback through and through, from its pink and turquoise interior and kitschy decor—think framed Playboy covers and movie posters—to its stick-to-your-ribs menu and what-else-can-I-get-you staff.

Located in the shadow of the soon-to-close Navistar engine plant on the city's east side, Rock Cola has built a loyal breakfast and lunch following since opening in 1993.

We went for lunch, eschewing stools at the counter in favor of one of the vinyl booths. The four-page menu is an impressive array of hearty (not much healthy) grub, and the servers the most attentive we've had in a while (maybe because we were sitting at the "Big Tippers" table, according to the sign by the ketchup).

The special of the day was a Pulled Pork Platter—a sandwich, fries and drink for $8.99. Since the kitchen offers up the pork on a regular basis, we violated our "no specials" rule and gave it a go. We picked a good time to make an exception.

A veritable mound of barbecued pork came atop a toasted bakery bun—which we had to sacrifice in our effort to polish off the meat. The sauce was sweet as expected, but a bit of spice kicked in after a few bites. The thick-cut fries were solid, if not spectacular.

We couldn't resist ordering the Neanderthal Man Combo ($7.99), which promised a 10-ounce cheeseburger topped with "neanderthal seasonings" (a top-secret concoction, according to our waitress, but our guess is that if it isn't Mrs. Dash, it's a close cousin). It also included a pile of fries and a drink. We upgraded the root beer to a root beer float and the fries to onion rings for a couple extra bucks and didn't regret it for a minute.

Our attempt at healthy eating led us to the Turkey Melt ($4.99), one of the few non-fried items on the menu that weigh less than three-quarters-of-a-pound. Smoked turkey—still over a half-pound, unfortunately—was smothered in Swiss cheese and served on grilled rye bread. Tasty, if not exactly low-cal.

The sheer volume of food forced us to turn down dessert, disappointing our server to no end. Maybe next time.


Second in our month-long series of reviews of restaurants that rock-or at least have rocks in their names.
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