There are a handful of closed places that held such a special place in the local food scene that we frequently get questions about the place returning. Most of the time it is just a hope, a wish, and a rumor here and there. The Shack, Starving Artist Cafe, Waffle Wagon, and Rocky’s Pub to name a few. The last one however, we hear the most about.
Rocky’s was this little smokey dive bar located on JFK in North Little Rock. They had many exceptional items, but were by far and away most famous for their Philly Cheesesteaks. The story goes that the Dunlap family moved from Philadelphia and decided to open a little restaurant that focused on Italian food, mainly pastas. Joel, the son, loved Philadelphia area sandwiches, especially cheesesteaks. Having worked with a cheesesteak restaurant before he set out to add it to the menu and the rest is a much beloved sandwich history.
Rocky’s closed abruptly in late 2013, leaving a huge footlong cheesesteak sized void in the hearts of folks around here. The cheesesteak itself was never without controversy. They opted to put marinara on top, which is something many folks say is blasphemy but something Joel Dunlap says he saw frequently living in Philly. Funny enough even the people feeling it is inaccurate all agree they love the marinara sauce on top (which is totally optional). The cheese on a cheesesteak seems equally divided by the cheese whiz camp and the provolone or American camp. He opts for melted white American cheese for sheer quality purposes.
Over the past 5 years, which is coincidentally almost as long as Rock City Eats has been running, we frequently heard rumors of a comeback. For a short time Joel operated a food truck selling the cheesesteaks and other sandwiches, so it was not completely untrue. There were also some back alley cheesesteak dealing going on here and there that I am probably not allowed to acknowledge until the statute of limitations for illegal cheesesteak possession is over.
Finally a couple of weeks ago I get a call from the man himself, saying this time we really can call it a comeback.
“I have spent the past several years saving every dime I could to bring Rocky’s back to life,” Dunlap tells us. “This is just the first phase, but we are ready to reintroduce our cheesesteaks to the masses.”
Rocky’s, now called Rocky’s togo, will officially start serving legal cheesesteaks beginning on Tuesday (April 17th) from the ARKitchen commercial kitchen setup. To begin with it will just be Tuesdays and Wednesdays from 11-1pm, pick up only. He will possibly bring deliveries after 1 for larger orders. After that he will add more hours as demand increases and he is talking with several delivery services about working it into Bitesquad, waitr, or grubhub so it is easier to pick up.
Also, to begin with, it will just be the steak philly’s with the chicken cheesesteaks to come a week or two later. Eventually he will run a number of sandwiches including Rubens. At first orders must be placed through a message to the Rocky’s ToGo Facebook page with pickup at the ARKitchen location on 9813 W Markham St in Little Rock. Cheesesteaks run $16 for a footlong that uses a pound of chopped sirloin steak. It is something easily split between two people.
I gave the steak cheesesteak a try earlier this week and honestly it exceeded my memory of how good it was. Dunlap starts with fresh ingredients, cooks to order from scratch, and it all comes together beautifully as one of the best all around cheesesteaks I have had. Give it a shot, you won’t regret it.