Saturday, January 29, 2011

Red Rock Cafe Back Door Barbecue

Rainstorms set in today, putting me in the mood for a casual, low-key comfort food sort of meal.

I've often seen a little cafe sitting along Lincoln Ave at the intersection of Main (between Jefferson and Soscol). Driving home, I pass by it frequently, and my eye is often drawn to it due to the preponderance of neon lights adorning the windows. More intriguing, however, is the fact that it always seems packed in the evenings, every day of the week. Being situated across from a 7-Eleven, "Lolita's Nail Salon", a billiards bar and a coin-op laundromat, this wouldn't normally be my first pick of establishment to randomly venture into. However, looking through the windows always revealed a pretty interesting assortment of people... elderly folks, yuppie-ish families, Harley and Ed Hardy types. But one thing is for certain: it is definitely popular.

So Sarah and I headed there tonight, out of curiosity but with no expectations. It's a tiny little place called "Red Rock Cafe Back Door Barbecue" -- I guess we arrived just early enough (around 6:00), although the place was already half full. Inside is somewhat kitschy, with weird little tchochkes adorning the walls and ceilings. We chose the smallest table, by the front window under a hanging lamp adorned with dangling plastic hot dogs and hamburgers.

The menu looks like it was printed on a computer circa 1990, but boasts a good list of American-style food, mostly centered around barbecue: tri-tip, brisket, chicken, ribs, sandwiches, potato salad, fries, cole slaw, etc. Normally I'd go straight for that, but I was drawn toward their salad offering -- it was a bit more affordable than their BBQ meals, which range from $12 for sandwich to $18 for dinner plate. The salads are $7.95 for a large one, plus $3 if you want it covered with meat. What I really liked was the way you could basically custom-design your salad, with a choice of iceberg or romaine lettuce or spinach (or a combination) plus you choose 7 toppings from a list of pretty much anything you would imagine putting on a salad: veggies, beans, various cheeses, egg, bacon, avocado, walnuts, pecans, sunflower seeds, raisins, all sorts of stuff. I ended up getting avocado, broccoli, hardboiled egg, bacon, pecan pieces, tomatoes, and jack cheese, covered with tri-tip (and plenty of it) and tortilla strips.
At first glance you would think the prices would be cheaper here than they actually are. They are not expensive, but not cheap, either. But then the food is delivered and you understand; the portions are HUGE. The "kids platters" I saw come out had more food on them than most standard-sized plates at other barbecue places like Bounty Hunter nearby in downtown Napa.

Oh yeah, and the meat is definitely good. I can only speak to the tri-tip, but it was cooked perfectly and was very tender and juicy. We also ordered some beer, of which they have about a half dozen varieties on tap -- nothing too fancy, but some nicer varieties than your standard American Budweiser/Coors garbage (I got a Red Tail while she had Alaskan Amber).

All in all, not a bad little place -- especially if you are hungry and want plenty of barbecued meat, and don't mind the fact that it is small/cozy and sometimes packed. One word of advice, though: if you don't want to be around a bunch of kids, I'd avoid going on a Saturday. About half of the people in there tonight were boys under the age of 10, and while this place clearly caters to families (they have some toys and games to be borrowed by the kids while they wait), I never see kids eating there when I drive by on the weekdays.


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