My wife, Wendi, and I love to watch Guy Fieri’s “Diners, Drive-ins & Dives” and Michael Symon’s “Burgers, Brews & ‘Cue” on the Food Network. It was while watching one of these shows where we learned of the term “gastropub,” which generally refers to a pub that serves quality food. The owners of Broken Rocks Cafe & Bakery brought that style of eatery and pub to Wooster, and we are better for it.
Wendi and I decided to try out the Rox Gastropub with her sister, Randi Breese, and her husband, Shaun Vahl. While the pub has its own entrance off Liberty Street, it is not well-marked. So, we came in through Broken Rocks, and when you cross into the pub it is like you are transported to a different place and time. Broken Rocks is big and open; Rox Gastropub is small and intimate. It features a lot of tables for two; we had to wait for two of these tables to be joined together. It also has a full bar.
In trying to find the origins of the gastropub, Wikipedia says the term was coined in 1991 in London. Pubs were more drinking establishments than eateries, until Mike Belbin and David Eyre of The Eagle changed that and served high-end food to compliment the high-quality beer. Because Wendi and I do not drink, we cannot speak to the quality of the libations, though Shaun did enjoy his JAFB draft selection. These gastropubs feature wood-scrubbed floors, menu selections on a blackboard and an open kitchen, and the Rox Gastropub had all three.
Shaun ordered a beet salad, which he said was “really good, if you like beets.” Randi ordered a side salad. And, they shared a cheese pizza. Everything is basically cooked in a hot, open “masonry” oven. (In my day, these were called brick ovens.)
There is a very small “steam table” in the back of the kitchen to keep some items warm, but basically everything goes into pans and is cooked in the high heat of the oven. Because of this, it causes charring on the pizzas, which is a good thing. Most people accustomed to franchise-style pizzas cooked in pans on conveyor-belt ovens might be taken aback by this kind of pizza, but this is how pizzas should be made.
Randi and Shaun shared a slice of the pizza with me (the charred piece), and it was really good. The sauce had a nice flavor to it: A little sweet, a little tangy. I was surprised the crust was so soft. Normally, because the pizza is being cooked on stone at a high temperature, the crust becomes crisp (the way I like it), but this crust remained soft and chewy. I would definitely recommend it. I am a cheese pizza kind of guy, none of the fancy stuff for me.
Wendi and I shared the Pub Burger, which featured a local Waygu ground beef, bacon lardons, caramelized onions, sauteed mushrooms and white cheddar. Neither of us are fans of onions, so we nixed them, and Wendi got the mushrooms on the side. This was a very tasty burger. I had purchased some Waygu beef (similar to the beef from the Kobe region of Japan) at Buehler’s, but I did not make a burger this good at home. It was very tasty, and I enjoyed it. The burger was also served with jojo potatoes. They were oven-roasted and not deep fried, but they were still good.
The menu also features a steak sandwich, a duck Udon noodle bowl (see below) and a banh mi sandwich.
We will definitely have to go back and look at the menu better and enjoy another great meal with friends and family. The Rox Gastropub rocks.