I’m sure there is a saying somewhere that on matters of food it is often worth listening to a man who looks well fed. Such a recommendation, from a largish chap I met in the course of my work, saved my butt the other day. I had kept my family waiting at the end of a long work week finishing up “just one more thing”. They were justifiably grumpy, and we all wanted something to eat. Fast.
So it was we found ourselves at Rolly Rockets BBQ located at 470 King St West, corner of King and Locke St. Don’t be fooled by the Google Street view which shows an uninviting view of a walled-up, for-lease GP Grumpy’s Sport’s Pub and Grill. There is now a patio, seating about 30, and the inside “décor” is a mix of high definition TVs and picnic tables covered with bright red and white plastic, seating about 100.
At the order counter, we found a welcoming smile from the lovely Chevonne. She suggested we try the sampler of hickory-smoked pulled pork, chicken and beef on slider buns. Coming with fries, coleslaw, cornbread and beans, each platter was only $9.99. Our food was hearty and very tasty, arriving in a remarkably short time after we sat down. The total with 3 Tennent’s draft lagers was 45$ plus tip, a real bargain.
An assortment of house-blend sauces can be added to the pulled meats, the tequila-lime being the best to my taste. The hot sauce merely tingled. More spicy than hot it’s being re-labeled this summer when a few more items are added to the menu. (Fried Catfish anyone?)
I have the same relationship with beans as I do olives, but these were a revelation; four kinds in a smoky sauce with a hint of horseradish, and none of that nasty, mushy texture. The kid declared the fries awesome. The wife declared the beer cold. Peace was restored. The only downer was that I was forbidden to have dessert, a deep-fried candy bar (choice of Mars, Musketeers or Bounty)!
When I mentioned to Rolly Rocket’s co-owner, Roland Dubé, that I did a column on Barbara Caffé, he lit up and said his family orders the “fantastic” porchetta from them on occasion. Not a bad recommendation from a fellow who, with his wife Teela, dreamed up the idea for a southern barbecue restaurant for Hamilton.
A Hamiltonian born and bred, but with Acadian roots, Roland told me how, before they met, he and Teela had both travelled extensively throughout the US on business. They sought out the local spots “where the cabbies ate, often BBQ joints.” This shared experience “percolated for 7-8 years” after they got together. They took the plunge opening Rolly Rockets in December 2009.
It doesn’t sound as if it’s been easy: The location – which began life as a tavern for soldiers stationed at Dundurn Castle in 1846 - apparently had a dodgy reputation, luckily no longer evident to this new visitor. More importantly neither Roland nor Teela had professional experience in the restaurant business.
They turned for advice to the Ontario BBQ community which Roland says was remarkably welcoming: the company that supplied their smoker introduced them to the “Grandfather of Canadian BBQ,” Toronto’s Earl Whyte. The folk who ran the Canadian BBQ Championships also provided advice. They helped the Dubés opt for a value and volume-driven business that fitted with the economic times and a Hamilton clientele.
Rolly Rockets already caters and, in addition to the revamped menu coming this summer, there are plans for another mobile smoker as a separate business. In the meantime customers are drawn to the challenge of conquering the King Louis ribs, the most expensive dish on the menu at $24.99. That’s a full rack of untrimmed ribs that has to be ordered a day in advance so it gets the appropriate smoking time.
Roland says no-one has soloed that.
For more pictures of Rolly Rockets, click here.
Alex (Alex can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org )
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