It’s a curious mix of the historic with the hip. The former Post Office Café on Main Street in East Greenwich has been transformed into Rok Bar & Grill, a Hard Rock Café-type restaurant in tribute to that all-American music genre and its legends, from Buddy Holly to rock stars who are still very much alive.
Oversized posters of Mick Jagger and John Lennon hang on the walls, along with electric guitars and covers of Rolling Stone magazine. A variety of seating is available including pub-height tables, booths and tables with laminated tops displaying photos of rock celebrities. Most definitely a casual establishment, Rok has a friendly, efficient staff that seems intent on guests having a fun experience. At dinnertime, you can expect to see families. Later in the evening, the music gets louder, the crowd gets younger and they are not shy about dancing beneath a giant screen showing music videos. Those wishing a more sedate dinner can request a table in the Elvis Room.
(This is all the dream of the late Steve Marra who was part of the Marra Restaurant Group that owns the post office property as well as other restaurants in Rhode Island. Marra died unexpectedly in 2011. He is memorialized in a massive painting at Rok, titled Rock ‘n Roll Heaven. Rock heroes Jimi Hendrix and Janis Joplin are up there, having a grand old time, with Steve in the center of it all. The late restaurateur’s dream has come true with the opening of Rok.)
The creative menu – packaged inside old vinyl LP album covers – is totally in tune with this rock ‘n’ roll theme. Even the wines have a good beat you can dance to, from the Dave Matthews white to the Deep Purple zinfandel.
For starters, you can try the Thin Lizzy potato chip nachos ($9) or Sir Paul’s wings ($9). We couldn’t resist the Twisted Sister ($9) and the Walk This Way sliders ($9). With a nod to Dee Snider, we were served a giant soft pretzel still hot from the oven, topped with a creamy cheddar cheese sauce and a sprinkling of lump crabmeat. We love new and different dishes like this one, great to share over drinks and conversation. The sliders are also perfect for sharing – four mini rolls stuffed with slow-cooked pork that’s flavored with a blend of three cheeses and a spicy apple cider barbecue sauce. No lack of flavor with that appetizer, that’s for sure.
If you want to keep dinner casual, there are sandwiches to consider: The Slowhand piled high with pastrami in honor of Eric Clapton, Buffalo Soldier and Free Bird (chicken, of course), Roger Waters with scallops in a wrap, and The King, that peanut butter, jelly and banana-fried sandwich made famous by Elvis Presley. I opted for the Voodoo Child burger ($12.78), a towering assembly of all-natural beef topped with a big beer-battered onion ring, bacon and creamy cheese sauce. Lettuce, tomatoes and mushrooms were also tucked in there, and kudos to the chef, Todd Keister. The tomatoes were beautifully red and flavorful, not the anemic-looking kind too often served in restaurants. Sometimes it’s little things like a truly ripe tomato that make all the difference. That, plus the chef’s unique take on basic pub fare.
The menu headliners were full dinners, only five but nicely varied, from a pad Thai to chicken over fettuccine. Brian gave his full attention to the grass-fed, hormone-free Grilled Sirloin ($26), which came with roasted potatoes and carrots. Brian wisely asked to substitute the roasted po-tatoes with the red bliss hash listed under the side dishes. We are both hash aficionados, and we would go back to Rok Bar & Grill just for their hash, it was that good. The steak was huge and cooked to order, medium rare and in Brian’s words “very tasty.”
When it came to dessert, the Hey Joe chocolate cake, served in a coffee mug with ice cream ($7) satisfied our need for something sweet after such a savory dinner.
As we’ve been known to do when a restaurant offers pizza, we ordered a couple to go for dinner the next night. Reheated in the oven for five or six minutes (never in the microwave), thin grilled pizzas are excellent as leftovers. Rok offers seven pizzas, from the traditional to the decadent. We liked the Margarita ($11) topped with sliced tomatoes, fresh mozzarella and basil, and I loved the Pulled Pork & Cheddar ($12) with its tender meat, not-too-sweet barbecue sauce and plenty of aged cheese.
Main Street in East Greenwich has become Restaurant Row in recent years with all sorts of restaurants, from Asian to Italian, with martini lounges to boot. Rok Bar & Grill is a unique addition to that lively restaurant scene. Rok on!
Linda Beaulieu is the author of The Providence and Rhode Island Cookbook, Second Edition available at stores throughout the state.