I was hesitant when Samantha suggested we go to the ‘Rockford Grill’ for dinner. She had been before and was impressed. I had driven by the North Vancouver location hundreds of times and the décor is eye-catching. Why was I hesitant? This restaurant has obviously lasted beyond culinary infancy, when so many others fail. Is this a sign of quality, or deep pockets? After all The Rockford does have numerous locations. Perhaps my apprehension to this location lay deep in my past. For decades, this spot was the home of North Vancouver’s only: Burger King Franchise. At seven years old the play-area was the scene of carnage when a boy pulled back on the massive, spring-based teeter totter and released it into my face. I also recall one visit, when a man grabbed the counter-person’s micro phone and sloppily yelled his order for the restaurant to hear, and repeated, multiple times. My Father and I would often go. The counter, full of freshly assembled crowns would be my first stop. Of course there were my teenage years. At lunch-time I would race in my crowded ‘first car’ to Burger King. The whopper poutine combo was one of my first loves. Who couldn’t fall for fluorescent orange gravy over fries and cheese-curds?Maybe it was the familiar smell of the char broilers that I missed. You could smell them from the Lionsgate. I don’t think it was the 20 pounds I gained between grade 11 & 12 that I missed (dam poutine). Yes, I know the new Burger King location is just down the road, but it’s just not the same. All of this nostalgia hadgotten me in the mood for a burger. A quick check on the website and I learned the Rockford has a decent selection of burgers on the menu.
When we arrived at the entrance of the Rockford, we were greeted by the hostess opening the door. We decided to sit in the lounge because the game was on. This restaurant’s modern-fusion design and strategic lighting was impressive. It was spotless and the seats were very comfortable. We arrived just after 6pm which would account for the vacant tables. Our early arrival also made us eligible for ‘happy hour deals’, along with a few other specials in honor of the Canucks game showing on all of the LCD televisions. A ‘Burger Beer’ deal was one of the promotions for just over $10. We ordered two appy’s from the deal menu, and the burger and beer (substituted with pops) promotion. Samantha and I both added Swiss cheese to our burgers. Our appetizers arrived after just a few minutes. The shrimp gyoza’s were plain. Sometimes I wonder if what I like about gyoza is the dip. The other appetizer we ordered was the: Gardein Ginger Beef. I was impressed by the portion of this $6-special appy. This dish was made from a beef substitute which was a combination of veg-protein, soy, and ancient grain. This reminded me of a restaurant in Victoria called ‘The Lotus Pond’ which serves Asian food with meat substitutes. I was pleasantly surprised by the flavour and texture in this dish. As we worked through, I realized thecylinder the ginger beef was served in was full of small battered-onions which accounted for what I thought was a generous portion size (tacky yes, but not un-common in restaurants). I was suspicious that the ginger sauce was out of a jar. If so, I’d like to find out where I can buy it, because it was good! Around this time our waitress arrived with a bucket full of hockey pucks, with player’s names written on them. We each picked one. If our player scored during our visit we would receive one free appy. I am a huge fan of restaurants who offer little contests for free food. It makes the visit more exciting. To top it off my puck had #33, HenrikSedin.
The burgers arrived with a nice presentation. The fries were above average, and I asked for my pickled cucumbers on the side. Upon closer inspection, and few bites, I was disappointed. The patty was not made in-house. The buns were definitely from the freezer. You can see in my picture, the rippled-defrosted appearance on the top of one of them. Frozen buns eh! Gordon Ramsey’s face would rumple up like an old discarded sock at this revelation. Now, most restaurants use at least some products from the freezer and after all it was only $10. I can’t blame a corporate-eatery for trying to save some money. I have had much-much worse for $10. The most disappointing thing about this burger was the slice of cheese. It was much smaller than the patty. It was almost like they cut one slice in half for our two burgers. I tried to take a picture but the shot of the cheese turned out looking like a dollop of mayonnaise.HenrikSedin happened to pop in a goal with his skate and it was ruled legit. The guy at the booth across the way gave me a toothy thumbs-up. Whew, that takes care of the shrimp gyoza. I informed the waitress and tried to give the winning puck back. She informed me I could keep it, just in case Hankscored again. I thought that was cool.
For dessert we ordered the ‘Rockslide’ to share. In the menu it was described as “Vanilla bean gelato smothered in dark chocolate sauce, chopped fresh strawberries, crushed vanilla wafers, whipped cream, and mint”. I guess when I read “Rockslide” I thought “Mudslide”. When it arrived, it was not at all what I had expected. I guess it did look like a jumbled rockslide on the Seas to Sky. The chocolate sauce tasted like it was squeezed out of a Nestle bottle. I don’t know if I’d describe this dessert as “smothered in dark chocolate sauce”. The bowl was swirled with it. The chopped strawberries were not ripe, and the large strawberry (in the middle/top of the picture) had part of the stub on it. The vanilla wafers looked and tasted like someone crumpled up an ice-cream cone, purchase in bulk from the dollar store. It isn’t all a loss, the gelato was great. We then did something that everyone fears when dinning, we put it to the side of the table, barely touched. Immediately the server asked if we wanted something else. This is a “homerun” for me in the all-important “service” aspect of dinning out. We did order the “sticky chocolate date pudding”. This dessert was fantastic. The pudding/cake was moist and fluffy and the chocolate-butterscotch sauce (yes it could have been Nestle) was not over powering. This was one of our best desserts yet and highly recommended.
I am not sure why restaurants serve frozen burger patties and buns. It’s not like a bulk purchase of ground beef is going to break-the bank. Fresh buns every morning would seem like a no-brainer to me. I know spoilage is an unwanted expense, but always a reality. This chain obviously spent a fortune on décor and design, so why skimp on the main reason we are there, the food. Our bill only came to $46 with tip and tax (partially in thanks to Hank). I did see many other items on the menu that appealed to me including some good looking reasonably priced steaks. A large selection of stir-fry’s appealed too. I was happy to see a brunch menu for weekends and holidays. We did find out that the most pleasurable part of this experience, the “sticky chocolate date pudding” was the only dessert made “in-house”. This is obviously a mixed review of ‘Rockford’ but I will certainly be back………… they have ‘Eggs Benedict Poutine’ on the brunch menu!