Not much has changed at Rockit Wrigley since it became Rockit Burger Bar. There's gorgeous new signage echoing its new theme, and the staff wears new shirts. But it offers the same cozy, lodge-like atmosphere and easy-going, friendly service it always did. As always, very un-Wrigleyville. (GOOD.)
Really, not much has changed. Except, y'know, the entire menu: There are now 16 between-buns creations taking center stage, with a few "Not Burgers" thrown in for good measure.
My friend Matt and I attended a preview event on April 4, the night before the Cubs home opener and Rockit Burger Bar's official transformation, and Executive Chef Amanda Downing was buzzing around the restaurant, giddy to be unleashing these beefy little monsters on the media. Billy Dec himself was wandering around, too, and asked us why we were chose the particular burgers we planned to order…before whipping out his iPhone to show us photos of his newborn baby born unwittingly flipping the bird at the camera.
It was all about us that night. The staff was in "all hands on deck" mode, slinging cocktails and sharing passed appetizers in the bar. This craft beer lover was pleased to find that Rockit Burger Bar has upped its selection of fine brews to keep pace with the vast array of meaty options. And for what it's worth, Matt wouldn't shut up about a boozy concoction known as Rockit Punch. (Think of it as that little cartoon guy in the Hawaiian shirt…only ragingly drunk. That's Rockit Punch.)
Matt and I each got to pick whatever we wanted from the now-extensive menu of burgers, turkey burgers and chicken sandwiches. And it didn't seem right to try anything but an actual burger that night…so I ordered the Johnny Apple burger, a beautifully cooked patty topped with two thick wedges of brie, two strips of bacon, a pecan aioli and a nest of matchstick-cut Gala apples.
Matt ordered the Farmhouse burger, a black angus patty with fried egg, pulled pork and bacon. The curly fries that came with it were reminiscent of my finest memories of senior year open lunch runs to Arby's. And that's a good thing.
Celiacs and gluten intolerants, beware: These fries are dipped in whey before going into the fryer to help them keep their shape and hold the seasoning in place. But if whey doesn't get in your way, get those damn curly fries.
Or maybe waffle fries are more your style. Rockit Burger Bar's won't disappoint. In the interest of balanced journalism, I asked to try a few before I left — and of course, the lovely Jaley brought us an entire basket, straight out of the fryer. They were salty and greasy. Just perfect.
Beyond the bun
The best things we tried at Rockit Burger Bar had nothing to do with burgers. Hilariously. (Kind of. [Not really.])
Goose Island–battered onion rings, fried to a perfect crunchiness, actually did achieve that perfect balance of savory and sweet for me. And the accompanying red pepper aioli was just lovely. Pro tip: Skip this place if you're on a diet. There is something mayo- or cheese-based in almost every. single. dish.
The buffalo chicken macaroni and cheese, topped with buttermilk blue cheese and snips of chive, has just enough spicy sauce mixed into the cheese itself to be dangerous.
I'm excited for this transformation — I'm sure, a few weeks into the new "season," the kitchen will be a well-oiled machine ready for everything the Cubs crowds demand and more.
I'll be returning to try the turkey burger (with avocado and chipotle mayo on a seriously legit pretzel bun) and a chicken sandwich called the Buffalo Bluebird (breaded and fried, topped with blue cheese and served on the same pretzel bun). There are plenty of other burgers to choose from, too — take a look at Rockit Burger Bar's shiny new website for a peek at the full menu.
And once I've tried everything on the menu (ha!), I'll keep coming back, of course…because Rockit Burger Bar will always be my friendly confines in the Wrigleyville restaurant world.