Review: Rock Bottom Restaurant and Brewery

I’m going to come out and apologize right now: Rock bottom is not the typical “local establishment” that I like to review on this site. It’s part of a national chain, though not sufficiently dispersed that you’ll find them everywhere—just in 14 states. That said, they do a pretty respectable job of delivering both good beer and a good time. The food is nothing to write home about, but the beer is actually pretty good; I find myself there for a beer with friends far more frequently than I’m there for dinner. Come to think of it, I could say the same for many restaurants. Your mileage may vary.

Rock Bottom Restaurant and Brewery
★★★½☆ ($$)
171 E Bridge St
Homestead, PA 15120
(412) 462-2739

Rock Bottom on Urbanspoon

First off, I like Rock Bottom. It’s a huge facility that is joined at the hip—er, actually at the restrooms—with Sing Sing, the Waterfront’s Dueling Piano Bar (again, same chain). Despite large scale and the fact that they represent such a large national chain, I feel like they are just uncommon and different enough to feel local. And yes, I realize that completely ignores the spirit of the “local food” movement. I’ll go ahead and be pragmatic on this one: as long as I have fun and enjoy the place, there is nothing wrong with being a chain.

A really big space. When you first walk in to Rock Bottom, there is a choice between sitting in the dining room and at the bar. A single enormous room is split—roughly in half, with one side set aside for each usage. The whole space feels over-sized in all dimensions: the ceiling sits at a cathedral worthy height far above the restaurant. Despite the size, the overall decor shines from a general “rustic tidy-ness.” It’s hard to detect any unintentional clutter, but the designers also had no qualms listing beer stats on a giant chalk board hanging from the ceiling between the bar and dining area. I can support that style.

A brewpub’s menu. I have no complains on the food at Rock Bottom, but that’s not what draws me there: I go for the beer. That said, they do have a well-rounded, slightly up-scale menu–more in the direction of The Church Brew Works than, say, Kazansky’s Delicatessen. Think brewpub; after all, that’s what it is. They do get creative and celebrate foods that go well with beer and even make an effort to include beer as an ingredient. Examples: Jambalaya with Red Ale Rice and Asiago Dip with Beer Bread. Beyond the beer-as-an-ingredient theme, they also suggest a beer pairing for many items on the menu. I can’t say I really pay attention to those recommendations, but they might be useful for some of you. The whole menu is on the web, so just take a look for yourself before you head out there for dinner.

My beloved entree salad.
I ordered a Brewer’s Cobb (a classic salad): boasting lots of bacon, cheese, chicken, and a wealth of other toppings. That’s certainly not the most feel-good choice, but I’m a fan of a good Cobb. In fact, I believe my first restaurant salad was a classic cobb. My first impression this time: the salad is huge—way too big to be consumed in any one sitting. It did have lots of good stuff on top: avacado, tomato, gorgonzola, red onion, carrot. In describing my take, I’ll be honest here in saying that I let far too much time pass between writing my review and hitting up Rock Bottom. I can’t remember too many of the details with respect to my actual impressions of the salad. Suffice it to say that it was good, but not so good as to detract from the beer in any way. I’m waiting for pictures from my dining companion, so expect to see an example soon.

All in the beer. The beer at Rock Bottom is brewed in house, and each location has its own brewer providing their own spin on the beer selection. A rotating brewer’s special and a rotating dark offer some variety even for the guy looking to try something different (that would be me). I think this strategy is very effective for them; I’ve seen brew-pubs that brew so many different beers that it’s hard to say they specialize in anything in particular. In those cases, nothing is particularly noteworthy. Rock Bottom safely avoids that fate: even the standard four styles offer a wide range of styles to match every palate: from Lumpy Dog (the light beer) to High Level Brown (a relatively dry, moderately hopped brown ale). The rotating selections even offer an added bonus. My favorite of the standards: the High Level Brown. It’s just a high quality beer. In a pinch, I’ve been known to pick up a growler of the stuff and take it to a party.

Saison. For this particular visit, my primary reason for heading out to Rock Bottom in the first place was the appearance of a Saison (a.k.a farmhouse ale) as one of their rotating options. I have reently starting hearing lots of reference to the style, and I can’t say I know much about it. It’s definitely a genre of beer that I’d like to better understand. Anyway, I ordered a mug of the saison. After all, I am a member of the Mug Club. Actually, my compatriot Erica did so as well. My impression: a big red ale with a lot of malty sweetness. I have since had another example of a saison to find much the same, so it seems as if Rock Bottom was right on style here. Of course, you should take my analysis with a grain of salt: I am clearly no expert.

Will I go back? Most definitely: I currently go back on a regular basis. The place is practically down the hill from my house. If you live anywhere close, you should too. Go for the beer, but don’t hesitate to grab dinner while you’re there. They also host live music on Wednesday nights, making for a fun option for a mid-week outing.

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