The Rockhill Grille
Five things to know about the newest addition to the Crossroads
House-made tater tots
The former Cashew space at 2000 Grand Blvd. has been transformed into a sleek, stylish new restaurant called The Rockhill Grille, which is named for William Rockhill Nelson, who co-founded The Kansas City Star in 1880. It certainly does feel like important things are meant to happen here, what with the rich, tufted gray booths and handsome cerulean chairs. The masculine bar in the center of the dining room is softened by the massive bay windows and white accents. Zach Marten and Bret Springs — the partners behind Back Napkin Restaurant Group, which owns The Rockhill Grille and its Lawrence sister, RND Corner Grille, as well as several other area restaurants — must have envisioned power lunches and romantic dinners equally at this sophisticated spot. If your midweek social needs a bit of spiffing up, The Rockhill Grille is the place for it.
Cocktails at The Rockhill Grille are a big affair thanks to bar manager — and Liquid Minded Concepts partner — Mark Church. The eight signature drinks Church has crafted are diverse enough to please just about anyone, but we’re particularly enthusiastic about the Where There’s Smoke, There’s Fire. Made with Del Maguey Crema de Mezcal, a from-scratch melon shrub, lemon and habanero bitters, this little south-of-the-border-inspired beauty is served over crushed ice in a rocks glass, an almost-blended, smooth and tangy offering to the mezcal gods. There’s a little bit of heat in this cocktail — just enough to make you feel dangerous — but the citrus brightens it up. With this gem, it can be summer all year round. The rest of Church’s drinks inspire similar admiration, like the Southern Sling (featuring Four Roses bourbon and a vanilla-peach syrup) and The Colonel (with Scotch, Campari, sweet vermouth and an iced toddy made with Thou Mayest coffee).
While Church’s drink menu may be convincing enough to steer you into a liquid lunch, The Rockhill Grille’s appetizer selection will at least ensure that you don’t get too sloshed before your afternoon presentation. Sober up with some carbs via the house-made tater tots — round, quarter-sized balls stuffed with jalapeño cheese and served with ketchup and garlic aioli for dipping. Honestly, forget the condiments — just pop one of these gooey bites into your mouth and congratulate yourself on your good decisions. Don’t skip the pig wings, either: delicate pork shank roasted in a sharp mustard vinaigrette that falls off the bone is meant to be consumed quickly and ferociously.
The Rockhill Grille’s entrees run the gamut, from a house cheeseburger to duck confit. We have a feeling that if we asked them for a grilled cheese to cure our hangover, they probably wouldn’t bat an eye. But Rockhill’s cedar-smoked salmon sounded too good to pass up, and we were not disappointed. This fat fillet — prepared to a perfect medium — has an arresting presentation: a pretty portion of basmati rice as white as baby’s breath, on top of which rests a slice of cedar wood. The salmon is proud atop the cedar, with peperonata — stewed peppers, tomatoes and onions — ladled overtop. A drizzle of balsamic finishes off the plate. It’s a healthy, protein-rich dish that eats so well, it feels a bit naughty. We’re not mad at that.
Strawberry Rhubarb Crumble
Whatever you do, don’t skip out on the desserts at Rockhill. Your options are plenty — banana cream pie, chocolate torte, a house-made long john doughnut filled with bourbon-Bavarian cream — but what got us was the strawberry rhubarb crumble. Chunks of fruit are mixed together with chopped walnuts, topped with a brown sugar-and-oat mixture. This is laid out in a piping-hot cast iron pot, then topped with a generous scoop of vanilla ice cream. It’s a remarkably simple recipe, tried and true, and Rockhill accomplishes it beautifully. There is no pretense about what this decidedly Midwestern dessert is meant for: comfort food, and nothing but. And what sweet comfort it brings.
The Rockhill Grille is open Monday through Wednesday 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. and Thursday to Saturday 11 a.m. to midnight. For more information, call (816) 389-5800 or visit therockhillgrille.com.