The main draw of Rock City Books & Coffee in Rockland used to be, obviously, the coffee. It’s roasted in house, served from a full coffee bar and draws praise from die-hard java junkies. It’s a major part of what turned the business into a gathering place for the community.
Now that the Rockland restaurant has moved to its new digs a few doors down from its old spot on Main Street, there has been a change in the menu. The new Rock City Cafe now offers an array of tapas-inspired dishes for dinner, served from 5-9 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday, created and cooked by Chef Nick Krunkkala. There’s also a Sunday brunch that’s growing in popularity.
But don’t worry: you can still get coffee, pastries and sandwiches for lunch. The bookstore has morphed into Hello Hello Books, located in the back third of the business, so you can buy reading material and bring it into the cafe. And there’s still plenty of sunshine and people-watching to be had from big windows looking out onto Main Street.
Krunkkala began serving up his creative comfort food in late October, and while the serving sizes reflect the tapas culture of Spain, the food is more American in nature. A single diner could eat two dishes for a meal — three if they’re very hungry — or order up four or five to split with a friend. It’s a novel setup for a menu and it’s one that allows the diner a chance to try all the things they might want to order, as dishes range in price from $4 to $14. You don’t have to pick just one — and there’s also a new wine and beer list to choose from.
Starter dishes include crispy Pesto Onion Rings served with a smoky tomato dipping sauce. The pesto is mixed into the batter, and Krunkkala uses red onions for added sweetness. They’re excellent, and for those who are already fans of things that are deep fried, they are probably worth a special trip to Rock City just to try them. A Brussels Sprout Hash is less successful — the creamy Dijon sauce applied to the sprouts and shallots is a bit heavy, though tasty. The Kale Salad offers up a huge wedge of nutritious greens topped with shallots, walnuts and a tangy cranberry dressing — you’d have no idea this likely is the healthiest dish on the menu.
The entree small plates — a bit of an oxymoron, but we’ll go with it — are where Krunkkala really shines. He clearly has a way with both beef and pork, judging by the Pork Osso Bucco, which features small, tender pork shanks braised in Moxie barbecue sauce. The Coffee-Rubbed Bistro Steak also stands out. The Fried Green Tomato Stack feels far more decadent than it actually is — three heavy-duty slabs of green tomato coated in a corn meal batter and stacked with goat cheese and excellent thick-cut bacon, finished with a spicy aioli. You will not want to share. Desserts could be any of the pies, cookies and other treats Rock City always has made — but Krunkkala’s desserts change daily and range from a delicately flavored Coffee Panna Cotta to hearty Pumpkin Bread Pudding.
The Sunday brunch menu, served from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., features all the usual brunch favorites with the addition of items such as Cheddar Chive Biscuits, Bourbon French Toast, Maple Sweet Potato Donuts and a house-made bacon jam. For the truly ravenous — or for those who perhaps indulged a bit too much the night prior — there’s Chicken Fried Steak and Eggs. All accompanied by loads of Rock City Coffee. Some things change, but thankfully, others stay the same.