Rocky’s Pub on Mansfield’s town square.
MANSFIELD, OH. – For many people, me included, one of the fun parts of traveling is discovering the local flavor. While many of us think of that as wine, it certainly is restaurants, arts, and much more.
I travel for work in the fall and love to explore restaurants. Two years ago during a trip to Northwest Ohio my traveling companion and I discovered Rocky’s Pub in Mansfield, Ohio.
We dined there again Friday night and it really was delightful. Passing judgment on a restaurant should mirror reviewing wine. You have to judge the wine, or restaurant, for what it is. There are great $12 bottles of wine and great $250 bottles of wine. But they are different animals – the same goes for restaurants.
Rocky’s Pub is certainly not a pub at all. While the name Rocky conjures up the image of pub food and toughness, this 37-year Mansfield fixture is fine dining on the town square in this community of 47,000 – best known for its nearby Mid-Ohio racetrack.
It’s the kind of place you might walk by, and without a recommendation, never walk in. It’s rather roughhewn on the exterior as the photo shows. Inside it’s dark with strings of lights, stained glass and candles.
The quirky bar was full at 7 p.m. but had emptied by 9.
But it’s about the food and wine, isn’t it? Executive Chef Sally Nesta serves up a consistent menu of Norwegian Salmon, Italian standards, Lake Erie Walleye, Scrod, and nightly specials. The Friday night specials included a spicy stuffed pepper, Kobe Ribeye, and rack of lamb.
The wine list was varied with the usual markups. It was weighted to the bottom of the price scale with Woodbridge and Kendall Jackson prevalent. But it also included a Barolo, Chateau St. Jean Cabernet, a meritage from Washington state, and Wente Chardonnay.
I had the rack of lamb with rosemary that was perfectly cooked to medium rare. It was moist and delicious. My only complaint was it needed a little salt and pepper. My dinner companion had the wild mushroom pasta that he described as flavorful with wonderful mushrooms.
I scoured the wine list and we ordered a $29 bottle of Cantina Pedres Cerasio Cannonau. Or you can call it Grenache from Sardinia, Italy. It was light in body but pleasant with nice fruit and a soft finish. It worked well with my lamb and the pasta. Judging from the markup on the other labels, the wine was marked up 100 percent from retail.
The sides, salad, and a wonderful crusty bread were as good as you’ll find in most fine dining restaurants.
My only squibble with Rocky’s was the staffing. Our waitress was wonderful but overworked. By my count, she had 8-9 tables on a busy Friday night. There are about 25 tables in the restaurant excluding the bar. On top of serving, the waitresses had to bus tables as well. One bus boy/girl could make a big difference in the customer service.
If you have reason to drive into Northeastern Ohio along I-71, Rocky’s Pub in Mansfield is worth the trip off the interstate, five miles perhaps. It’s an old-fashioned fine dining restaurant that seldom exists in most cities. The food is quite good and atmosphere a tad eclectic. Most diners are going to love it.