Doin’ It Up Southern-Style
By Bill Gerdes
Charley Rokk’s Authentic Texas BBQ in Riverside measures up to the real thing, hell, it is the real thing, in that it conforms to some of the basic guidelines for any great barbeque restaurant. Some of these are easy and everyone knows them. First, the place has to either be of the shotgun shack, or giant-neon-pig-with-an-apple-in-its-mouth variety. Charley’s is shack style; with a four or five non-descript tables and a TV blasting Channel 9. Two, the service needs to be great and honest—no fake patter, no “are you done working on that?” jive. And third, they’d never ask that in the first place because with classic Southern barbeque, the customers are done when the plates are scraped clean.
Charley Rokk’s plates are Styrofoam containers but the food inside them is worthy of grandma’s silverware, not due to its inherent fanciness, but its lip-smacking tastiness. Their macaroni and cheese is the perfect example of the home-style stuff, perfectly cooked shells immersed in semi-congealing chunks of cheesy sauce, with just a touch of heat. Their Cajun rice is even better. Whiter than a traditional dirty rice, peppery, and with scallions scattered throughout, it’s a cleaner version of the original and I could have eaten vats of it.
BBQ involves meat though—smoked meats, marinated meats and sauced meats, and with Herman Cain laying down the gauntlet on carne recently (mas meat on Godfather’s Pizza equals mas manly) I knew I needed to leave some room for the hot link sandwich, which is pretty friggin‘ nice truth be told. The beef link itself is nicely spiced, and when combined with the semi-sweet, yet gradually evolving spiciness of the sauce, really, well, rokks. What truly makes this sucker unique though is the creamy cole slaw layered on top of the links that gives the whole thing an awesome texture and taste profile. The crunch of the slaw meshes well with the links, and the creamy coolness of the slaw helps put out any fire from the spice. It’s a perfectly designed sandwich only slightly hampered by the rather sad Kaiser roll its engineered around—let’s just say I think they served the same rolls at my aunt Millie’s 50th birthday party in 1982.
The opportunities to man up on meat here abound. Dinner options include a sampler platter of ribs, tri-tip and chicken, a full rack of pork ribs or the large chicken spaghetti special for 10 bucks, which I didn’t see but me thinks must be massive. They’ve also got pie, sweet potato, million-dollar and peach cobbler, all made on site.
Charley Rokk’s Authentic Texas BBQ, 5145 Jurupa Ave., Ste. G-4, Riverside, (951) 774-0039; www.CharleyRokksBBQ.com. Tues-Thurs, 11AM-8PM; Fri-Sat, 11AM-9PM. AE, MC, V.