Rockit's Relaunch

May 21 2015 - 9:00 AM

Earlier this month, River North’s  Rockit Bar & Grill underwent a complete relaunch featuring a complete redesign and new menu. Partners Billy Dec, Brad Young and Arturo Gomez – along with Michelin-rated Chef, Partner and Food & Beverage Director, Kevin Hickey and Executive Chef and Partner Amanda Downing – revamped the space after a ten year run.

Rockit Ranch Productions collaborated with New York and Chicago-based interior designer Kara Mann to update the space both architecturally and aesthetically. My favorite touch? The gorgeous white marble bar on the restaurant’s main floor.



The beverage program features unique cocktails, an extensive craft beer program, and wines that pair well with the new food menu. A new draft system with more than 22 handles gives beer enthusiasts a wide selection of local and global craft beers to choose from. The wine and champagne list rounds out the beverage menu.




Award-winning Executive Chef and Partner Amanda Downing, Rockit’s Executive Chef since the beginning, worked closely with Michelin-rated Chef Kevin Hickey, Partner and Food & Beverage Director, to create the new menu which features modern American dishes with new items and a few old favorites including Rockit Pockets, and the famous wagyu beef Rockit Burger.

Open for lunch, dinner and brunch, Rockit’s updated menu features items such as:

  • Crispy Pork & Broccoli Salad (pictured below)- Fried pork belly nuggets with Brussels sprouts, broccoli, walnuts, medjool dates and Hook’s 5 year cheddar – tossed in a sherry vin with garlic and shallots.
  • Not Your Mama’s Tot Casserole (pictured below) – Braised short rib, crimini mushrooms and pearl onions, topped with truffle tots and melted Gruyere cheese.
  • Abe Froman – Foot-long house recipe smoked beef and pork sausage made with beer and mustard seed, topped with griddled onions, spicy house made giardinera, and beer mustard on a poppy seed bun.
  • Buffalo Joe – Two ghost chile bison sloppy joe sandwiches on New England rolls, topped with a carrot/Brussels sprouts/bell pepper grain mustard slaw and served with French fries.
  • Pork Belly Nuggets – Braised cubed and fried pork belly tossed in a smoked paprika and lemon spice mix, topped with scallions.


Everything I tried was fantastic, from the cocktails to the salads and entrees. I highly recommend the crispy pork and broccoli salad (I know what you’re thinking “a salad?!” but trust me on this one), tater tot casserole, and lamb nachos!

Check out the new space and menu the next time you’re in River North!





Spiced Beet Cocktail

Country of Origin: USA
Main Spirit: tequila

tequila, mezcal, beet, ginger, lime, lemon, brown sugar

Love ’em or hate ’em, beets are a staple of spring farmers markets. And though they don’t appear in cocktails very often, the earthy little buggers actually pair remarkably well with grassy, vegetal tequila.

In this recipe from Market-Fresh-Mixology: Cocktails for Every Season, the two come together with some ginger spice to make a bold, dark stunner of a cocktail. Using a little bit of mezcal as suggested below will provide a complex layer of smoky goodness, but if you don’t have a bottle handy you can round the tequila up to a full 2 ounces.

Read more about market-inspired cocktails here and make sure to check out our chat with this drink’s creator, Bridget Albert.

Spiced Beet Cocktail
Bridget Albert with Mary Barranco, Market-Fresh Mixology: Cocktails for Every Season

  • 2 oz spiced beet juice (see below)
  • 1 1/2 oz silver (blanco) tequila
  • 1/2 oz mezcal
  • 2/3 oz lemon juice
  • 1/3 oz simple syrup
  • 1 beet leaf, garnish

To mixing glass, add silver tequila, mezcal, cooled beet juice, lemon and simple syrup. Add ice to tin. Shake well. Strain into a cocktail glass and garnish with a beet leaf.

Spiced Beet CocktailSpiced Beet Juice
(makes about 2 ounces)

  • 1 beet (peeled and sliced)
  • Juice of 3 limes
  • 2 barspoons brown sugar
  • Pinch of ground ginger

To saute pan, add sliced beet, lime juice, sugar and ground ginger. Cover and simmer on medium heat for about 10 minutes, or until beets are tender. Stir occasionally. Remove beets. Let liquid cool.

Photo and recipe courtesy of Agate Publishing.


Warding Circle

Country of Origin: USA
Main Spirit: rye whiskey

rye whiskey, amaro, sherry, salt

Mike Ryan’s chocolatey broVo Amaro No. 14 is great for mixing, adding a rich depth and a layer of savory thyme. This Manhattan-ish drink will drive the last of the winter chills away.

For the rye, Ryan suggests using something 90 proof or above “with some backbone” like Wild Turkey 101 or Bulleit and for the sherry, he suggest Lustau. “Garnish,” he says, “with a roaring fire and a blanket and a view of a chilly mountainside.”

Learn more about the broVo Spirits Amaro project here.

broVo Amaro CocktailsWarding Circle
Mike Ryan, Sable, Chicago

1 1/2 oz rye
1/2 oz broVo Amaro No 14
3/4 oz pedro ximenez sherry
1 very small pinch of salt (kosher, not iodized)

Stir all ingredients together with ice and strain over a large chunk of ice, or serve up in a chilled cocktail coupe.


Bitter Giuseppe No. 16

Country of Origin: USA
Main Spirit: Amaro

Amaro, sweet vermouth, lemon, orange bitters

Stephen Cole – one of the forces behind The Barrelhouse Flat and Lone Wolf – originally constructed this curious drink using Cynar, an artichoke-based amaro with rich flavors of chocolate and light citrus. As one of his favorite amari, Cole authored his broVo Amaro No. 16 as an homage to it, but with unique additions such as sandlewood and oris root as well as a spicy peppercorn finish.

Using Amaro No. 16 in place of the Cynar changes the drink a bit, but both liqueurs are built to expand when mixed; those tight complex flavors gain a bit of space to spread out and shine.

Learn more about the broVo Spirits Amaro project here.

broVo Amaro CocktailsBitter Giuseppe No. 16

Adapted from a recipe by Stephen Cole, The Barrelhouse Flat and Lone Wolf, Chicago

-2 oz broVo Amaro No. 16
-1 oz Carpano Antica sweet vermouth
-1/4 oz fresh lemon juice
-6 dashes Regan’s Orange Bitters
-lemon peel, garnish

Stir ingredients with ice and strain into a rocks glass over fresh ice. Garnish with a lemon peel.


The Embittered

Country of Origin: USA
Main Spirit: Irish whiskey

Irish whiskey, lemon, simple syrup, Angostura bitters, wine

Irish whiskey can sometimes be so light and easy-drinking that it gets covered up and lost in a cocktail. But the more robust varieties – like those we recommend as our top picks – can stand-up well when mixed.

This highball from Hubbard Inn in Chicago is a play on the New York Sour, a classic traditionally made with full-bodied Scotch and a float of wine. Here, barman Jason Felsenthal swaps in Jameson Black Barrel for a sweeter, lighter base, but adds a few heavy dashes of Angostura bitters to make things snap.

When mixed, the drink should have a lovely two-tone effect… the dark wine and bitters creeping their tendrils into the lighter cocktail below. Stir to combine. Or not.

The EmbitteredThe Embittered
Jason Felsenthal, Hubbard Inn, Chicago

2 ounces Jameson Black Barrel Whiskey
1 ounce lemon juice
1 ounce simple syrup
1/2 ounce Malbec wine
2 dashes of Angostura Bitters

Combine the whiskey, lemon and simple syrup in a cocktail shaker with ice and shake until cold. Strain into a highball glass with fresh ice, then dash in the bitters. Carefully pour the wine over the back of a bar spoon held just above the drink so the wine floats on the surface, creating a nice two-tone effect.