For five years, Red Rock Deli sat inconspicuously in a strip mall on Lomas near Tramway, the restaurant’s name giving no indication of its focus on Polish cuisine.
Now that it’s moved to a more central location near San Mateo and Interstate 40, the restaurant is poised to assume a higher profile.
Red Rock’s interior, with booths and tables shoehorned into a Polish food market, has been transplanted largely intact from the Lomas site. It’s cramped, stuffy and noisy with the hum and rattle of fans and old freezers.
The menu also remains the same, with a selection of Polish specialties for less than $10. Offerings such as kiszka, a blood sausage, and stuffed potato dumplings called pyzy read like high-scoring words in Scrabble. It’s heavy food, much of it loaded with sauerkraut, pork and sour cream. Plan to share and take home some leftovers.
An exception is the borscht ($3.99). The cold beet soup, served in a coffee mug along with slices of roasted baby potatoes, can easily be downed in one sitting. Red Rock’s version incorporates sour cream and the yogurt-like drink kefir that lighten it to a shade of fuchsia and balance the sweetness of the beets. The soup, thick with chopped and shredded vegetables and topped with half a hard-boiled egg, is, like everything else here, a good value.
Red Rock turns out excellent pierogis, filled dumplings that are a staple of Polish cuisine. A sampler called the Russian Roulette ($7.99) presents six pierogis with different fillings, pan-fried and served around a cup of sour cream. For an extra dollar, you can get them fried with onions and bacon. They have some caramelization from the frying that plays well off the fillings, particularly the potato and cheese version.
The Polish sausage, served under a pile of sauerkraut in a mini-baguette ($6.99), is expertly prepared, with snapping skin over a juicy grind of pork flavored with garlic. Each bite brings heat from the jalapeños and mustard and tartness from the sauerkraut, and the baguette holds it all together.
Red Rock’s wiener schnitzel ($9.35), a pork chop hammered thin and then breaded and fried, sprawls over an entire plate, forcing the sides of potato salad and kraut salad onto a separate vessel. The schnitzel breading was crisp, well-seasoned and nicely browned, but the pork was on the dry side and could have used some applesauce to cool the heat of the spicy brown mustard.
Light, bright and lemony, a dessert of nalesniki ($4.99) presents a welcome contrast to all the heavy food that preceded it. Delicate crepes are wrapped around sweet farmer cheese, similar to cottage cheese but with a firmer texture, and served with strawberry sauce. Equally successful was the slice of an almond roll with fresh blueberries, an off-menu item that was given to us free in a to-go container as a gesture of thanks for all the food we ordered.
At its new location, Red Rock Deli retains the qualities that made the old place a favorite among devoted foodies. Don’t go in expecting fine china and soothing ambiance – just authentic, well-prepared Polish food.