Red Rock Deli could escape your notice for a variety of reasons, starting with the name: three mundane words that conjure up routine sandwiches and mediocre coffee. Even the exterior is nondescript, save for a sign on the front sidewalk beckoning drivers. It’s hardly reason to pull over to investigate. But in this former Subway space you will find pure magic in the mish-mash of Polish, Chicago and German favorites, all served with infectious enthusiasm.
Paul Toczek is the guy you will likely see at Red Rock, manning the store full of European imports and taking food orders. He will suggest you order the pierogies. Order the pierogies. Specify “Russian Roulette” ($5.99) to receive a half dozen with fillings you won’t know until tasting each one. It doesn’t matter which six arrive on your plate, whether beef or beet or cabbage or something else entirely – they are all phenomenal.
Next: time to choose your adventure, staying “local” by ordering a Chicago dog ($4.49) or a Lincoln Pork Chop sandwich ($7.49) straight outta the culinary traditions of Iowa. The latter is crisply breaded, fried to suntan-brown and wedged into a burger bun. This brings back Midwestern memories faster than you can say “you betcha.”
I have some desire to travel farther – eastern Europe to be specific. The Polish/German plate ($5.99) nestles bratwurst or a Polish sausage with a side of potato salad or cabbage.
Do yourself a favor and get another side of the side you didn’t order. It’s almost too much food for one person but that hardly stops me from inhaling darn near all of it, each bite of sausage more delicious than the last, especially with dabs of nose-tingling spicy mustard.
Adventurous? Add a link of black sausage to the plate, thickened by rice and darkened by blood. It’s earthy and mild and wonderful. Another traditional favorite are Cabbage Rolls ($6.99) stewed until tender with their payload of spiced ground beef and rice.
Throughout the meal, Toczek will ask how everything is tasting, and the kitchen staff (all one of them on my visit) might poke their head out to see who is ordering the traditional dishes. There’s a sense of camaraderie and joy as customers wander in to discover chocolate bars they last saw in Frankfurt or take home a jar of borscht ready to heat and serve. Even the pierogies are in the freezer case, made by hand and with love, lest you think the presence of packaging lessens their quality.
Finish the meal with Nalesniki ($3.99), barely sweet crepes filled with soft cheese and fried in butter, served with sour cream. It’s yet one more revelatory treat on this menu of unusual delights.