I have been up in the Clifton area a lot lately due to work or friends, so I’ve been using this opportunity to bounce around the local bar scene to see what kind of wings they have up in North Jersey. While in one of these bars, I met some people who told me that the wings I was currently eating were crap, and if I wanted some great ones, then I needed to check out a bar called The Rock on Main Ave. That, coupled with a slew of Suggest a Joint requests from Jamie, Tony, and Aileen, made me feel that I would be missing out if I didn’t get my butt in there to try them for myself. So the next time I was up that way, that is exactly what I did.
The Rock Bar & Grill is a small place that has a typical “neighborhood bar” look and feel with an everyone-knows-everyone kind of vibe. We arrived at lunch time so the crowd was pretty thin, but the bartender was pleasant which gave us someone to chat with. We grabbed our drinks and looked over the menu all being guided by the staff to try out the Rock Hot Sauce. From what I’m told, the owner grows his own hot peppers and has been experimenting with different ingredients and peppers to make a new sauce. The Rock Hot Sauce is the result of these ongoing experiments. One week you may have a sweeter sauce, and the next a hotter one, depending on which peppers he was using for that particular batch. So I figured “What the Hell” I’m game, let’s bring the ten wings to me tossed in Hot sauce and add some of the Rock Hot Sauce on the side so I can see how that fares.
When the wings came out, they were deep fried and a bit larger than what you would normally get, but the smell was all too familiar. I took a bite to make sure, and yes, we have another great Frank’s Hot Sauce wing here. You can never go wrong using Frank’s on your wings provided that the chicken is of good quality, which it was. They were not dry, came out pretty hot with a good crisp, and they were definitely filling. But I’m traveling around looking for the Best Buffalo Wing out there, not something that I can find at a ton of different bars right around the block, so I amped it up by adding the Rock Hot Sauce to the remainder of the wings and prepared myself for the owner’s crazy concoction.
What I found was rather pleasing. My hair didn’t fall out, I didn’t start to glow, and my throat didn’t close up and seize on me. In fact, because the owner used fresh peppers, there was a certain refreshing quality to the sauce that supersedes anything you can find out of a bottle. The heat level was not as high as the Frank’s, but it did lay a little sizzle down on my lips, and I could taste the peppers almost as if I just bit right into one. The only set back is that even though this sauce offered a more creative approach, it still lacked that little umph that gets my taste buds jumping.
Overall, the wings here were good, mostly in part because of the Frank’s Red Hot that they use. The only problem is that even though they are tasty and I would most likely get them again, the wings lack originality falling into the classic realm of “Standard Bar Wings.” On the flip-side of things, the Rock Hot Sauce is completely original and has potential to go far, it just isn’t there yet. …yet.
The Rock Bar and Grill
414 Main Ave., Clifton, NJ 07014