Rocky's Soup or 'Balls

Review by Salem Man

If your stomach is grumbling and you find yourself over on Lancaster, you'll be hard pressed to find a good local restaurant. That's the situation I was in around 2pm, scanning the strip malls for something less scary then the sea of greasy chains that advertise to travelers along the busy boulevard. Then when you see a place that looks halfway decent, you better hope that someone lets you cross traffic, making a left hand turn can be tricky. Luckily, I saw a restaurant with plenty of parking out front inside the LannySun strip mall. It's one of those restaurants I've seen a hundred times but never got around to going in.

Rocky's Soup or 'Balls is a local favorite in NE Salem, just ask any of the locals. According to a friend, the $3.45 Sockaroni Spaghetti Marinara lunch special often sells out. The "'balls" or meatballs is also a big seller. With that in mind, I was eager to give it a try. Cheap/frugal eats is my thing.
When I walked in, I was surprised at the decor of old fishing poles and tackle along the walls. Rocky must be an avid fisherman because they have poles from just about any type of fishing imaginable, from deep sea to fly rods. And some of them looked like they had been used recently. One of the spin cast poles was baited with a Rapala jig. When I went to touch it it was still wet. After that encounter with the lure, I went into a mode where I could not touch anything until my hand was sterilized with bathroom soup and hot water. With my uncontaminated hand I was able to pull off an order of the Sockaroni at the counter, removing cash from my wallet with agile fingers. For under four bucks I figured I can't go wrong. That's when I saw the first sign of things going wrong. On the way to the bathroom, I peeked into the kitchen to see the cooking staff eating Pizza Hut pasta from the tops of the cardboard pizza boxes. I can almost excuse the PH pasta but don't they have clean plates they could eat off of. As I soaked my hand in the steaming bathroom faucet, I decided to take another look into the kitchen on my return. On this inspection, I noticed all the workers had left and near the sink, was a huge pile of dirty dishes from the lunch crowd waiting in bus trays at the entrance of a dented stainless steel restaurant style washing machine. The dining room tables didn't seem very clean either. I grabbed a stack of napkins from the front counter to wipe the garlic bread crumbs from the only table around that didn't have sauce or some type of moisture spills on it. I almost demanded my money back and walked out but the guy operating the counter was nowhere to be found.
That's when the front door opened and a big sweaty guy with a brown mustache walked in carrying a couple of fishing poles. He looked at me sitting in the filthy restaurant hung his rods on the wall and strutted quickly around the counter into the back. Then the screaming in Spanish started happening in the kitchen. I know only a little of that language but it was obvious these guys were getting fired on the spot. One fellow walked past me and out the front door. After the commotion the bushy lipped angler came over to where I was sitting and apologized for his restaurants shoddy appearance. Above the pocket of his shirt, his name was embroidered in cursive, Rocky. That's when I noticed his shirt was bloodied from cleaning cod all morning at sea. He asked what I had ordered and said he was going to make my plate himself. At that point, I knew there was no way I was going to eat anything here but I wanted to snap a picture for the blog. When Rocky brought the dish to the table he smelled of cigarette smoke and apologized one last time before heading over to the cash register. It's tricky getting a shot of food when the owner is nearby but I didn't care. I just snapped two pix stood up and left. As I opened the door to the rainy afternoon, Rocky yelled over at me complaining that he wasted his time making the dish and I 'm going to leave without even trying it. I just kept my mouth shut and thought the only person whose time was wasted was mine.

35 comments:

KandN said...

Oh my gosh! That's a great story! Couldn't have been much fun to experience, though.
I hope you ended up finding SOMEthing to eat?

Anonymous said...

I don't think those guys were fired, they were in there last night. Don't let that experience turn you away from Rocky's, order to go, the food is really good.

jeff said...

Interesting. I don't think I even knew of that restaurant, and I figured to have most of Lancaster down flat.

Try Michelangelo's on the other end of Lancaster across from the Santiam 11.

Jenna said...

Wow...just...wow. That's a shame. Salem could use more places for good pasta. Our choices are pretty limited.

Anonymous said...

Get it to go and order on the weekends when Rocky's there. The meatballs in my opinion are the best in town and if they had a category for soup on the Statesman Journal poll they would win hands down. The lunches are very busy because the food is so good. You caught them on a bad day.

Anonymous said...

You review a restaurant and you don't even try the food? That's pathetic. We love Rocky's and eat there almost every weekend. Why don't you stick to eating in South Salem.

Anonymous said...

et tu, Caesar??

mama2dylan said...

Anonymous said...

"and if they had a category for soup on the Statesman Journal poll they would win hands down."

Obviously you haven't tried Queen of Tarts (daily) made from scratch soups. It's their speciality. :)

mama2dylan said...

Anonymous said...
"You review a restaurant and you don't even try the food? That's pathetic. We love Rocky's and eat there almost every weekend. Why don't you stick to eating in South Salem."

In Salem Man's defense if you read the article word for word you would see that everything leading up to the delivery of the food was a big turn-off, especially the lack of cleanliness. I don't blame him one bit. And he did say, “I almost demanded my money back and walked out but the guy operating the counter was nowhere to be found."

What a jack ass classless man Rocky must be. No one asked Rocky to personally prepare the dish (in his sweaty bloodied cigarette smelling shirt no less) and furthermore if Salem Man paid for the dish what business is it of anyone's if he chose not to eat it (or risk getting sick from it) he paid for it. I suppose Salem Man could stick to South Salem dinning if it were convenient for him when he’s on the road during his work day and if it had more diversity of choices. I also suppose you could choose not to read or respond to the reviews on this site.

Ewwww You love this place and eat there almost every weekend? You must have a very unsophisticated palate. Check out South Salem sometime. ;) LOL

Anonymous said...

SM, I'm surprised you didn't mention all of the cats hanging around the garbage cans near the front door. Last night when I drove by Rocky's there were a bunch of them. Where could they have gone...? N

Vegan's Nightmare said...

I can't believe you didn't even try Rocky's 'Balls. He has some of the biggest, meatiest 'balls around.

On an unrelated note, when he returned from fishing and cleaning cod one day, I witnessed him hang up what he called a "codpiece" alongside his fishing pole -- did you get a glimpse of it? I'm not sure how it works or how it helps him catch more fish, but he swears by it.

All this talk is making me hungry, I just might swing by there for a late night snack.

Anonymous said...

I'm about to give up. I drove Lancaster for two hours tonight. The only restaurant I found that meets your description is Olive Garden. Can you tell me again where to go?

Anonymous said...

Mama2Dylan, my bad, your pasta fagiola is the best in town, but Rocky's is a solid #2. For #2 it's still pretty good.

Vegan, don't stay out too late getting your fill of balls and be sure to set the alarm before you doze off.

Salem Man said...

Anon 9:30, Where you should go is Willamette Noodle Company, tell Janet that I sent you and that she should respond back to my twitters.

Anonymous said...

But...But, I've tried to go to WN. There are two of them and I can't make up my mind which one to go to. downtown...no, no... uptown. Why isn't there one in S Salem?

So Janet knows the way to Rocky's? I'll find her and ask her.

mama2dylan said...

Anonymous said...
"Mama2Dylan, my bad, your pasta fagiola is the best in town, but Rocky's is a solid #2. For #2 it's still pretty good."

Thank you, I'm flattered. I share the soup making responsibilities w/ the owner about 50% of the time. I'm also Italian and from a small Italian town in Southern NJ.

BTW Rocky must be Italian judging by his name. My birth father's name is Rocky. I never met him. Hmmmmmmmmm... I wonder if he's my dad! ACK!

Anonymous said...

Dude! Does Rocky own Ceasar's Garlic Wars too? I swear I've seen that same spaghetti when I ate there last week. I guess it would make sense...

N: Hope those cats don't make it on to the menu. Beware any "meat" parmigiana specials.

Rocky said...

So that was you you little twirp. You come into my restaurant stink up my bathroom and bail out before eating some of my sockaroni marinara for under $4 weekdays between noon and three. I dare you to come back in here. Your camera will be smashed into little pieces and the same will happen to your teeth. When i'm done with you the only place you'll be able to review is Coldstone Creamery on South Commercial, get that buttercup deal, it's pretty good. You're on my list and believe me I'll be looking for you around town.
Rocky

tracylee said...

Wow, one more reason not to visit the place, on top of all of the others. Another threatening owner. What a jerk.

Anonymous said...

Why do I have such a hard time believing this is not all a joke? The review reads like a bad movie plot and the "owner's" threatening response comment only adds to the ridiculousness. Am I missing something?

Anonymous said...

wow. i cannot believe the owner, in representation of is business, would present himself in such a manner. well, if there wasn't a reason to not eat there before, there is now! i hope no one chooses to support an establishment run by such a crass individual. there are many places in salem run by genuine, caring people which are much more deserving of our business.

'laina said...

Guys, please remember that this is the internet, and not everyone is who they say they are. Gotta love trolls.

That said- if it *were* the true owner, I'd thing EatSalem would have some grounds for a suit of threat of physical harrassment.

mama2dylan said...

Anonymous said...
"Mama2Dylan, my bad, your pasta fagiola is the best in town, but Rocky's is a solid #2. For #2 it's still pretty good."

I'm making my (soon to be famous) pasta fagiola tomorrow (Friday 3/3). Come in and have some and tell em' Roxie sent ya. ;) BTW it's one of Salem Man's favorites (he's my paison). He says I make it just like his Italian mama.

Anonymous said...

I've never heard or seen this place. Where is it located?

Salem Man said...

Rocky,
Look, I know I must have caught your restaurant at a bad time, but that is no excuse for the lack of supervision of your establishment. I'm not up to fighting with you. In fact, I'd like to diffuse this situation by going back to your Soup or 'Balls restaurant Friday night at 6:30pm and having a nice pasta dinner with my family. This will be a good time to see your restaurant at it's best and we can learn to see eye to eye. If any of the readers of this blog want to join us tomorrow night at 6:30pm, I'll buy anyone who shows up a pint of domestic beer. Just tell Rocky you are with the eatsalem.com blog and I'll pick up the tab.

Vegan's Nightmare said...

I'm always up for a free beer! And in my opinion, everyone should show up just to get a taste of Rocky's famous 'Balls.

Bring your TUMS.

Rocky said...

Salem Man,
I appreciate you giving me a second chance. We put a lot of care and time into our 'balls and would love to share them with you. We'll do you one better then the beer. Anyone who shows up at 6:30 and tells me they are from eatsalem.com, I will buy their entire dinner. As much as I hate your blog, I do care for the customers who read it. By the way, could you do something about all that clutter, it takes forever load the page on my dialup and get rid of all that twitter crap.

Anonymous said...

Dear Mr Man,

I am a little miffed that you won't fess up and tell us exactly where Rocky's is. I am now on my second night of driving up and down Lancaster but can't find it. You trying to keep it for yourself? I also followed your suggestion and inquired at Willamette Noodle. Janet had never seen Rocky or his balls.

Now I hear, free beer and food. I have to know where this place is!! The only thing that would make this worse is if the beer were Pabst Blue Ribbon, my favorite.

Anonymous said...

You sound like such a fun group. I would like to go to Rocky's tomorrow, but I am a level 9 Vegan. I don't like balls but I am interested in what else Rocky serves. Is there anything I might like?

Rocky said...

Pabst Blue Ribbon? I only serve the finest, Coors Light. Was that you driving by my restaurant all night? Maybe you couldn't see it because I have a boat parked out front, blocking the door. It's easy to spot, it's the sailboat that's propped up on cinder blocks near the barbed wire fence. Some people get confused and think we're located inside the prison but actually we only share one wall with it.

Anonymous said...

Rocky,
I thought I told you to get rid of the sailboat. I am disappointed. Have I taught you nothing working you in my diner since you were 5. That boat might attract an unsavory crowd into your restaurant. Boat fishermen are the lowest form of life, and they never wash their hands after they clean their fish. Oh,... don't tell me ... you're not following my prime rule, always wash your hands at least once a week. (sob)

Mom

Rocky said...

Don't start this up again Mom! I told you I need to keep the boat there because that's where I store all the food. It's higher off the ground so our infestation of rats can't get to it. I gotta go to bed now, I have to get up early to catch some fish out of the Willamette River for our fresh seafood special tomorrow.

Anonymous said...

What aspects of Rocky's would you say make this restaurant child friendly?

tracylee said...

Well, teaching children to fish is always fun, and they can go play in the boat, too!

Anonymous said...

NOW THAT'S WHAT I WANTED TO HEAR!!! I wish there was footage of people roaming up and down Lancaster diligently searching for this lone aquatic vessel fresh from the water and still dripping its salty goodness while scoping for a greasy guy carrying a pile of fish for the night's menu!