By Charly SHELTON
Rocky Cola Café has been closed for what feels like forever. The iconic restaurant sat empty at the entrance of Montrose Shopping Park while refurbishments, reevaluation, refiguring and reconnoitering were carried on for nearly a decade. But finally, passers-by noticed exterior work being done to restore the original entrance façade and the time was nigh. After years of waiting, a new restaurant has moved into the space, bringing with it the same hearty, feel-good atmosphere and food, updated and upscaled, for a modern Montrose.
Gus & Andy’s Kitchen & Bar recently opened to serve the community a smattering of burgers, sandwiches, breakfasts and cocktails in a familiar, and thankfully, a thoroughly cleaned-up setting. CVW was invited to come out to the restaurant for a soft opening a few weeks ago and we dove in feet first with some of the offerings on the new menu.
At the entrance of the restaurant, guests are immediately greeted with a view of the wood fired grill in the large, windowed kitchen as they stand surrounded by wire-sided storage caddies of the locally sourced red oak that is used in the grill. The counter-service style invites guests to order at the counter. After ordering they then move on to self-seating, which is found in front of the kitchen (along Honolulu Avenue) and up the side of the building (along Verdugo Boulevard) as well as outside. Or they can make their way to the upper level where the bar is.
We tried several things off the menu including the tri tip breakfast, the tri tip sandwich, the Montrose Fries (topped with tri tip) and the veggie burger, but the thing that really blew us away was the razorback sandwich.
This beautiful stack of heaven features crispy grilled pork belly slices, chipotle mayo, crunchy slaw and avocado on a brioche bun. And while it did lose structural integrity early on and devolved into a messy pile of meat and slaw eaten by the fistful, it was the tastiest pile we’ve had in a long time.
So far as cocktails, we had a few more than we probably should have … and they were all spectacular. Despite some really interesting and unique offerings, like the Loop de Loop, which consists of rum, Froot Loops milk and honey, we had to start out with the cocktail that had the most iconic name — the Rum & Rocky Cola.
An elevated take on the rum & coke, this cocktail features Mexican Coca-Cola (which uses cane sugar instead of high fructose corn syrup) and Kōloa Kauaʻi Cacao Rum, a chocolate-flavored rum from Hawaii. Kōloa rum is one of the finest rums in the world, and it is only now beginning to grow its following here on the mainland so it’s nice to see their rums used so prevalently in the cocktails at the bar. With the blending of the Mexican Coke and the Kōloa rum, this is the best version of what should be a simple cocktail, now made more impressive than ever.
That sentiment can be stated for Gus & Andy’s as a whole – what one may expect from a simple little lunch counter restaurant is both satisfying and improved upon, becoming something that will impress and delight in unforeseen ways. As a kid who grew up in Montrose, it’s nice to have a go-to spot in that corner building again.
Gus & Andy’s Restaurant & Bar is located at 2201 Honolulu Ave. in Montrose.