I've always enjoyed cooking and eating good food. Even in medical school, I would cook for my classmates. My mom does a lot of cooking, mainly Indian food, but I just always enjoyed it.
Retro Rocks was here before we owned it. We used to come hang out here. One day, I was here with my financial advisor, Ryan. We were having a couple of drinks and learned the place was for sale. We looked at each other and I said, ‘Would you be interested in doing something like this?’ He said he would, so we walked over and talked to the owner.
Unfortunately for us, this was right when the 2008-2009 recession/crash happened. We'd already secured a bank loan, put down our downpayment … everything was ready to go and all of a sudden, the economy tanked.
We were probably eight months into the process of transferring the liquor license and getting everything taken care of, when one fine day the bank calls and they're like, ‘We can't go ahead with this loan.’
We basically had to beg the bank to continue the loan process. They finally came through. We ended up having to put more money down but ultimately it worked out and we took over in March of 2009.
At that time, the kitchen had been shut down for at least five years. It was just a bar. But my intent from the beginning was always to reopen the kitchen and do food. Without food, you really don't have a happy hour and you won’t have anything besides a nighttime bar crowd.
So we started working on getting the kitchen reopened. Of course, if you're going to do food, you have to differentiate yourself some way. And you can't just do the same old mozzarella sticks and fried mushrooms because everyone’s doing mozzarella sticks and fried mushrooms.
Since I do a lot of cooking myself, I knew we could come up with something interesting.
I had formulated in my head a list of recipes that we were going to try -- in fact, some of them are still on the menu even though we’ve largely changed up the menu since then. We planned a test run with a bunch of our friends. And I think we'd invited maybe 40 or 50 people here. I’d gotten all the ingredients to make all these different recipes one by one and we were just going to put them out one at a time and see what people thought. We came up with a menu based on that and then finally got the kitchen up and running.
The original thought was to do small plates, like tapas, but over time we began to do more dinner portions, basically by popular demand of our customers. That’s how we’ve ended up where we are today.
The menu is always changing. We’re always putting new things on the specials board, though not as much in 2020 because of the pandemic. We were doing a lot of takeout so didn’t make a lot of new recipes during that time. But that process is gonna be starting again, I have a million ideas.
I always try recipes at home first. I made a pork and apple meatloaf a few weeks ago that was so delicious and really popular.
I want to put a Vietnamese Bánh Mì on the menu. I had shrimp and grits on there before. That particular recipe was tasty but it was tricky to make, and kind of time consuming. So I'm trying to come up with another recipe, where we make the sauce separately and then we'll just grill and season the shrimp, put the grits on top of the butter sauce and then put the grilled shrimp on top of that. It’s likely going to be on the menu here in the near future.
I'd like to get a fish back on the board and some salads. We've never really done salads. Initially they were never that popular but the main issue is I want them to be absolutely fresh. When we do it, we’ll do it right -- which is how we feel about everything on our menu.”
- Arup Sarkar, M.D., Co-Owner of Retro Rocks