Entertainment and Sports

Gangsters and Rolly Rockets

Rolly's is a great place. It's local, independent, clean, and unpretentious. The prices are fair, the beer is cold, the service is good, and the food is great.

By Kevin Somers
Published February 13, 2011

Every time there's an Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) event on pay per view, some neighbours and I walk to Rolly Rocket's BBQ on King Street at Locke to watch cage fights, drink beer, and eat well. Heaven likely pales in comparison.

Saturday, January 2, 2011 was no exception. The wildly popular George St. Pierre (GSP! GSP! GSP!) from Montreal, was on the main card, so Rolly's was packed.

GSP didn't disappoint, as he artfully, artistically, beautifully, brilliantly, craftily, creatively, decisively, definitively, eloquently, emphatically, fantastically, fascinatingly, gamely, graciously, hellishly, heroically, impressively, inexorably, jarringly, judiciously, keenly, knowledgeably, legally, literally, meticulously, murderously, nicely, neatly, officiously, ominously, perfectly, precisely, quickly, quietly, rightfully, righteously, slickly, smoothly, tactfully, tactically, undisputedly, unequivocally, vehemently, virtuously, wilfully, wonderfully, exactingly, excitingly, youthfully, yeomanly, zealously, Zenistly handed Josh Koscheck his hat, battered his organs, and rearranged his face.

The brash, cocky Koscheck, known for unrelenting trash-talk, finally shut up.

It should have been a perfect night, but the holidays were winding down and I was feeling old, bloated, soft, and useless. Watching GSP, the lean, mean, fighting machine, prowl, pounce, pound, and preen across the big flat screen made me feel obscene.

I was thinking it was time for changes and, it turns out, I wasn't alone.

Gangsters

On our walk home, the lads and I decided to form a street gang. We are all married, responsible, quiet, middle-aged fathers, who work a lot and rarely get out. Our gang has no identifying markings, tattoos, or costumes. We're non-violent, non-threatening, law-abiding, God-and-wife-fearing nerds, who rarely congregate. Our gang doesn't have a name. No one knows about our gang, except us.

Regardless, it's strangely empowering being in a gang, pathetic or otherwise.

Suddenly, I'm a straight up G.

The night of the GSP fight, four of us gangsters ended up in Jim "The Character" Mckeriker's basement talking about weight gain and loss. We all wanted to be gang-member, cage-fighter fit. Or, at least, reduce pounds, moobs, and love handles.

A scale was pulled out and soon we were stepping on and setting parameters for a weight-loss-wager. The details were recorded on a stir stick and $100 was put in a pot; $25 each.

It was agreed upon, we had one month to shed pounds, with the biggest loser being the winner and getting all the dough.

What a month. As Jim said, "We're all competitive and cheap." Everyone reduced intake and increased exertion, (except Paul, who tragically hurt his leg the day after the wager).

Saturday, February 5, there was another UFC event on pay per view. This one featured Anderson Silva of Brazil, who, along with GSP, is considered to be the best pound-for-pound fighter in the world, and it promised to be good.

Prior to our ritualistic walk to Rolly Rocket's, five gangsters - four contestants and a judge - reconvened at Jim's house for the second weigh in. Jim's daughters made the best trophy ever! My girls came with a sign that said, "Go, Kevin" (Minus the comma, which I have to teach them about. Sigh.)

With great delight and fanfare we stepped back onto the scale. Ed lost 16 lbs, Jim 12, me 11, and Paul lost 5.

Final score
Final score

We were happy and vowed to keep going, concocting another wager to keep motivation red lining.

It's good to be competitive and cheap, once in a while.

The next UFC event is in Toronto; the first one in Ontario. For a long time, Dalton McGuinty refused to allow the UFC. He claimed the sport was too barbaric for our good taste.

Evidently, he was wrong; 55 000 tickets sold in less than a day, an attendance record. Millions and millions of people around the world will watch it on expensive Pay-per-view. Online scalpers are said to be charging $32 000 for cage-side seats. I estimate The UFC is bigger than the Pan Am Games and The Tiger Cats put together times twenty-zillion.

If I got free tickets to the Toronto event, however, I wouldn't go. I'd rather walk to Rolly Rocket's with my lighter, fitter gang members.

Rolly Rockets

Rolly's is a great place. It's local, independent, clean, and unpretentious. The prices are fair, the beer is cold, the service is good, and the food is great.

Prior to its current incarnation, Rolly Rocket's was J. P. Grumpies (or something like that). I was in it once and found it dirty, dark, dank, and depressing, so never went again. The place was closed for a while, which is an awful sight, so when someone, obviously independent, was having a go, I was pleased and impressed.

I sat down with Roland (Rolly) Dube, who, along with his wife, Teela, is the force behind the business.

Their previous careers had Roland and Teela traveling extensively in the US, so they quickly learned to avoid predictable chains by asking cab drivers, "Where would you go to eat?'"

Dube continued, "And they'd bring us to these great barbeque houses. It was amazing. We were constantly asking, 'Why isn't there anything like this in Canada?'"

For seven years, they plotted and prepared. "We watched 'Restaurant Make-over' all the time," he said.

After writing a long, extensive business plan, they felt confident. Dube said, "If you do a business plan thoroughly, you often decide to walk away."

They knew what they wanted to achieve and set out to make it happen. Roland and Teela don't take short cuts. The first thing they did was, "Scrub this place for days." Under the grime they discovered a beautiful Terrazzo Floor, which, on its own, is worth a visit. Dube works "100 - 120 hours" a week.

Their meat is never frozen, it's dry rubbed, smoked, slow cooked, and then sauced. "That's something I learned down south," he said, "put the sauce on at the end."

I don't eat meat, but the other gang members they tell me the ribs are delicious. For $9.99, you get a half-rack and four sides; baked beans, corn bread, cole slaw and fries, regular or sweet potato. "I think it's the best meal deal in the city," Dube said.

There are a lot of vegetarian options. "We didn't see that in the south," he said with a laugh, "but we knew it would be a good idea in West Hamilton." I always leave Rolly's somewhere between gratefully satiated and gluttonously stuffed.

A welcome addition to the neighbourhood, there's a lot to like about Rolly Rocket's. Be good to yourself and support a local business:

Kevin Somers is a Hamilton writer.

33 Comments

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By bigguy1231 (registered) | Posted February 13, 2011 at 18:01:57

Sounds like a great place, I am going to have to check it out.

It's not a place that is foreign to me. I remember being in that building as a young child when it was the Parkhouse tavern. I grew up only blocks from there and my grandfather it seems had a seat with his name on it. He and my father as well as my uncles were all regulars there back in those days. It was the only place in the neighbourhood that sold alcohol. It was a neighbourhood establishment then and I am glad to see that it is that once again.

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By michelleg (registered) | Posted March 01, 2011 at 14:22:03 in reply to Comment 59700

We love Rolly Rockets, it is by far our favorite place to dine, hang out and enjoy entertainment. we have a blast on the karaoke nights, and are always treated with the best service. The food is sooooooo good, the sweet potaotoe fires with the maple mayo rock. I highly recommend rolly rockets to anyone who wants a terrific meal, enjoy a great atmosphere, all while being treated like a king/queen. rolly rockets gets a 10 out of 10 for me. For those who have been there, you know what I mean. For those who havent treat yourself and give them a try. You will be back again and again. cheers, michelle

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By Henry and Joe (anonymous) | Posted February 13, 2011 at 18:25:08

I agree that this place has great value and appropriate ambiance for the Southern style menu. The owners are very hospitable and the food is excellent. The UFC posters on the door are kind of bizarre, but it seems to be popular. I can appreciate the technical skill and training involved to excel at this "sport", but it doesn't really interest me. I suppose it provides a nice mix of violence and homo eroticism. I guess that is why vampire movies are so popular too.

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By Emptor (registered) | Posted February 13, 2011 at 20:09:16

I've been there a bunch of times and it is awesome, without a doubt a great deal, a great place to go as a family for diinner and a great place for sports, food and beer with friends in the evening. I thought it was my little secret but I'll be happy for Roland if he can get some additional business. He's been committed to that area and he didn't need to be.

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By TnT (registered) | Posted February 13, 2011 at 21:52:20

Fantastic that this indie place is really taking off. I recall an earlier post by the owner on an article about the Pearl Company and he recalls the extreme difficulty he had in starting it up. Has anyone, anywhere been able to find out who and what these people are that have extreme power and seem to be unreachable?

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By Undustrial (registered) - website | Posted February 13, 2011 at 22:04:15

I'm not really one for spectator sports, especially fights, but I do appreciate the UFC. As someone who grew up with a lot of wrestling fans, I'm pretty happy to see real martial arts featured instead of colourful ethnic stereotypes and grandstanding. It's not what it once was in that sense, but it's still a big step up.

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By Pxtl (registered) - website | Posted February 14, 2011 at 13:18:46 in reply to Comment 59711

Idunno, I always find the submission-based scoring of UFC means that most of the fight is focused ground-fighting and getting the submission. As much as I love the concept of MMA, I really just don't find it that much fun to watch a guy try and grind another guy's face into the ground through repeated humping. I mean, I get that they're the ultimate badasses... but I just don't get anything out of watching it.

If they played to fall or shoulderblade-touchdown or something I could totally get into it... but as it stands, to me the sport is nicely summed up by this old Penny Arcade comic:

http://art.penny-arcade.com/photos/59235...

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By MonkeySee (anonymous) | Posted February 13, 2011 at 23:05:57

Yummay. I'm carnivore and my girlfriend is vegan. Looks like she can eat there too!

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By RightSaidFred (registered) | Posted February 14, 2011 at 09:30:26

I've never had a bad meal there, and they deliver; Mountain, Ancaster, wherever. dem Ribs will find you!!

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By Kiely (registered) | Posted February 14, 2011 at 10:01:29

UFC and ribs??

Wave to the shark as you jump it...

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By Killer (anonymous) | Posted February 14, 2011 at 11:38:23

Comments with a score below -5 are hidden by default.

You can change or disable this comment score threshold by registering an RTH user account.

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By TnT (registered) | Posted February 15, 2011 at 08:17:52 in reply to Comment 59740

Nice. That is good some english speak you. Lol, not highbrow enough.

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By Ty Webb (anonymous) | Posted February 14, 2011 at 22:13:16 in reply to Comment 59740

Not highbrow enough for a guy named Killer who can't spell "catering"?

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By mrgrande (registered) | Posted February 14, 2011 at 13:23:47 in reply to Comment 59740

Read the comment, read the username, lol'd.

What highbrow entertainment do you recommend?

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By MattM (registered) | Posted February 14, 2011 at 13:16:35

If you'd actually BEEN to Rolly Rockets, you wouldn't have been ignorant enough to refer to it as a "dive bar". The Gladstone Tavern is a dive bar. Joe Butt's was a dive bar.

They also air UFC matches at "high class establishments" such as Boston Pizza, Jack Astors and all that other generic family dining crap you find on the side of the highway near other big boxes. A0pparently those are now dives too, however, according to your logic.

Comment edited by MattM on 2011-02-14 13:17:09

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By Hopeful (registered) | Posted February 14, 2011 at 23:38:25

I personally find being exposed to extreme violence while I'm eating a little nauseating. Big screens with UFC are a close second to heavily scented handsoaps in my turn-offs at a restaurant.
That said, Rolly Rockets food is great and what the owners have done with the space fantastic. Hamilton needs more places like it (and entrepreneurs like those behind it).

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By TnT (registered) | Posted February 15, 2011 at 00:18:30

After reading this article, I went to Rolly Rockets tonight. Wow. Wood smoked food? It was amazing. I had the brisket. Friends had the chicken. I've never tasted beef so good. Not in Montreal (apologies to Swartz) or anywhere. Shockingly filling. Yeah its a BBQ joint where you eat at wooden picnic tables, sorry that isn't the taste of some people. Well don't go! Also it was super cheap for the quality. Bravo to them.

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By Darwood Kaye (anonymous) | Posted February 15, 2011 at 05:57:07

I know this probably makes me a prime candidate for 20 minutes of sweaty dick punching, but the UFC increasingly seems to me to be a thesis on the existential plight of contemporary masculinity. Abstract: Men might not be the corporate bread-earners of their father's generation, and may not even be pursuing post-secondary studies like their sisters, but at least they're getting an education on gender roles, set in an approximation of a prison panopticon.

My palate is somewhat like Hopeful's – however entertaining it might be (though its earliest incarnation was more entertaining if more anarchic), I can't imagine stripping flesh off of ribs with my teeth while watching a session of orgiastic face-pummeling. (If I frequented strip clubs I imagine I would avoid ordering a bucket of wings for much the same reason.) But to each his own. And at least another UFC venue reduces the Hess Village pressure cooker.

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By billn (registered) | Posted February 15, 2011 at 14:04:05 in reply to Comment 59787

It's worth noting that it isn't "All UFC-All the Time". They have a great line-up of local live music on other nights of the week.

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By Darwood Kaye (anonymous) | Posted February 15, 2011 at 05:58:29

And I'll second the kudos for RR's menu. Doesn't need to be spiced up with ball sweat is all.

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By Undustrial (registered) - website | Posted February 15, 2011 at 09:03:52

As a vegan who doesn't like sports much, I'm pretty shocked by some of these comments. I'm all for questioning meat or violence, but is this really any different from sitting on your couch, eating a re-heated chicken dinner watching 24? Or does it just have different class connotations?

TVs, ribs, and sports memorabilia do not a dive bar make. Especially when the place is pretty obviously closer to the "family restaurant" end of the spectrum.

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By Darwood Kaye (anonymous) | Posted February 15, 2011 at 09:26:12 in reply to Comment 59795

I wouldn't think to call RR a "dive", though that's apparently what the owners set out to create:

"We travelled a lot down south over the years and our favourite experiences were finding local dive joints that served amazing home made food in a warm and friendly atmosphere. We always wondered why there was nothing like that back home? Mama said “if you want something done right…You have to do it yourself!” So we decided to open our own!"

http://www.rollyrocketsbbq.com/about

And I'm in no way universalizing my preferred dining aesthetics, though in the interests of full disclosure I like the author am vegetarian, I felt the same way in my carnivore era – and yes, in my case that'd extend to home viewing torture-heavy pairings like 24/braised ribs or Hostel/strip loin or Wolf Creek/headcheese on a stick.

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By Andrea (registered) | Posted February 15, 2011 at 10:51:19

Re: "dive"; Sounds like it's a genre rather than an insult or characterization - just watch 'Diners, Drive Ins and Dives' on the Food Network and you will get the picture. When I do eat out, I am generally drawn to places that have menu items I would never cook at home, so this fits the bill. Looking forward to checking it out.

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By jason (registered) | Posted February 15, 2011 at 11:02:28

Rolly Rockets is awesome. A great addition to our hood. Our kids love eating there. I don't care for UFC for the same reason I don't care for WWE, but to each their own. Rolly's is a great friendly place here in the neighbourhood.

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By Andrea (registered) | Posted February 16, 2011 at 20:21:39 in reply to Comment 59802

I tried it tonight. The corn bread/muffin is the best I have ever had (sorry Mom) and the pulled pork was tasty. The place is SUPER clean and bright. The fries were amazing and you could taste the smokiness in the food. Two thumbs up!

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By TnT (registered) | Posted February 17, 2011 at 01:26:11

I enjoyed it immensely. I know of several other people who have gone on my advice. Still, why did they get such a hassle from the city? Is it that opposed to independent things? If so why?

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By Darwood Kaye (anonymous) | Posted February 17, 2011 at 05:33:52 in reply to Comment 59895

I don't know about the bureaucraatic end of things, but I gather that neighbourhood PR wasn't always so warm 'n' fuzzy. Their quest for authenticity might have bit them in the ass a little. Coming on the heels of GP Grumpy's downgrade from the Park Tavern (whose sign is displayed inside RR, if I'm not mistaken), they were presenting the prospect of what looked to some area residents suspiciously like just another skid bar.

http://forum.skyscraperpage.com/archive/index.php/t-174558.html

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By TnT (registered) | Posted February 17, 2011 at 20:22:46

Talk about NIMBYism to the extreme. Is that part of town that highfalutin?

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By Meredith (registered) - website | Posted February 17, 2011 at 22:15:36

Though I don't anymore, I was working in the area at the time, and from my experience it was a VERY brief period that people were suspicious of what would happen. It was only when they didn't have enough information. They started to dialogue with people as the building was going on, and because of that communication people soon realized what was happening was very different from what was there in the past.

I didn't meet every single person involved, but it really seemed that overall, as soon as people realized the character of the people opening the place up, their plans for the space, and their efforts to dialogue with the community, it reversed pretty quickly. A strategic move on someone's part (not sure who) was certainly to get the Strathcona Neighbourhood Association holding events in Rolly's -- whoever initiated that, it certainly helped things.

It also meant I was in the rare position of writing the city a letter from the church (with encouragement from my boss) saying "Please, we want this bar down the street - please give them their liquor license."

I don't know if I remember who initiated it (maybe McHattie, who lives quite near it) but there was an idea to limit their liquor license to serve until 11 p.m. only. Several people quickly said that Rolly's was a good addition and they shouldn't be limited. I wasn't involved in speaking to that aspect, but people spoke in support of Rolly's even in that stage.

My extended family on both sides loves the place -- and I'm glad to give them something to like about Hamilton when they come here.

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By MattM (registered) | Posted February 28, 2011 at 09:52:11

So. Who likes beer? I like beer.

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