It’s Tuesday night, and Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believin’” blasts as customers bite into their burgers and sip their spirits. The restaurant’s rustic appearance suggests traditions of beer chugging, and the cheers of sports echo off the walls — yet, the restaurant just opened last Wednesday.
Rock & Reilly’s, USC Village’s new gastropub, is a sight for sore wallets in the complex’s lineup of pricy dining options. The latest addition to the brand’s upscale pubs in and around Los Angeles, USC Village Rock & Reilly’s has been named the chain’s newest location. After its first night serving hundreds of Trojans on Oct. 27, the restaurant shows strong promise of becoming a hotspot for foodies and sports fans alike.
At first glance, Rock & Reilly’s has all the staple qualities of a pub: a devotion to ’80s rock, dim lighting and a seemingly infinite selection of beers. But Rock & Reilly’s sets itself apart with one pleasant surprise: a second, completely plant-based menu that mirrors its traditional menu.
All three burgers on the carnivorous menu — the All-American, Dirty Irish and Californian — have vegan counterparts on the plant-based menu. The menu features a Beyond Meat patty, a soy-free vegan burger patty that looks and (almost) tastes like real meat. The three plant-based versions also include dairy-free pepper jack and American cheese.
The Californian burger is served on a rustic bun that can only be described as the breaded version of a pillow. The taste is exactly what one would hope for from a fancy vegan burger, but at $8.75, the dish reminds customers that while the assembly of ingredients is simple, the pico de gallo emerges as a dominant flavor.
The menu is generally affordable, deviating from the trend of expensive eateries setting up shop throughout USC Village.
One highlight, a generous plate of fried pickles for $4.75, satiates a craving for comforting bar food but is inconsistent in taste and quality, with some bites resembling the texture of cardboard. The dish also tragically lacks a dipping sauce.
Among the pricier options is the classic pairing of grilled cheese and tomato soup for $12.75. While the dish features simple ingredients, its flavors are perfect. The tomato soup is lightly cloaked in the flavor of sweet peppers, adeptly balancing the sharpness and bitterness of the Irish cheddar and dill pickles sandwiched between two slices of perfectly toasted, not-too-buttery bread.
But the highlight of the limited opening menu is the vegan shepherd’s pie, which also uses a Beyond Meat product. The classic mashed potato topping is replaced by a cauliflower mash with onions, peas and carrots. While the pie is a small serving for $11.75, its flavors are spot-on and the absence of meat is hardly noticeable.
But Rock & Reilly’s is more than a restaurant. If anything, the food is secondary to the gastropub’s primary mission of serving libations to the masses.
While Rock ‘n Reilly’s has a beer and wine list, featuring 24 different types of beer on tap, the restaurant does not yet have a cocktail menu. This puts a little bit of a dent in the expectations most patrons have for a pub as well decorated as Rock & Reilly’s, but the bar is fully stocked and boasts myriad beers on tap worth sampling.
Described by the server as a “brunch beer,” the SLO Brewing Cali Squeeze is a blood orange-flavored Hefeweizen that tastes like a savory mimosa for $7 a glass. Another $7 standout is the Dogfish Head SeaQuench Session Sour, an extremely light beer that resembles lemonade and is accented with hints of lime.
With its hospitable environment and well-priced menu, Rock & Reilly’s is a favorable addition to USC Village’s ever-growing lineup of shops and restaurants. While the target demographic is ambiguous (the pub is 21+ after 10:30 p.m. and on gameday), the restaurant’s mix of quirk and traditionalism gives it great potential.