from left, brasswell's burger and fried chicken sandwich photo by izaiah johnson

2019 Best New Restaurants // No. 5 Rockwell Beer Co.

It might be surprising to see Rockwell on this list. Not because of the beer or the food, obviously, but because Rockwell is an institution.

Walking into the perpetually bustling space, with its groups of hip young friends, families with little children, older couples, people working, llamas – all regulars – it feels like Rockwell has always been there for our company happy hours, casual date nights and birthday parties. The real surprise is that the brewery and Brasswell, Gerard Craft’s mini restaurant inside, are just now celebrating their first year in business.

Everything about this place is fresh and smart, from the cavernous-but-comfortable design to the friendly and knowledgeable, tip-free service. We love the branding, the fire pits on the patio, the legit wine list and short-but-sweet cocktail menu, but it’s the beers and burgers that bring us back so often.

from left, stand by pilsner, passing clouds witbier and now streaming ipa

Founder Andy Hille and head brewer Jonathan Moxey make a range of true-to-style beers like the fluffy, citrus-y Passing Clouds Belgian-style witbier and the snappy Stand By hoppy Pilsner, which won a bronze medal at the Great American Beer Festival this year. Rockwell’s more experimental styles, like Now Streaming, a hazy, citrus-y IPA, are equally clean and well made.

As the name suggests, the burgers and crunchy shoestring fries at Rockwell originated at Craft’s Brasserie by Niche in the Central West End, but chef Joe Landis has made Rockwell’s menu his own – particularly with rotating specials like the unforgettable, light-as-air fried fish sandwich. 

the tasting room at rockwell beer co. // photo by izaiah johnson

The classic cheeseburger comes saucy with dijonnaise and melted American cheese. Thin-sliced white onion and acidic house pickles cut through the richness, making for a perfectly balanced, perfectly sized, perfectly priced, ideal burger. 

The rest of the short menu offers everything else you might need, including a fried chicken sandwich, veggie burger and pleasantly basic salad. 

And don’t worry about choosing between the airy beignets or the malted chocolate-salted vanilla swirl soft serve ice cream for dessert. You need both.

Heather Hughes Huff is managing editor at Sauce Magazine.