Rockwell's Bakery Cafe and Bar
101 Avenida Vista Hermosa #116
San Clemente, CA 92672
Rockwell's is a pretty well-known place in North OC. The bakery opened in Villa Park in 1987 and became pretty famous for their Chocolate Curl Cake. In those 32 years, my family has gotten cakes from Rockwell's sporadically for various family events that call for cake. My path crossed with this bakery again when we were eating at Jeff's Inviting Food and Spirits in Orange, and our server let it slip that her mother works for Rockwell's and she makes the cakes for Jeff's.
It was just about that time that I realized that there was a new Rockwell's located in the Outlets at San Clemente. Much closer to where I live, and another option for dinner after one of our favorite walking jaunts on the San Clemente Beach Trail. It was after one of those recent strolls that we made our maiden visit to Rockwell's.
Rockwell's is more than just a bakery, although the bakery case will tempt you with its brownies, muffins, macaroons, pies, cakes, and more. Located to the far right in the Outlets at San Clemente if you are coming from any of its entrances, I can imagine Rockwell's can get a bit overlooked with the high visibility of its restaurant rivals here, namely Slapfish, Blaze Pizza, and Ruby's Diner.
The menu is a little more elevated than those other casual spots, as they offer breakfast, lunch, and dinner daily. Their lunch and dinner menu has quite a few appetizers, salads, sandwiches, and even six more substantial entree options. Entrees go for $14 to $24, while sandwiches and burgers will set you back less than $15. There's also a happy hour for those of you making it here on weekdays from 2 to 6pm. They have specially priced appetizers and drink specials from their bar.
When we arrived at Rockwell's on a recent Thursday evening around half past six, we were met with a half-full restaurant, which seemed surprising with the lack of shoppers we encountered in the rest of the outlet stores. Since it was a pretty mild evening, with slight breezes coming off of the ocean, we decided to take a seat on their pretty good-sized patio area that sits in the front of the restaurant and overlooks the parking lot. Too bad they could not swing it around a bit to take advantage of the wonderful view that overlooks the hills and twinkling lights of San Clemente. Enough of the backstory here, let's see how the food turned out for us on this evening.
I have to admit that I've never really enjoyed pickles all too much. I have always felt that they overpower burgers and sandwiches, but I do enjoy pickle relish on my hot dogs, go figure. I do have an appreciation for fried pickles, or anything that's fried really. At Rockwell's, that means their Crispy Pickles ($8) would be the first thing we'd try on this evening. These were very slender pickles encased in a crunchy breading and served with an interesting dijon aioli. The pickles were a little on the mellow side, maybe because they were a bit smaller than we usually encounter with this appetizer. I was a little hesitant about the dijon aioli, but it worked out fine and I did not miss my preferred ranch dipping sauce.
Katie was in the mood for some carbs when she selected this Blackened Chicken Pasta ($18). Egg noodles are the base here, along with mushrooms, tomato, and a very spicy cajun alfredo sauce. There was quite a bit of chicken buried beneath the mound of noodles, but the sauce shined here when I stole a few bites off of her plate. It had a great spiciness to it and really woke up the plate. It was a little too spicy for Katie, but she weathered the storm to eat most of this. Our server alerted us that she could ask for the heat to be turned down a bit if she wanted to get this again, which she would.
I've been craving comfort food recently and when I saw Mama's Meatloaf ($17) offered at Rockwell's, I knew that's what I'd be having for dinner. This meatloaf came covered in gravy, which I think might have been mushroom-based. It was very tasty and helped the slightly overcooked meatloaf by boosting its flavor a bit. It was good, but I've had better meatloaf in other places. The mashed potatoes and green beans were both very solid, but I wished that the potatoes had some gravy on them as well. Still, a very comforting plate of food that was not too heavy.
Along with Slapfish, (which I also really enjoy), Rockwell's is the best option for lunch or dinner for the hungry shoppers that inhabit the Outlets at San Clemente. With what we experienced on this evening, the food is not going to blow you away, and it's probably not destination-worthy dining, but if you are near the area and looking for a solid lunch or dinner spot, Rockwell's will fit the bill nicely. I've also heard that breakfast is pretty good here, and we are definitely going to put that on our list to try in the very near future. Service was nice and relaxed, and our food came in a very timely manner. I'll give their good looking burger or the homey sounding pot pie a try the next time we are down this way. I'll also pick maybe one, two or ten things from their bakery case as well.
Out of five telescopes, (because every time I hear the name Rockwell, I think back to the 80's singer of the same name, and his big hit, "Somebody's Watching Me", and you'd be able to spy on someone with a telescope. I know I'm dating myself), five being best to zero being worst, Rockwell's Bakery Cafe and Bar gets 3 telescopes.
For more information about Rockwell's Bakery Cafe and Bar, head to their website here: https://www.rockwellsbakery.com/