Two words: Chicken Parm. This popular dish brings out many Royal Oakers to The Rock on Third every Wednesday night.
“Chicken Parm is the best!” says James Krizan, Assistant to the City Manager. Krizan visits the Rock sometimes after a Commission for the Arts meeting. Located at 112 E. Third Street, The Rock has developed into a hub of the community for municipal employees, service industry folks, and office users throughout the downtown. With custom jukebox that caters to a variety of tastes and several flat screen TVs playing your favorite team, for many people, this Pub the place to be!
The Rock is owned and managed by John Corradi and Carrie O’Neill and has been in operation since 1995.
“The Rock is vastly considered the neighborhood bar of Royal Oak- in the middle of a bustling downtown, catering to local workers as well as the service industry and customers from all walks of life,” says O’Neill. “One of our favorite things is running into someone outside of our business and having them tell us what a great time they had at our bar or that they met their wife or husband there. Over the years, this has happened countless times. We just had someone take their maternity pics there!”
Customer service is a huge priority at The Rock, which is entrusted to a hand-picked wait and bar staff. Starting from ten employees, The Rock has now grown to 22 over the course of its 24-year history. Over this time, it has also forged strong relationships with people in the community.
Adding to that sense of community, The Rock’s owners pride themselves on being hands-on managers, with Corradi and O’Neill involved in all aspects of the business. Corradi created the menu and his passion for craft beer has led to featuring over 150 varieties from around the world, many of which are from Michigan, as well as high end spirits.
“The Rock was one of the original craft beer bars. We had over 90 beers in 1995.”
The Rock was a dream of Corradi’s going back to when he was an employee in the service industry himself.
“John has always been in the service industry and wanted to create an atmosphere where people could come and have a good time, get a bite to eat, grab a drink, watch their favorite team, and listen to great music,” O’Neill adds. “John owned and operated a family sports bar and pizzeria in Troy and saw the potential of Royal Oak and what it could become.”
O’Neill handles all front-of-house operations as well as being involved in several community groups. In addition to her responsibilities at The Rock, she is on the Royal Oak Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors and serves as president of the Royal Oak Restaurant Association. O’Neill has had roots in the community. She came to Royal Oak in 8th grade, went to Churchill Junior High, Kimball High School, and graduated with a bachelor’s from Oakland University.
O’Neill and Corradi are a resilient pair, facing down every obstacle that has come their way over the past 24 years.
“John and I have always felt up to every challenge. There really hasn’t been a challenge that we didn’t take as part of doing business, whether in Royal Oak or any other city!”
But drinks aren’t all The Rock specializes in, “Many people would be surprised how great our food is. We have taken bar food to a new level,” O’Neill says. The Rock serves food until 1:00 a.m., seven days a week. “Known for our pizza, wings, and ribs, we also have the best Rueben around - period!”
Several featured menu items are family recipes. “Our pasta bolognese will make you think you're in Grandma Corradi's kitchen back in Italy!” I’ll add that they have a great tuna melt, which is although not an Italian dish, it is a wise lunch for an on-the-go Downtown Manager. Did I mention the Chicken Parm?
Advertising and marketing are still very important, even for a bustling community hub. With potential new customers coming and going in the downtown, and with new businesses flooding into the city, The Rock’s strategy is staying involved. “We are very active in the community. It’s also important to provide excellent service and delicious food at a reasonable price. Word of mouth has been the key to our marketing strategy and our continued success.”
While The Rock has a base of local regulars, they also have a regional draw. They’ve learned a bit about where people are from just by checking IDs.
“By checking ID’s on a daily basis, we have found that our customers come from all over the tri-county area and from other states as well while visiting their friends and family.”
Most of all, Corradi and O’Neill like the small-town feel during the day, the ability to walk from store to store, and the relationships that they’ve developed with fellow business owners and regular customers. “Royal Oak was the perfect fit for us to give back to the community, whether sponsoring local teams, giving a dish or gift basket to a local charity, or adopting a family from the Boys and Girls Club.”
“We are really happy we can give back!”
The Rock has a daily special for $7.95 that includes soups, salads and sandwiches to round-out the full American Fare menu! The Rock is open Sundays, Noon – 2:00 a.m., and Mondays through Saturdays, 11:00 a.m. – 2:00 a.m.