2021 Update: Rock Burger opened its third location in Cheektowaga in 2020. Here’s the story of their opening:
Japan may be content with its simple raw fish and Italy may be happy with its basic bowl of pasta. But here in America goddammit, we serve food on top of – and inside of – other food.
At the new Rock Burger, you could eat a basic cheeseburger, vegan burger or chicken sandwich. You could. But why do that when you can have a burger stuffed with Bison chip dip, chicken wing dip and/or crushed Oreos?
All this is to say – Rock Burger is about having fun with food. With two locations, the burger company is building success and the opening of its newest location – on Union Road in Cheektowaga – during a global pandemic is a testament to the winning formula. Working off the concept developed by company founder Jason Lizardo, new store co-owners Brandon Markant and Derrick Ferraro used their backgrounds in restaurant management to flesh out the new burger joint.
“Our goal was to bring something different to the area,” Markant said. “(Lizardo) made a very good menu and in Niagara Falls, it took off. So we said, let’s bring it more centrally and bring something different to this area.”
Rather than pull influences from all over, the Rock Burger heavily traffics in foods and food products that put Buffalo in the Flavortown Hall of Fame: chicken wings, Bison dip and blue cheese dressing. Other fillings like Reese’s peanut butter cups and Fruity Pebbles are yanked from the shelves of your typical Buffalo bodega.
“(Lizardo) has a very creative mind,” Markant said, “and he made an absolutely amazing menu, from the specials to the loaded fries, everything! Basically, going forward, our goal is to all collaborate, both on business and menu items.”
On our visit, the ‘mini’ 716 burger ($7) – stuffed with chicken wing dip and cheese then topped with hot sauce and mozzarella – was a fist-sized sandwich that balanced richness with spice. Our full-sized crab Rangoon burger ($11) – filled with a crab rangoon and cheese and topped with jalapeños and more cheese – was rich and complex, as you might expect.
There was a counter for takeout, but we opted for table service. Our waitress asked if we wanted “pink or no pink” in our burgers and we upgraded to burger combos – which included a Pepsi product soft drink and fries, tater tots or onion rings; possibly tossed in Cajun, ranch or spicy ranch seasoning.
In addition to featuring a phalanx of more than 25 specialty burgers, the Grand Opening menu also had deep fried ‘rock rolls’ filled with pizza toppings, chicken wing dip, Oreos or crab Rangoon stuffing. There was also a kids’ menu, which included a burger, cheeseburger or 2 rock rolls ($5) served with french fries.
Gorging on burgers, slaking our thirst with cool, refreshing loganberry and jamming along to classic rock tunes over the sound system, we took in the restaurant’s family-friendly party vibe – as if 97 Rock decided to open a burger joint. Markant said approachable vibes are all a part of the experience he and his team are trying to provide:
“Some businesses, you go in there and all you see are workers. You’re seeing servers. You’re seeing counter people. You’re seeing maybe a cook or two. What we’re trying to do is have it more like a family atmosphere: You’re gonna see one of the owners every time you come in.”
“The customer-owner relationship: We really try to get that to the next level. It’s something we really strive for.”