Sometimes, the best meals turn up in the most unexpected places. Driving along Rocky Lake Road between Bedford and Waverley, in an industrial area, there’s a small, squat building with a flat roof surrounded by a partially paved parking lot. A hand-made sign advertising Clams and Chips is tacked to a telephone pole by the road and another older, metal sign features daily specials. The second sign looks like it might have had the name of the Rocky Lake II Diner on it at one point, but doesn’t anymore.
Sometimes, it looks like it’s closed down—no activity like cars or people going in and out, just that sign flapping in the wind. Other times, cars are parked all willy-nilly around the lot, like the drivers just couldn’t wait to park properly before rushing in to eat. It’s on one of those days that we stop in, to satisfy my curiosity as much as my stomach.
Inside, it has tables and chairs, a cash counter and soft drink cooler, a pass-through window to the kitchen and menus—all the accoutrements of a restaurant, but it doesn’t feel like a restaurant. It’s more like a church hall basement, or perhaps the canteen at an old Legion (without the smoke—this place is spotlessly clean).
Maybe it’s the wood panelling a la ’70s rec room on the walls, or the rough tables made of plywood and wooden posts. There’s a television suspended in one corner, broadcasting a soap opera to the diners below, and all manner of kitschy memorabilia on the walls: Pepsi ads, vinyl 45s tacked to the upper walls and clocks (including a John Deere tractor clock). Scooby Doo is featured prominently, and I’m told it’s because “Scooby is Wayne’s favourite!” Turns out Wayne Greeno is the cook/owner of the Rocky Lake II Diner, previously a bakery and many, many years before that, a diner.
Wayne’s a darn good diner cook, and we end up coming back several times. The menu is standard diner, with breakfast, typical sandwich, soup and deep fried offerings, and comfort food suppers like liver and onions. The breakfasts are hearty, homestyle and a little greasy, with portions big enough to carry you through until supper. Bologna, eggs, homefries and toast ($4.49) is a plate with four quarter slices of fried bologna (not as crispy as I like, but good, two eggs done the way you want and real homefries. Pancakes ($4.50), four of them, are light, fluffy and stacked high—and no two are the same size or shape, adding to the rustic charm.
The “house specialty” is something called “French fries with the works” ($2.99), which turns out to be a huge plate of fries with ground beef, gravy, fried onions and canned peas—not great for the arteries, but comfort food at its tasty, greasy finest.
The fish in the fish and chips is lightly battered haddock, cooked with a delicate touch, not greasy and decidedly delicious ($5.99/2pc). No pre-formed patty for the hamburger ($1.99, no side), this thick burger comes loaded with ketchup, mustard, relish and onions—but ouch, the bun is cold. Liver and onions ($6.99) is fork-tender, tasty liver smothered in onions and served with very good mashed potatoes.
My major disappointment is with the French fries. Why, oh why can’t they be hand-cut? But nothing else at Rocky Lake is rocky at all. The friendly down-home service and the homestyle comfort food call for more return visits.
Rocky Lake II Diner223 Rocky Lake Road 404-3059 Mon 9am-8pm Tues-Sat 6am-8pm Closed Sunday
Find Liz Feltham online at: www.foodcritic.ca