Night Watch: Rocco's Tacos & Tequila Bar
224 Clematis Street, West Palm Beach.
Call 561-650-1001, or visit here.
The first time I tried to move through the door of Rocco's, I was almost taken out by a monstrous West Palm Beach rack. Once I dodged that obstacle, I found myself deep in a thick crowd of tanned, well-dressed party people. When Journey blared from the speakers, rendering all conversation impossible, the scores of young blonds screamed in delight and began bopping in time to the music.
Rocco's style -- brick walls, brown-tiled ceiling and earthy-toned décor -- is somewhere between Southwest charm and Mexican caricature. Old-style Mexican posters for movies like La isla de las mujeres, complete with cartoon mustached Latinos; Mexican hats; Aztec masks; and elaborate, star-shaped light fixtures comprise the rest of the place's flashy decoration. "¡Tenemos fiesta!" was printed at the top of one of the brick walls. An older man in a fedora, dark glasses, and an anchor-shaped necklace bobbed nearby and sipped tequila. Boys with flat-brimmed, tilted ball caps danced on big-boobed bottle blonds. Two itty-bitty, tight-bodied Grand Marnier girls scurried around in matching hot pink wigs, pouring shots and snapping photos.
Suddenly, somewhere around 10 p.m., the Champs' instrumental "Tequila"
filled the air. All eyes turned toward the 40-foot-long bar. A muscular,
compact man with a shaved head confidently strolled along the top of
it. Not only that, he was wearing white, high-heeled shoes. More still:
He was pouring tequila into the mouths of all the people close enough to
swallow some. I ran in that direction but wouldn't have made it through
the crowd alive -- people are serious about free drinks. So I paused at
a table of well-mannered, good-looking young gentlemen who had just
finished taking shots with the Grand Marnier girls. Travis was blond and
surfer-gorgeous; Nate had dark hair and a square jaw and seemed
"What the hell is going on?" I asked.
"I don't know," said Travis. "But I think Pee-wee Herman just walked across the bar."
"He's pouring tequila into people's mouths," clarified Nate.
"Cheap stuff?" I asked, squinting in the candlelight.
"Nope," Nate said. "Patrón."
"So what are you guys doing here?"
"I came all the way up here from Miami," Travis said. "This place has great energy and great margaritas."
talking business too," said Nate. By now, the man had put away his
white heels and jumped off the bar. I bid the boys adieu and scampered
over to him. Introducing myself, I learned that this fellow was the Rocco.
"I'm the only person who walks on the bar," Rocco Mangel clarified.
"Free Patrón? You're a generous guy," I said.
thing about this place is: It's all authentic. Even a lot of the plates
are from Mexico," he said. "I'm actually going next week; I'm sure I'll
bring some more stuff back."
"Heard you guys are opening another Rocco's in Fort Lauderdale," I said.
We're going to have a 'track Rocco' on Twitter, so on Friday nights,
you can follow me to see where I'll be pouring free tequila next," said
Turning slightly from him, I couldn't help but notice that the
friend I'd brought to the place was gripping a shot glass full of
pink-hued substance. Those damned Grand Marnier girls smiled their
pearly, impossible-to-resist smiles.
I pushed past a fantastically
proportioned lady with piercings, tattoos, and a cowboy hat; brushed by
the Rocco's guacamole guy (he slightly reminded me of Saved by the
Bell's Screech); and blasted past a brunet in short-shorts dancing
wildly as tequila mingled with her blood. In a far corner, beautiful
people celebrated a birthday amid Patrón and Mylar balloons.
it over to the girls just in time to hear my friend joke about this
being his "first drink since rehab." (The pearly grins dropped off the
girls' faces.) We laughed and toasted, and down went the shots. The pink
fluid burned my throat, and my eyes watered. I came up for air just as
everyone began to cheer wildly for the first few notes of "Sweet Home
Alabama." And the party continued.
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