IN GOOD TASTE:
It’s one of the simplest menus you’ll ever see. So simple, there’s no need to print it. It’s just written out on a chalkboard on the wall:
Burgers, one-third pound and one-half pound. Cheeseburgers, one-third pound and one-half pound. Comes with lettuce, tomato, onion, pickles and mayo. French fries are available but not included.
Add beer or wine and you have the winning combination that’s kept Rocky’s Crown Pub on Ingraham Street in business for 40 years in Pacific Beach. The owner states it simply: “Burgers. That’s who we are.”
The bar is owned — surprisingly — by a woman whose nickname is Rocky. Her real name is Patty Rockwood. As she explains it, she was born and raised in Illinois outside of Chicago with three older brothers and a younger sister. “Everyone in my family had ‘Rocky’ as their nickname. But I’m the only one who bought a bar and named it that,” she said.
The nickname doesn’t quite fit the person. Rocky is anything but the bulky and broad movie persona by the same moniker. This Rocky is small, diminutive even, with a big smile and a modest voice.
So how did Rocky end up here as the 40-year owner of one of the most popular neighborhood bars in PB? Well, it’s a long story ...
Rocky went to school in Arizona and majored in anthropology.
What did she plan to do with that degree?
“Nothing,” she replied, with a laugh. “One always has these ideas of being an archaeologist, but that soon became something I kept as a passion but not as a living. There’s not a lot you can do with an anthropology degree. You have to go and get your doctorate, and even then, it’s hard to make a living, but it’s still an interest of mine.”
After she graduated, she was drawn to San Diego because two of her brothers were stationed here while in the Navy. She recalls: “I stayed with some friends until I got my own place and got a job, and that morphed into here.
“I was looking for something, and I always liked bars back then because I was young (laughs). I’d been by this place a hundred times and never been in it. So I went to a realtor who said it was for sale. We came in and looked at it, the realtor and myself, and I thought, ‘I could do that.” Their bid was accepted the same day.
How could she afford to pay for a bar so fresh out of college?
“I had stock,” she explains, “and I put it up for collateral and borrowed against it. That’s how I did it. It was almost like buying yourself a job. It sounded fun, it sounded exciting. But I didn’t think I would have it for very long. I thought maybe five, 10 years and I’d be done, I’d be married with kids.”
But she never married and as the years went by, her clientele remained loyal and her business grew. Whenever she thought about changing things up, her customers would tell her, “Don’t ever change it!”
“People have met in here, married, had their kids, and now their kids are coming in,” Rocky beams. “All my friends are from here. It’s just been a great ride.”
Last October, Rocky’s Pub celebrated its 40th anniversary.
“That was an incredible time,” she says with pride. “We had a lot of people fly in who used to be customers and who moved back East. These were the people who helped me way, way back from when I first started, people who gave me advice ... “
She remembers the Pacific Beach vibe was when she first opened the bar: “It used to be such a laid-back beach town. Today, it seems like there’s a lot of crime in PB, and it didn’t used to be like that. I’d say the crime element is probably the one thing I really could do without — everybody could.”
Although she sees an ebb and flow with younger customers, her loyal clientele is older. “We’re kind of the dinosaur club,” she laughs, “there’s always that core group who still comes in.”
— Rocky’s Crown Pub, 3786 Ingraham St. in Pacific Beach/San Diego. (858) 273-9140. rockyburgers.com