Photo: (Sarrah Peters/The Messenger) Dwayne “Sushi Dude” Hunter assembles sushi rolls as a sushi chef at Rock-N-Roll Sushi in downtown Gadsden.
By Sarrah Peters
A new restaurant in a familiar building has opened its doors in downtown Gadsden. About two weeks ago Rock-N-Roll Sushi opened at 504 Broad Street.
Co-owners Kris Roberts and Charity Perez began work to open the franchise in Gadsden about a year and a half ago. While traveling, the pair ate at the Trussville Rock-N-Roll Sushi. Roberts, a self-described “meat and potatoes” man, was adamant that he wasn’t going to eat sushi, until he tried the sushi at that Rock-N-Roll Sushi. In fact, he loved it so much he asked to return the next day. The pair had been searching for a business opportunity to escape working a typical 9 to 5 job. They figured if Rock-N-Roll Sushi could make a sushi lover out of Roberts, it was a good investment.
Roberts and Perez, Gadsden locals, knew where they wanted their restaurant located.
“We love Broad Street and we love downtown,” said Roberts. They found a building, the historic lime-green cafe that has become a local landmark. The building is registered as a historical site, meaning that Rock-N-Roll Sushi had to keep the original facade. They also elected to keep the original flooring.
The restaurant’s decor consists of black and white portraits of popular rock and roll musicians and televisions playing classic rock music videos. Perez got the idea for lighting made from drums off of Pinterest. Dee Colbert took the idea and created colorful drum light that hang from the restaurant ceiling.
Even the menu keeps the rock and roll theme. The menus are repurposed old vinyl records. The appetizers are called “Opening Acts, and the crispy crab wontons are a favorite.
Roberts emphasized that sushi doesn’t have to contain raw fish, a misconception that prevented him from trying sushi for many years. “What makes sushi sushi is the way the rice is prepared,” said Roberts.
The first sushi roll (called “Headliners” on the menu) Roberts tried was the Micheal Jackson Roll, which features cream cheese and tempura shrimp topped with scallop and crabmeat. Other menu items are more adventurous, including the Cyndi Lauper Roll with spicy tuna, tempura shrimp and cream cheese topped with tuna, avocado jalopenos cucumbers and strawberries. An-other unique dish is the Velcro Pygmies Roll which contains spicy crunchy tuna and avocado and is topped with Pop Rocks.
The restaurant also offers hibachi meats and vegetables, and Roberts raved that the hibachi steak is filet mignon not just beef tips.
Now a Rock-N-Roll Sushi franchise owner, Roberts has tried “almost everything” on the menu and still cannot get enough.
So far, the restaurant has been very busy. The opening week sales for the Gadsden location broke the franchise’s opening sales records. Not an easy feat, when there are over 20 other restaurants!
“We smashed it,” said Roberts.
Rock-N-Roll Sushi has about 20 employees, including kitchen manager David Bochard, front of house Manager Ally Williams, head sushi chef Saria Cain and sushi chefs Dwayne “Sushi Dude” Hunter and Kara Gilbreath.
Roberts said that Downtown Gadsden Inc., The Gadsden-Etowah Chamber and the owners of Rock-N-Roll Sushi have all been very supportive of the new franchise location.
The first Rock-N-Roll Sushi was opened in Mobile by Lance Hallmark and Gerry A. Mach.