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Meet Joe Russo and Jacob Thomas of Rock Steady in West Midtown

Today we’d like to introduce you to Joe Russo and Jacob Thomas.

Rock Steady is a modern Afro-Caribbean restaurant and bar in recently opened in West Midtown, founded by restaurateur Joe Russo and co-founder Jacob Thomas. The restaurant focuses on contemporary renditions of traditional Caribbean cuisine, hand-crafted cocktails and a curated music program.

Joe Russo is co-founder of Rock Steady and celebrated hospitality expert with over 25 years in the industry. As a restaurateur, Russo’s concepts have been highly influenced by his life-long passion for travel, music and culture. Prior to launching Rock Steady, Russo created The Shrine and Coup d’État, an upscale live music venue and connected lounge in his hometown of Chicago. The venue and lounge attracted top artists across a wide range of musical genres, from Reggae to Afrobeat and Hip-Hop, becoming home to a diverse group of music lovers.

Before founding The Shrine and Coup d’Etat, Russo spent ten successful years running Sinibar, an upscale lounge that originally launched within Russo’s first restaurant, Thyme. These were Russo’s first projects as an entrepreneur, and his next step after the incredible success of Funky Buddha Lounge, which became a Chicago institution under his leadership.

Russo is an avid world-traveler, spending lengths of time in South America, Africa, Europe, and the Caribbean, and living for extended periods in Brazil, Colombia, Jamaica and Italy – destinations that have all informed Russo’s hospitality concepts in Chicago and Atlanta. Russo currently lives in the West Midtown area of Atlanta.

Jacob Thomas is co-founder and principal at Rock Steady. Thomas draws inspiration for Rock Steady from his Haitian roots in addition to his passion for the arts, travel and cooking for friends and family. As a self-taught photographer, Thomas creates high-quality imagery for Rock Steady’s website, social media and other marketing materials. Over the past ten years, Thomas has collaborated on a variety of hospitality and music industry ventures in Chicago with Rock Steady Co-Founder Joe Russo. The two connected over a shared passion for creating exceptional experiences within both hospitality and entertainment. This is their first joint venture.

Additionally, Thomas works as a partner of Dollop Coffee Co., a Chicago-based company that has since expanded from one cafe to nearly 20, making it one of the largest independent coffee brands in Chicago. Thomas currently lives in the West Midtown area of Atlanta.

Has it been a smooth road?
We are extremely fortunate to have been embraced by Atlanta so quickly, so in some ways, it doesn’t feel like there has been much of a struggle at all. The biggest challenge we face is getting more people familiarized with our concept because what we’re doing is different. For example, we sometimes meet guests who come in expecting a Jamaican or a Haitian restaurant. However, our focus is not on anyone’s place, but rather on a very wide Afro-Caribbean diaspora with cultural connections ranging from West Africa to Southern USA. We hope to be part of the bridge that connects Atlantans to all of this incredible cuisine and along with it, carefully curated music, art and design. 

– Joe Russo

We’d love to hear more about your business.
Rock Steady is a celebration of Afro-Caribbean cuisine and the region’s rich musical history. Inspired by years of living and traveling throughout the Caribbean and Africa, I created Rock Steady with my co-founder, Jacob Thomas, to bring Atlantans an immersive sensory sampling of the vibrant cuisines of the West Indies.

Our goal with every venue is to bring people from all cultures and influences together to enjoy a unique experience, whether it’s based on music, culture or food. Rock Steady is our latest commitment to that vision. Standing out from traditional dining establishments, Rock Steady employs an in-house music director, Fathom DJ, who serves a thoughtfully culled playlist of music, from the West Indies to West Africa.

– Joe Russo, co-founder

Offering an elevated take on modern Afro-Caribbean cuisine, diners can enjoy main courses like handmade Black Pepper Pappardelle Pasta with Slow Braised Oxtail, Braised Jerk Chicken, Whole Fried Escovitch Snapper and Brown Stew Lamb Shank, along with several creative vegetarian offerings. In addition to the dinner menu, there is an edited after-hours dining menu available 11 p.m. – 1 a.m. on Fridays and Saturdays. The “Late Nite” menu features unexpected twists of the elevated dinner menu such as Jerk Lollipop Wings and a Rock Steady Burger with a Caribbean kick.

– Jacob Thomas, co-founder

Is our city a good place to do what you do?
Had we known that Atlanta was craving this type of dining experience, we would’ve started much sooner! And because of its rich diversity and ongoing revitalization, West Midtown was the ideal home for the Rock Steady concept. There’s plenty of great restaurants in Atlanta, with more popping up each day, but we’re confident that what we offer is unique and that is important for someone just starting out.

– Joe Russo, co-founder

Atlanta is a cultural hub. We strive to enlighten our guests on the range of Afro-Caribbean cuisine by highlighting dishes and ingredients used throughout the diaspora and essentially telling a story through food. At Rock Steady, we’re also passionate about the arts and that’s something we try to show in everything we do at the restaurant. We feel that’s a big part of why we’re already attracting such a diverse clientele of artists, musicians, and other creatives from all over.

– Jacob Thomas, co-founder

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Image Credit:
Rock Steady

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