I have already covered my love of a good burger so when we headed to Jack Ruby for a business lunch it was a brilliant opportunity to check out this new joint and their American cuisine specialising in burgers/sliders. I found it impressive enough to head there for a second try and a more extensive taste test on a Saturday night with friends, so this review is a hybrid of visits.
Firstly the fit out of this place is ultra cool. It feels very American to head down to an underground level from a busy city street and find a dark eatery/bar oasis made up of tables and booths and decorated with rich wood, tiles, exposed brick and even a deer head on the wall. It is looking very different from its previous life as the Bull & Bear and it feels great.
Mid week lunch was nice as it was quieter, chilled out and the senior full time staff could be much more attentive. It was mostly filled with business people or friends having a casual lunch and despite less buzz I actually think I prefer this dynamic than my next visit. When arriving for dinner a week or so later the place was already pumping and seemed to be popular as both a bar and an eatery. It felt a little manic and crazy though and the clientele was really mixed between the very young wanting a big night out and then middle aged and older smaller groups wanting a nice dinner. Like most new places when they start out it can feel a little schizophrenic until they find their niche then go with it, definitely the case here. The disjoint was emphasized with a long bar queue for the younger folk going hard on the drinks and then a retro jazzy band in the corner. Not sure it quite worked – yet.
But onto the food…
Either visit the welcome grazer on offer was a tin of hot popcorn served from their vintage popcorn cabinet, and who doesn’t love salt and butter to get the taste buds going. First difference, we got it straight away at lunch but had to ask (and after entrees served) at the dinner service! Regardless, a nice complimentary touch that suits the style of this place – if they remember it.
Thankfully on my return with a bigger group and more time – entrees were a plenty. First out and most anticipated was the Mac ‘n’ Cheese balls with truffle aioli and these were fantastic. Great flavor and a unique texture experience with the gooey pasta inside and a crisp outer and a lovely light truffle compliment underneath. A winner.
Kingfish Ceviche was fresh and zingy and the inclusion of coconut was a nice change to what we are used to and works really well with the lime in this mix. Corn and Jalapeno Fritters with a panko crumb and chilli jam were more-ish and the sauce was very hot – but awesome. Popcorn Crocodile was a novelty choice, as most of us hadn’t tried croc. If you are going to attempt a strange food – why not choose small bites and deep fried. It was basically like the KFC version, certainly supporting the stigma of “tastes like chicken”. Served with a corn puree with chilli. Was just that, a novelty, unlikely to be a regular choice but fun all the same.
Finally, it wouldn’t have felt very American without getting some Buffalo Wings. Sticky and densely coated with a sweet hot sauce and complimented with celery and a blue cheese dipping sauce they were a bit sickly but meat was juicy and flavoursome. Nice heat, left a tingle on your lips.
Now onto the mains. From my first visit I had been so impressed with the “Tex Walker” burger and that lovely slow burn in the mouth that I went it again with negotiation to try a number of other choices by others as ‘contra bites’. This burger is awesome and packed to the brim – beef patty served medium, onion rings, bacon, swiss cheese, chipotle BBQ sauce and jalapenos. The brioche bun is deliciously sweet and melt in your mouth and the mix inside was juicy, tasty, spicy and just fabulous. Complimenting salty fries served in their mini basket worked a treat.
The best sampler option though, or for those with decision issues, is a trio of sliders for $20 including pulled pork, shrimp and cheeseburger variants. All of these are great. The Shrimp using kewpie was a bit sweet for me and definitely the least favourite but the Cheeseburger was a gourmet version of Macca’s finest. Yum! The Pulled Pork is my next favourite burger overall with a great flavor to the meat (10 hour slow cooked shoulder) served with bbq sauce and slaw. Richer/sweeter overall than the beef versions so you have to be in the mood to commit to a full size but if that is what you feel like then go for it. Chicken burger was ok, think the beef or pork options are definitely better selections.
Vego choices on our table included the Carrot & Lentil Burger and the Corn and Quinoa Salad. Not sure corn should be the lead in the name with the small portion supplied. It was ok, but poor cousin to the burger alternative which convincingly left the vegos without burger envy which is no mean feat.
The hot sauce availability, only offered/experienced at our lunch, is impressive. So if you like it hot be sure to ask!
Dessert options of Apple Pie, Churros and Cheese only. We got the two sweet options for the table.
The Churros looked great and came with a chipotle caramel and bourbon spiked shake as a unique combination. Looks deceiving as when biting into the churros sticks they were hollow and had a strange taste, maybe fried in the same oil as something not complimentary? Not good and put a taint across all elements really to make this one a miss.
But, as a full contrast the Deep Fried Apple Pie served with butterscotch, honeycomb pieces and tonka bean ice cream was AMAZING. The combination of flavours worked so well. Honeycomb in this mix was almost a revelation. So skip the others and just go for this little beauty.
In terms of drinks there are plenty of local and imported beers on offer, spiced shakes and cocktails look interesting but there is a massive hole in their drinks menu – the wine list is abysmal. Very small range, not cheap and really poor quality options from what we sampled. Whites and sparkling skew to the sweet spectrum and the best of a bad bunch chosen were very average wines. Given the local quality available in this state or a much better spread available across US wines (they didn’t even have a Pinot ranged) there really is no excuse and they need to fix it pronto.
However, my greatest criticism is the service when it was the busy night… it took ages to find someone to help us and take us to our booked table, service was unfriendly, un-proactive and totally scattery. We were constantly waving someone down to get another drink or follow up on something. Unfortunately, it appears to be a symptom of young staff who simply think they are too cool for school! Secondly, the sequential entrée delivery felt unstructured and detracted from the ‘food’ experience, perhaps the “Route 66” menu with a chef’s selection of 5 courses for $45 would be an option around that but if they want to pride themselves on food they need to think about the delivery and overall experience.
All in all it is a cool place and I admire what they are trying to create, it just needs to find itself and get the right clientele and staff to get things in sync and all moving in the right direction. Food is solid and good value, burgers delicious and that apple pie… wow! I think the challenge remains that there are only certain times where you want so much deep fried or sweet bun action, but when you do they have found their spot in the Adelaide market. Overall this place has lots of potential and is still a good option to try and hopefully will improve quickly. I personally would only head back when it isn’t peak time as that first experience and vibe suited me much more than the second or I will wait to hear that this place has evolved a bit before heading in on a Friday or Saturday night.
Basement, 89 King William Street, Adelaide, South Australia
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