When grabbing a bite in San Francisco going to the Tenderloin isn't usually the first thing people think of doing. But here I am on a random Thursday night in the city standing on the corner of Taylor and O'Farrell right on the edge of the Tenderloin looking at Jasper's Corner Tap and deciding it doesn't look too busy to just pop in solo and grab a bite to eat.
Once inside it is kind of busy and takes me a moment to figure out where the host stand is located and then a few minutes to find a person manning it. I ask if I can sit at the bar and he says the seats by the bar are actually reservation places but anything on the left of the railing is open seating, which basically means the long narrow bar that runs along the window. I'm okay with this and think it's better than sitting around the bar as I can watch the Tenderloin night life parade by as floor show entertainment. Yes that may sound harsh but anyone who has been there at night knows what I'm talking about.
The single page menu has food down the front and beer, beer and more beer on the back. I scan the list and wait for a server and wait some more and some more. Since I'm seated with my back to the bar area I turn around thinking I can catch someone's attention and give a look that says "hey I've been here 10 minutes already and no one has come by." Fortunately that works and a server finally acknowledges me. I lob some questions at her about what beer would be good that has some citrus elements. She proceeds to rail off a few and describe them. Props to her, she knows her stuff. She says my best bet would probably be the Hoegaarden.
Since this is a work night I get their half size, a cute little 6 ounces of beer that hit the citrus taste I was looking for. I'm sure you will find a beer to fit your taste from their vast supply, if I can, anyone can. The menu isn't all basic pub grub, they have main dish hot plates and salads to choose from but when I'm in a bar it puts me in a burger mood and my eyes go straight to The J Burger, probably because there is hand on the menu pointing right at it and there is a big black box around it--all but saying ORDER ME! So I do, if they are going to highlight it so much it must be good right? And not wanting to be totally unhealthy I get a side of the sautéed brussels sprouts.
Before I get into the food let me say it was good to have several big televisions over the bar area and an active street life going on outside to keep me entertained during the nearly 30 minutes it took to actually get my food. I'm going to guess there was some kind of kitchen breakdown this evening because it wasn't just me, most of the folks sitting along the window like me seemed to be looking around wondering where their food was also. Eventually things started coming out in waves, one server after another plus the host bringing everyone's food all at once. And of course, as my restaurant curse usually goes, mine was the last to come out. I saw the guy (possibly the food runner?) walk by me and I had to yell out to him--"hey! I think that's mine!" And sure enough it was. The sprouts were a bowl of sautéed leaves with bits of bacon and filberts. This was a tasty bowl of steaming comfort food. The well overcooked sprouts, the smoky bacon flavor, the crunchy nuts and the kick of red pepper were a flavorful medley. Brussels sprouts seem to be found on most every menu in this town and I'll say these are some of the best I've had. It's was all very simple but well executed.
Which brings me to the burger. I will say right off the top the one major problem I had with the burger and fries is that for whatever reason they were served room temperature. The brussels sprouts were hot but these were not. I'm guessing what went down in the kitchen affected this though I don't know so all I can do is judge based on what I got. The fries were thin cut and salt and parmesaned and would have perfectly fine and tasty had they actually been hot and crisp out of the fryer but having seeming sat for a bit they'd gotten soft. The same can be said for the burger. The flavors were there--the pungent tang of the bleu cheese and slight bitterness of the frisee mixed with smokey sweetness of the purple onion and bacon marmalade--made for a nice combo. Though while my burger was cooked a bright pink medium rare as requested it wasn't served hot and juices had kind of congealed a bit, which isn't the most appealing thing. I don't know whether to put the impetus on the late arriving food on the kitchen or the serving staff or it could have been a little of both.
When my server asked about the food I told her that everything was room temperature and not hot. She apologized and said she could have the kitchen put it back on the grill but I declined as I didn't really want to wait another 30 minutes for food. I just asked for the check. Here's where it perked up for me though. When she brought the check she apologized again for the temp of the food and they gave me half off on the burger. I don't really look for a free meal when things go wrong, but I am always interested in how places handle when things don't go as planned. The fact they gave a discount was a surprise so I'll give them a few points for the that.
Jasper's isn't a new place and any quirks going on with service or food should really have been worked out by now. Thus based on past work experience in restaurants, something must have gone down in the kitchen that put them in the weeds and caused the food to come out cold. Except of course for the brussels sprouts which were steaming and very good, which leads me to think if things had gone as planned the J Burger would have lived up to its star billing on the menu. I'm not going to totally write them off, the mostly full place seemed to be enjoying themselves and they are in a neighborhood that is underserved for a real drop-in round the corner restaurant. And that is what this place is trying to be, in addition to a pub/bar, they also do brunch and lunch most everyday. I guess I'm torn, I don't know if I'd make the trek to go here, but I guess if I was in the hood or near Union Square, I 'd probably give them another shot around lunch/brunch time. Who knows, maybe the day cooks have their act together.