Great bar food should be the rule, not the exception. Important, but often overlooked, on the spectrum of gastronomic delights is the pairing of a great beer with a great (and specific) specialty bar food item: a burger, thick, salty fries, fish and chips, fried calamari, onion rings...You get the picture.
Apart from a few longstanding traditions (Wendy's square burger patty, but who eats those anymore?; and the cryptic White Castle), a burger should never be square or otherwise polygonally shaped, especially if it's served in a bar where a solid beer selection is offered on tap. The only thing worse than a square burger is a rectangle one, served on a non-matching oblong bun thing (officially, a "french roll").That's the horror that was dumped onto my table after I ordered a burger at Pike Bar in Long Beach recently. The spot is generally a gratifying watering hole on Fourth street which received a "best fish and chips" nod from the Press Telegram not so long ago. It has enough micro brews on tap to certainly make good on its promise of a great burger and great fish and chips. Sadly, it's a promise the joint isn't even acceptably making good on.
Before I get to the pitiful slab of dry meat masquerading as a burger that I had to wash down with my (tasty) Hefeweizen, I have to address the trickster "steak cut fries" issue.
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Any bar that boasts its award-winning fish and chips should have the chips part of the equation down pat: happy, thick-cut beauties that are crisp on the outside, soft on the inside, with just a pinch of salt. What I, and everyone else who ordered the "hand cut" (hand cut!) "steak fries", promised on the menu, with their meal got was a dark pile of small, burnt, half-moon potato wedges that tasted like they'd been sitting in day-old oil. The only thing inside their crisp (because they were burnt) skins were empty, bruised insides. Not even the thick pools of ketchup we dipped them in did much to salvage these poor, pathetic little moons. Because I had ordered the quintessential American bar food item to enjoy with my beer, my mouth further withered when I tried in vain to make sense of the rectangular hamburger thing next to my pile of sad potatoes.
The waiter (who was unpleasantly aloof) hadn't even bothered to ask me how I wanted the meat cooked, a bad first sign I'd noticed but decided to ignore (believing that they knew exactly how to cook their burgers since they're award winning and all). I wound up abandoning the top half of the dense roll and forcing some of the burger--now wedged between a piece of lettuce and the other half of the bun--down . I tried to wipe the bad taste from my mouth with big gulps of beer but couldn't do it, especially after the bill came: $7.50 for a piece of sorry meat and hard bread. I would've been better off ordering an In-N-Out burger to go for $1.50 and grabbing a bottle of Negra Modelo at the corner store.
Oh and the fish and chips: forget about it. Way overrated. Not nearly as bad as the chips, but served in a small basket instead of a plate and simply not worth $9.95. Stick with the beer here if you harbor any fantasies of bar food-beer bliss. Or at least wait until you've had a few before you order any food.