Apr 17, 2012

A Commoner Reviews Jackson Street Pub, Macomb, Ill.

It just figures.  After a long drought of not having much to blog about, I suddenly have a glut of subject matter.  At least it’s stuff that interests me.  So, bear with me, as I try to catch up.  We begin with a review of a place that has been around since I can remember growing up in Macomb, Ill. (after moving up from Angie, La.). 

First, a little preface to my review:  Recently, I took a couple of days off work to spend some spring break time with my son, the Young Curmudgeon.  During that time, we planned a trip to Macomb, so he could tour the campus of Western Illinois University.  Yes, he really is getting that old.  Yes, I really am that old.  So, off to Macomb we went.  And as a change of pace, I even let the Young Curmudgeon drive, and we took his car.

We arrived in Macomb right around lunchtime, and since I was taking a little trip down memory lane a lot during the 90-minute ride from Springfield, I immediately thought of a blast to try out for lunch.  The Jackson Street Pub was one of my favorite dives when I was in college for both food and a beverage, and it’s been at the same spot, coincidentally on Jackson Street by the railroad tracks for what seems like forever.  Sure enough, when we arrived, I could quickly tell nothing had changed.

My suspicions were confirmed when we walked in and both of us were apparently the youngest two people in the tavern.  The old wooden booths were the same.  The long bar was the same.  The old pool table and juke box were still in the back.  The cash only sign still hung on the door.  It was like it was still 1991.  The Young Curmudgeon loved it.  Let’s face it, there’s no better bonding experience than taking your son to the same pubs you went to back in the day.  It’s kind of like how I take him to that (not) Irish bar, the Brewhaus every St.Patrick’s Day. 

We must have arrived before many of the college kids woke up because a larger lunch crowd, young and old, did eventually gather.  Even for a Tuesday, the Jackson Street Pub is poplar for lunch with locals and students alike.  Part of it has to do with the quality of the food and a diverse menu of standard pub fare.  The other part of it is the prices, which, by the way, also have not changed much since 1991.  For instance, a small taco salad, one of perennial favorites from back in the day, is still only $4.75.  And being familiar with their portions, a small will definitely get you by.  But I came back for the ponyshoes. 

My current hometown, Springfield, Ill., is not just famous for being the hometown of Abraham Lincoln; it’s also the self-declared home of the horseshoe and its little brother, the pony.  If you’re not familiar with them, think open-faced sandwich, choose your meat, straddle a mound of fries over that and ladle cheese sauce over that.  Most horseshoe aficionados will tell you the sauce makes the shoe.   

It’s ironic, then, that my first ponyshoe experience (and still one of my favorites) was at the Jackson Street Pub.  And they’re still one of their specialties.  I convinced the Young Curmudgeon that these stood up well with any in Springfield, and he ordered the standard hamburger shoe.  I wanted to be different, so I ordered the taco burger.  Now, here’s what makes Jackson Street Pub’s shoes stand out – lattice (or waffle) fries.  They capture their melty cheese sauce perfectly.  And their sauce, by the way, is pretty darn good. 

And, at the recommendation of the waiter, I added mushrooms to my shoe for just $.25 more.  The Young  Curmudgeon tried grilled onions on top of his, and it was just as good of a call.  I washed mine down with a Miller High Life, inspired by the bar sign that hung above our booth.  Our total tab for two ponyshoes with extras, a beer and a cola was around $17 – still affordable for a college student’s budget after all these years.    

I should also point out the service was excellent and the staff was very friendly.  Yes, they knew many of their customers on a first-name basis, but even coming in as strangers we felt very welcome.  And in case you think I’m a little biased because of my long-time connection with the Jackson Street Pub, the reviewers on Urbanspoon apparently agree with me for the most part. 

The Young Curmudgeon still has a long way to go before making a decision on where to go to college (he’s still only a junior).  But the Jackson Street Pub made Macomb and WIU already seem like a good idea.

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