the state

– of burgers & beer. by vastate
Thursday, 9 April 2009, 11:32
Filed under: -of eats, -of harrisonburg, -of jhumphrey, -of localism

so, i was so pumped about the new jack brown’s beer & burger joint downtown that i requested it for my birthday dinner.


i can appreciate a good burger.


unfortunately, thin patties, crinkle-cut fries, and soggy buns don’t cut it.

especially when their website boasts this:

“Welcome to Jack Brown’s Beer & Burger Joint! Where we serve American Kobe Beef known as “WAGYU BEEF”. We are located at 80 S. Main Street in the heart of downtown Harrisonburg. Jack Brown’s, the concept, was established in 1985. We specialize in hand ground beef patties and homemade chili, a great atmosphere, and the local scene. Join us for a wonderful burger and a fantastic time.


the decor, the staff, the idea…they are all lovely.  the owners checked on us several times to make sure all was well.  the bartender did over charge us by 10 bucks, but it was sorted out with little fuss.   the wagon wheel and old beer cans were nice touches.  the beer selection wasn’t bad – my dogfishhead 60-minute IPA was pretty burger-worthy.


AND, in general, i think that short menus are genius.

so here are my oh-so-humble suggestions:

short menus should give proprietors the flexibility to serve a few, really quality dishes without much work or overhead.

if i am going to spend $4.99 on a cheeseburger that i could have bought off the dollar menu at mcdonalds, i would absolutely spend $6.50 for a hand-shaped burger made with local beef, some nice cheese, and buns made at shank’s bakery around the corner.

that would be something special.  something worth telling my friends about.  something worth a birthday dinner.

another adjustement so incredibly easy that the owners should not be able to resist would be to cut out the Q101 dance-pop completely.  as one of my dining companions noted: “more music from the 70’s & more blood in the meat.”

we went to the nile after our meal (to see a great, particularly sparse and tight set from the wolfgang) and talked about the new burger joint with friends.  so far the reviews are firmly lukewarm.  everyone seems a little bummed.

you say beer and burgers and our interest is peaked.  now, you gotta deliver,

so, i’m not giving up on the place.  it has so much freaking potential.  just a few little, community-oriented, changes would have the town of harrisonburg – both the brahs and the hipsters – drooling.


12 Comments so far
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I agree with your assessment.
Although during my time there we were getting the more appropriate greatest hits of the ’70s. Right now I can see it being a definite stop on my downtown crawl. I really liked the taste of the burger, but I might not eat there again until they give me a little more beef for my buck.

Comment by TM

It’s the 21st century. Have a f*#&ing veggie option or you won’t succeed. A friend of mine just returned from a visit out to Seattle. She reminded me of how −in many restaurants out there− veggie and vegan option often out number meat option on a menu. This isn’t Seattle but ONE veggie burger shouldn’t be too much to ask for.

Comment by jon

I see where you’re coming from but today I had lunch at Jack Brown’s and the burger was bigger (perhaps they tuned into the state) and Neil Young was on the radio. I was pleased. I spent $13 for a burger, fries and a great Pilsner Urquel. Seemed great to me, the burger was hot as hell but not at all undercooked (i.e. juicy like it should be), the beer was cold and although I don’t like crinkle fries they were good. I left happy. ps, If a place is called a Beer and Burger Joint on the sign, you can probably bet on no meat. This is still the south and 90% of your neighbors consume flesh daily. You may not like it but realize that you are the minority. Personally speaking I prefer having a great vegetarian option but I always know the menu of a place before I go.

Comment by David Miller

Sorry, I meant to say that you can bet on no vegan options.

Comment by David Miller

That’s funny. I guess I’ll just keep walking across the street to Clementine, Dave’s, the Artful Dodger, Cally’s, the Blue Nile and the Little Grill where they all serve a vegetarian option. For being “South” I can’t say Jack’s is so much further in that direction than it’s competition.

Having no vegetarian option just doesn’t make business sense anymore no matter what geographical region you live in. I can’t imagine anyone would not patron their business because they serve a veggie burger, but hundreds if not more people living here in Harrisonburg will not set foot in Jack’s because they don’t have a veggie burger.

Diversity is not a trend it’s life. Accommodate that diversity as best you can or you won’t survive as a business downtown.

Comment by jon

[…] -of jack brown’s.2 Wednesday, 15 April 2009, 11:36 Filed under: -of eats, -of harrisonburg, -of jgrimsrud, -of localism, -of townie-to-townie we stopped by harrisonburg’s new “beer & burger joint” the other night & posted a bit of review, a bit of commentary, here. […]

Pingback by -of jack brown’s.2 « the state

that’s ridiculous. there are tons of restaurants that don’t cater to vegetarians and do perfectly well in their absence. there are also places where you can’t get meat tacos on mexi night. some people might say that is illustrative of a lack of diversity and that a business can’t survive like that in the 21st century. i think that’s just crazy talk.

keep it simple jb’s. i like your style.

Comment by seth

(and i think you’re understanding of diversity seems to be limited to varying opinions/options w/ which you agree (sad, really)).

Comment by seth

an old family friend, a south-dakota veterinarian, once told a vegetarian in my family that “your people are hypocrites & parasites!” the vegetarian & the veterinarian became fast friends over the next 2 years…
so, peace, brothers!

but seriously, it’s a lame argument that a veggie burger, or even another vegetable side or two, would cramp jack brown’s style. not only do other downtown restaurants have veggie options, but even 5 guys has veggie burgers.
i just wrote a follow-up post; it’s basic marketing–find your niche & do it right! simple menus are great, but jack brown’s also has to make sure a chain like 5 guys doesn’t beat them at their game.
anyway, thanks both for commenting–but seth, how has jon offended you?

Comment by jgrimsrud

i’m not offended….

just struck by comments like this
“It’s the 21st century. Have a f*#&ing veggie option or you won’t succeed.”

act as if that’s a manifestation of an open mind craving diversity if you wish, but to me, saying that all restaurants should carry the standard bean burger and portabello sandwich while acting as if you crave a multitude of varying options demonstrates a deficiency in logical sequential thinking.

i agree with you on the importance of finding (and filling) your niche. if you think about it, i think you’d agree with me that 5 guys and jbs aren’t really playing the same game (when’s the last time you saw a raucous barcrowd in 5 guys @ 1 in the morning?). jbs is going to do just fine doing things like they’re doing them. if you’d like to comment on downtown endeavours that are not destined for success, i think there are better targets. if you’d like to make what is or isn’t on a menu into an issue of diversity (or the lack thereof) (which for the record is kind of crazy), it might behoove you to consider what the word means before stating that the other restaurants all have very similar veg options and jbs should toe that line.

Comment by seth

why not challenge new downtown businesses to incorporate local into their plan?

it is BECAUSE jack brown’s is a great idea that i think they could take it a step further. i’m talking about my original suggestion to use local beef & veg, buns from shanks, etc.

does that ruffle the feathers of those who are satisfied with downtown being just “fine”? why not encourage our community to do great?

Comment by vastate

my feathers aren’t ruffled and i’d also like to see our community be great

constructive criticism is essential (although i maintain there are businesses downtown who could use it more than jbs).

let me suggest that this:
“It’s the 21st century. Have a f*#&ing veggie option or you won’t succeed”

could be translated to something more like this:
“i think they could really benefit from the addition of some basic menu items that would allow them to market themselves to a much broader clientele” (ignore the fact that vegetarians would likely not be satisfied having a veg burger cooked on the same grill as meat, necessitating some changes that could really add to their overhead and causing me to wonder whether anyone who says it doesn’t make ‘business sense’ not to do this has really considered what they’re proposing).

Comment by seth

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