An underground smokehouse-style restaurant, just off Northumberland Street. Tucked away, it feels like a tasty discovery once you perch your bums downstairs. We stopped by one Friday afternoon to find it just about full, with a deliciously laid-back atmosphere; a mix of families, chums and couples happily chowing down on big-time, hand-held mouthfuls, eye-rolling with delight. There’s a reason they give you an entire roll of kitchen paper here – the food here is indulgent, gloriously messy and big on American-style flavour. If you’re thinking of shunning diet culture this January – or sneaking in a cheat meal – this is definitely somewhere to consider.
There’s a distinct American feel, but decor-wise it isn’t gimmicky – you don’t feel like you’re in a diner and the waiting staff, thankfully, don’t whizz about on roller skates. It’s actually quite low-key; think exposed brickwork behind the bar, chunky wooden tables with multi-coloured seats, purple walls (naturally), industrial-style hanging lights (the kind that look like dodgy cables hanging off the walls), funky wallpaper and neon signage. Very nice.
Cocktails of all kinds – classic, long and sparkling – plus delicious frozen tipples (which we avoided – we’ll try in summer) and indulgent ‘hard shakes’ – essentially sugar-laden ice cream floats. Swap dessert for a few of these if you think you can stomach the sweetness. Think hard-hitting flavour combos, like peanut butter and bourbon, chocolate cookie-style with Baileys liqueur and salted caramel vodka with thick caramel sauce. Yum. Stop by on a Monday for 2-4-1 cocktails (all day and night), or, if you like your vino, on a Wednesday, when you can bag yourself a free bottle of wine when you buy two glasses of the house stuff. Expect a great selection of beer, too.
Food is cooked low and slow for that authentic, gloriously sloppy, smokey, all-American taste and texture. Start things off with ‘snacks’ – a mouthwatering mix of sticky chicken wings, glazed in thick and glossy BBQ sauce and dunked in garlic mayo, chips smothered in cheese and gravy, plus loaded nachos, topped with pulled pork, smoked turkey breast and hearty chilli, before moving on to mains. This place’s burgers – or ‘bear-gers’ as they put it – are impressive things; soft, bap-like buns, thick patties (choose from beef, chicken or falafel if you’re veggie) stacked up and stuffed with everything from tender shreds of pork and crispy bacon rashers, to oozy blue, cheddar and American-style cheeses, fiery chilli and caramelised onions, peanut butter and truffle mayo (delicious – trust us), beef jus and the kitchen’s very own ‘bear sauce’. We love the fun names too – the ‘Yokey’, ‘Panda’, ‘Grizzly’ and the ‘Russian’ are all must-eats. Other hand-held delights include full rack of ribs – the kind that belong on The Flinstones – mouthwatering beef short rib, cooked for 13 hours ’til melt-in-the-mouth tender, and near-giant hot dogs. Visit on a Tuesday for unlimited pulled pork (yes, you heard that right), a Thursday for chicken wings and onion rings for £6 and Sunday for the mightiest and meatiest roasts in town.
What we ate
We began with a bowl of double cheesy chips (£5) to share, along with a side of house pit beans (£2.50) for plenty of dipping action. Sometimes you just crave naughty, messy, food and this was the perfect way to kick things off. Think crisp and golden French fries (well-seasoned, too), sprinkled with mild, shredded cheddar, smothered in bright, mustard-coloured nacho cheese for some tang and finished with garlic and parsley. We dunked them in what is, essentially, a pot of creamy, smokey, beany goodness – somewhere in between your standard baked beans (though it’s mostly a mix of red kidney and black – yum) and a thick bean chilli/stew, packed with chunky tomato, paprika and a hint of chilli for some heat. Delish – we wished we’d order two helpings. For mains, our buddy settled on the ‘Barbecue Dog’ (£8.50) – one of the best hotdogs they’ve ever had, apparently. The size of your forearm, grilled so the meat was slightly charred on the outside but juicy inside, topped with handfuls of tender strings of pulled pork, a good dollop of sweet BBQ sauce (homemade we bet, as opposed to out of a jar) and a good scattering of cheddar cheese, which was just beginning to melt and ooze when served. All encased in a pillowy-soft brioche-like roll, served with fries – though our chum upgraded to the sweet potato variety. As for us, we went for ‘Blue’ burger (£10), because apparently we hadn’t consumed enough blue cheese at Christmas. We sank our teeth into two well-cooked beef patties (no grizzle – hurrah), sandwiched in between layers of strong and smelly melted stilton (the best kind), a hefty, sweet drizzle of port reduction for sweetness, tangles of caramelised onions and plenty of ‘bear dust’ (special seasoning) for a injection of smokiness. We added crispy bacon nibs and a touch of truffle parmesan to our fries – and what a great decision it was. Our stomachs decided desserts were a no-go, but we reckon we’ll tackle them on our next visit. Expect things like fluffy American-style pancakes, wedges of hot chocolate fudge cake, New York cheesecake and more. Go for it we say – who cares of calorie-counting anyway?