I got a new phone recently - a Samsung Galaxy S5. I had a Galaxy S3 and while the camera on the phone was good, it wasn't as good as the one on the S5. With double the pixels, the S5 can take better pictures in lower light. Considering that I use my phone a lot to take pictures of the food that I eat on the road - and that most places have reduced lighting - I was eager to try out my new camera phone. I met a buddy for lunch at one of my favorite burger places and a place that I needed to do a more in-depth look for Road Tips - Jack's Locust Street Tap in Davenport, IA.
When I first started Road Tips eight and a half years ago, one of the first places I wrote about was Jack's LST (as it's known to the locals). But it was along the lines of "Great burger, only if Karen makes it, though. My wife hates the place. Worth the trip if you're like me." Not a Pulitzer Prize-winning post by a long shot.
The Jack behind Jack's LST is the late Jack Nelson. Jack was an entrepreneur who dabbled in real estate and sales before he started the Locust Street Tap in 1978. He also owned two other popular bars/taverns in Davenport - The Gallery and Mound Street Landing. His wife, Carolyn, ran The Gallery and his daughter, Gina, ran Mound Street Landing. His son, Jason, helped him out at Jack's LST. Tragically, Jack died after suffering a stroke in December of 2008. (Click here to see my tribute to Jack.) Carolyn Nelson and Jason Nelson own and run Jack's LST today. Every time I have a Checker's chili dog (which isn't all that often), I think of Jack because he loved them so much.
The aforementioned Karen is Karen Ryan, the daytime manager/bartender/cook at Jack's LST. Karen has worked at Jack's for as long as I can remember going INTO Jack's - and that's been for over 20 years. She works Tuesday thru Friday in the daytime up until around 3 or 4 p.m. Karen's husband, whose not so worthy nickname of "Pud" sort of sticks out, owns his own construction/carpentry business in Davenport. He's a great guy and I've shared a beer or two with him. (Although I've never come to ask him how he got the nickname of Pud.)
Jack's attracts both blue collar and white collar workers for lunch time burgers, pork tenderloins and chicken sandwiches. At night, the place turns into a 20-something bar with loud music and lots of beer. Jack's features a couple pool tables, a foosball table, some video and pinball machines, and a regulation shuffleboard table along the west wall of the place.
My standard lunch at Jack's is a cheeseburger and fries with one or two beers to help wash it all down. Normally, I'm not big on chargrilled burgers in a restaurant, but Karen has the secret down with the old time gas grill she uses at Jack's. She knows exactly how long to cook the burgers so they turn out juicy and flavorful with the right amount of melted American cheese on top of the burger patty.
The fries at Jack's are fresh cut, skin on potatoes that Karen slices with a cut press. They're deep fried in vegetable oil to a deep golden color.
There's no secret to the burgers at Jack's - they get their burger patties frozen from a local food wholesaler and Karen puts the patties on the grill frozen when the order comes up. It's hard to believe that the burgers that they have at Jack's are as good as they are. But, once again, Karen has the touch when it comes to cooking the burger patties.
My usual lunch of a cheeseburger and fries came to me about one and a half beers after my buddy and I ordered up. (In fact, it's gotten to the point that when I come into Jack's for lunch Karen will place a beer in front of me and ask, "Having lunch today?" After I give her the affirmative, she turns around and gets a burger and fries going for me.)
The bun is basic, nothing fancy, but holds well together with the juiciness of the Jack's burger. An onion slice - of which I use only the outside three or four rings - and a half dozen dill pickle slices comes with the burger. After adding the toppings including ketchup and yellow mustard, the Jack's cheeseburger is ready to go. (The photos were taken in a relatively low light - the Samsung Galaxy S5 takes a pretty good picture!)
Now, my wife doesn't care for the burgers at Jack's. I think it has something to do with the fact that she'd never been there through the week with me when Karen's cooking. The girls on the weekends and the part-timer on Monday's just don't have it down as good as Karen does. While I may go into Jack's during a weekend I'll very rarely order food, unless they're having some sort of brat or hot dog special that coincides with a sporting event they're showing on one of the numerous flat panels they have hanging in the place.
As I said in my initial post on Jack's Locust Street Tap - don't let the "Warm Beer" and "Lousy Food" neon signs in the front windows deter you from stopping in. It's a great little neighborhood bar that I've been going to now for over 20 years. I don't even think of it as slumming when I go into Jack's LST, but it's more of a shot and a beer place with very good burgers. Once again, I only go Tuesday thru Friday during the day and make sure Karen is cooking. It's worth the stop.