Jack Astor's

A friend of ours lives around the Eastgate Square area in Hamilton, and we’re always struggling to find something to eat when we come to visit. Perhaps it has to do with the fact that it’s always ridiculously late for dinner and nothing is open? That can’t be it. (If you know the area and have recommendations, I’m all ears.)

The night we came, the place was busy, but there was no wait and we were seated right away in a booth along the wall. It was after the mall had closed (it’s actually in the mall parking lot, but I don’t think it’s actually attached to the mall? I could be wrong, but really. Who cares that much, right?) Apparently this post is all about writing in brackets. It’s like...split personality-two conversations at a time-goodness. Awesome. (Totally makes up for the fact I write like.....once...a month....right? This counts as two posts? No? Ok. Fine. Tough crowd.) I always find Jack Astor’s to be dark, and this one was no different. I actually had to strain to read the menu because the lighting was so low. (Don’t you dare make an old joke.) The dining room was loud because there were a few large groups of people by us, and it felt more like a bar than a restaurant. If that’s the atmosphere they were going for, they totally nailed it.

Our server was...interesting. He looked and acted like a Jersey Shore character (Gym, Tan, Laundry, anyone?) and I’m pretty sure he was hitting on me. Not that I’m complaining, but most people don’t do that when I’m sitting next to my husband-to-be. He was extremely attentive at the beginning and was quick to bring us our drinks, but after our food came, the service dropped off and we didn’t see him much until we were ready to pay.

As an appetizer, our server suggested one of the seasonal items, the Baked Brie with Garlic and Berry Compote. I’ve mentioned it before, and I’ll say it again – I love brie. I had high hopes that it would be good because the description sounded safe, but I was disappointed. It came out very hot but looked completely unappetizing. The cheese itself was over-heated and was a gooey, unattractive mess with a thick film of grease on the top. The compote had spread everywhere and mixed with the grease, so it was almost inedible unless you wanted a heart attack. Roasted garlic was scarce and there were only a couple of cloves on the top. My favourite part of the dish was the crisp bread. Overall, it was a very disappointing start to the meal.
You can’t go to Jack’s without getting Pan Bread – it’s like going to a seafood place and having the chicken. You just have to have it, and you have to have it with cheese. I mean, if you’re already eating a skillet of butter, what’s a blanket of cheese really going to do? Go big or go home, my friends. This Pan Bread did not let us down; it was hot and crispy around the edges with a soft, fluffy middle. Plenty of butter sat on the bottom (made me think of a guy I knew in high school who would lick the parchment paper to get every drop of butter), and lots of gooey cheese on top.
I went with the Duelling Sausages Pizza which had both chipotle chicken sausage as well as shitake mushroom chicken sausage along with roasted red peppers and onions. Unfortunately for me, it looked better than it tasted. I found the dough to be too bread-y and was not a fan of the tomato sauce at all (it was too sour for my liking). The key players, the sausages, were bland and I had trouble distinguishing the flavours they were supposed to be. I pouted a lot when I ate it, and could only get through a slice before I gave up. (Side note: when I got the takeout box back from our server, he wrote on the top “a delicious bedside treat for you” .... weird, right???)
Chicken Fettuccine was also on the seasonal menu (how is that a seasonal item? I don’t get it.) and was average. The sauce was creamy but bland and the chicken didn’t have much flavour to it. You could probably do a better job of it at home yourself. Jack’s, if you’re reading this – a little bit of salt goes a long way. Just saying!
The best entree of the night was the Figgin’ Good Burger with a side of fries (someone told me once that it wasn’t very fig-y, so if I ever had it I should order it with extra fig sauce. Thank goodness I remembered because it made a huge difference). Aged white cheddar, bacon, lettuce, tomato, Thai ketchup (couldn’t even taste that) and fig sauce are piled on top of a thick, juicy patty. After the addition of a significant amount of fig sauce, this was one tasty burger! Sweet, salty, juicy, crunchy...all the flavours went fantastic together. It will probably be the only thing I eat from Jack’s from now on, considering the fails we had with the other entrees and how good this was.
All in all, it was a pretty disappointing meal. Bread and a burger don’t seem worth it to go to a restaurant when there are so many other places out there (although I can’t seem to find any around the area I haven’t tried/want to try). Probably not on my “have to go back there soon” list anywhere in the near future.

Jack Astor's Bar & Grill on Urbanspoon
Jack Astor’s
75 Centennial Parkway North, Hamilton

The Keg

I go through phases with my cravings where I only want to eat one kind of thing, and I’ll keep eating it until I’m positively sick of it – then I won’t want it for a long time afterwards. Lately, it’s been steak. Steak on a bun, steak on salads, or just a large portion of steak-y goodness with some mashed potatoes.  We happened to have a gift certificate for The Keg, so we decided to go for a little drive and ended up at the Waterdown location. 

Have you been along Dundas towards Clappison’s Corner lately? Having lived in Burlington for most of my life, I’m amazed at how quickly things get built up these days. Where did all these stores and restaurants come from?? I feel so old when I turn to Jersey and say things like, “I remember when all this used to be fields!”

I’ve noticed that over the past couple of years all the Keg locations have been renovating to a sleeker look than it used to be, and Waterdown was no exception. Tall ceilings, muted colours and dark furniture – it’s all very chic, but it’s starting to get a bit old. All the chain restaurants these days seem to be going the same route (Moxie’s, Keg,...even Turtle Jacks at Mapleview thinks it’s all fancy now). I’d love to walk into a restaurant and see something different and fresh.

I digress. The night we went was particularly busy and we had to wait almost 30 minutes for a table. Guess being kind of in the middle of nowhere isn’t hurting business.  Not bad for a weeknight.  We were seated in a cozy corner booth and enjoyed some wine while we waited for our appetizer.

Crab Cakes were described as “sweet Jonah and lump Dungeness crab” but when we asked our server what Jonah crab was, he wasn’t sure. In case you’re wondering, it’s very similar to Dungeness crab but from the East coast. Served with a dill caper mayo, they looked better than they tasted. Two fair-sized cakes come to an order, but I was disappointed with the lack of crab flavour. It was more filler than anything, and to make matters worse, they were cold. Not lukewarm around the edges, I’m talking straight-out-of-the-fridge cold in the middle. To give our server credit, he was very apologetic and took it off our bill.
My favourite menu item here is the Teriyaki sirloin, and I ordered it in a dinner with mashed potatoes and vegetables. An 8 oz. portion of tender, marinated steak was cooked to a perfect medium (I know, I know. Steak lovers are looking at me and shaking their heads in disapproval right now. I can’t eat it any rarer, but be proud that I’ve moved up from a well done!) 
Jersey ordered the normal 8 oz. sirloin with a baked potato and said that it was also cooked perfectly to his medium-rare liking. Both dishes came out piping hot with crispy vegetables and delicious potatoes.
Our server felt so bad about the crab cakes, he offered us dessert on the house to make up for it. Not ones to turn down sweets, we decided on the Sweet Minis Trio – strawberry shortcake, s’more and a passion brulee. They weren’t kidding when they say “mini” because each type was only 2-3 bites. It was fun to share, but nothing was very exciting. 
Overall, I’d say our experience was okay. The entrees were good, but the appetizer was disappointing and the dessert was okay. The best thing about the night was the service, as our server was really fun and personable with us the whole night. Even though it was busy in the restaurant, he was attentive without being irritating and made our experience a good one. We even ran into the manager on our way out and made it a point to stop and tell him what a great server we had. So often, we are quick to speak up when we’re unhappy, but I think it’s just as important to speak up when we have good things to say as well. No one wants to only hear bad news, so we always make it a priority to share our good experiences too. Not only do we appreciate it as customers, but I’m sure the people we’re recognizing appreciate it too. Anyways, my point is, we didn’t have a perfect meal, but we’ll be back purely because the service was good and we’ll give them another try.

The Keg Steakhouse & Bar - Waterdown on Urbanspoon