Western Nebraska Observer - Observations all along the line - Kimball & the Southern Panhandle First

By Dave Faries
Editor 

Restaurant Review: Pal's Pub

Good Burger Gone Bad

 

Pal’s Pub has no kitchen and employs no cook. It is instead a gathering spot, a tavern so friendly the bartender and other guests share familiar laughs—even if one is a newcomer. Few local spots welcome outsiders so readily.

At first we weren’t certain Pal’s served food. And a jaunty box of “Roadkill Helper” perched prominently on a shelf offered little in the way of solace. But in a crunch for time that rule out Rock Ranch, and with Rickashaw stripped down by its new owners, the bar was our only option.

So our bartender pointed toward a smudgy menu on the wall.

Staff members heat up wings, chicken for sandwiches and other pre-packaged items on one side of the bar—and the results are predictable.

Like microwave meals or frozen pizza, much of Pal’s menu takes up the form of wings dipped in sauce at Buffalo’s Anchor Bar or a gourmet pie served piping hot from a wood fired oven, without offering the full savor and satisfaction.

It’s best to reserve listless, muggy bar foods for the later hours, after many rounds have dulled taste buds and driven away one’s sense of culinary decorum.

Perhaps six or seven beers would do the trick.

This shouldn’t be considered a flaw. The bar promises nothing in the way of “gastro pub” dining. Nor does their presentation fail in comparison to, say, a Saturday at home with a beer and a box to pop in the microwave.

And their pricing suits this purpose.

Order a burger, on the other hand, and you watch the bartender select from rounds of real ground beef marbled with porcelain-hued fat. Sure, they must use a burger press to cook the meat, so it lacks the charred grill marks we associate with the all-American dish. The patty lacks the punch of salt and pepper, too. But there’s a resulting simplicity that works.

Pal’s burgers revel in the natural richness of beef. The patties ooze rustic flavor across your palate—red meat without etiquette, without even the campfire allure of flame and grill.

Their jalapeno version adds the soured spike of pickled peppers—try saying that after six or seven drinks—surfing over the husky wave of pure beef and juicy tallow.

A revelation? A hidden burger joint gem? Hardly.

You see, the jalapeno burger also includes cheese. Not just any cheese, mind you, but the sort of orange melty goo pumped from glowing square containers at baseball parks across the country onto “nachos.”

It’s like dumping a concoction of dust, weak artificial flavoring, food coloring and watery glop onto a beautiful rare filet minon.

Yeah—sounds pathetic. But under the circumstances Pal’s can be forgiven. The tavern and package store offers only what they promise and perform very well with limited equipment. Bartenders ready food while taking drink orders and dealing with drive up customers in search of six packs.

They pull it off with a cheerfulness that may shock locals accustomed to long waits and cold shoulders.

 

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