Any diner with a menu that ranges from omelets to burgers and from Chinese food to Thai specialties has got to be suspect. The scope seems simply too wide for any restaurant to keep ingredients fresh.
Unless, that is, the place is J’s Burgers N’ More, a little joint that has operated in the shadow of the federal building for 16 years. Based on the number of regulars there on a recent visit, the food probably flies out the door. And while the fare isn’t gourmet quality, it is exceptional for the price. J’s is basically just one large room. The lower half of the walls is covered in woodwork, and the upper portion has been painted a cloudy baby blue. The tables are covered with black-and-white checkered oilcloth. Simply framed prints of flowers are the only touches of flair.
But atmosphere isn’t why we go to places like J’s. We go for quick, inexpensive — and good — grub, and J’s delivers.
Though I expected cafeteria quality, the cheeseburger turned out to be surprisingly delectable: a juicy 5-oz. slab slathered with Swiss cheese; dressed with fresh lettuce, tomato, onion, and pickle; and served on a large, warm bun. Nobody at Fred’s Texas Café should be sweating, but at the scandalously low price of $2.69, lesser burger joints had better watch out. Equally solid was the grilled cheese with bacon served on whole-wheat toast, for about the same price. The onion rings, though, appeared to have come from a freezer bag. There were a lot of ’em, but they were simply standard, nothing special.
At the opposite end of “standard” was the Thai green-curry chicken. Plenty of tender white meat mixed and a-mingled with finely sliced green pepper, baby carrots, scallions, and a bit of garlic. The dish absolutely sang, with harmonious backing from a sea of coconut milk seasoned with hot — but not too hot — green chiles, coriander, ginger, and mint. As far as I’m concerned, J’s version of the old Thai standby ranks with any in town. Though appetizing, the orange chicken — white meat chunks battered and wok-fried, then dressed in an orange-flavored sauce — was no better and no worse than what you might find at your favorite local Chinese joint. Then again, at your fave Chinese haunt, you’re likely to pay about four bucks more. Overall, J’s Burgers N’ More made for a good lunch. The neighborhood, which includes city hall and big businesses like XTO and TXU, apparently thinks so too, having kept the restaurant in business for so long. Next time you go to pay a ticket, line up with the other downtown worker bees for your share of the goodies at J’s — it’ll take away some of the pain.
You can reach Peter Gorman at
J’s Burgers N’ More
Thai green curry $5.50
Orange chicken $4.50