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No-Bull Burger Purist, born and raised in NJ, the heart of the tri-state area and home to the oldest (and best) burger joints in the country. I don't need all the frilly toppings, happy servers or trendy decor, just a good burger...

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Lefty's Tavern, Barnegat, NJ

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Where: Lefty's Tavern, Barnegat, NJ
What: The Reuben Burger
Build: 1/2 lb. beef patty, pastrami, sauerkraut, Russian dressing, grilled rye bread.
Comment: Sit down, this is going to take a while...
First, I want to apologize for the lack of reviews this month. Hurricane Sandy is a bitch and I'll leave it at that cause' everyone with a home on a barrier island has a story - nuff said.
We were on our way to an entirely different type of restaurant the night we happened onto Lefty's Tavern. It was last night, Nov 24th, and my wife and I have been missing the food at The Forked River German Butcher Shop, so I called ahead to make sure they were open and was told they would be open until 7pm. I hung up the phone with a huge smile - partly because I was so hungry I was going to order 2 meals, and partly because I was relieved to find a restaurant open. There are still very slim pickings on Long Beach Island. (A roach coach would make a killing there) Anyhoo, we arrived a few minutes after 5pm and found the place closed. Talk about pissed? I'm not going to go any further with my temporary deep-seeded hatred of the German Butcher Shop. 
About 4 miles later on Rt9 south we came upon Lefty's and I could hear the Angels singing. It was a cozy looking local joint from the road and a full parking lot always speaks volumes - so in we went... 
It was pretty much exactly what you'd expect from the outside, in need of an update, I suspect it is family-run, lot's of atmosphere, flat screens w/ all kinds of sports, you get the idea. We were seated quickly and our drink order was taken promptly. Look, I'm not going to drag this out anymore than I already have, we found some very interesting menu items of which my father-in-law and I ordered 3 entrees to sample (we were hungry). The Reuben Burger (which this review will ultimately speak of), The Grouper Reuben and the one with the most intriguing name, "The Black Friday", which of course is turkey, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, stuffing, and cranberry sauce with a touch of mayo. Sounds awesome doesn't it? I would rather have had a root canal, at least I would have gotten something for my money - EPIC CRAP FAIL.  Dry turkey, the bread was dissolving from the moistness of the sauces to a gooey white mess and dear Lord, I just can't go on... !
On a lighter note, the Grouper Reuben was better, not great by any means, but better than that, that, thing I just mentioned, - it was served open-faced on a bed of coleslaw atop toasted bread and topped with Swiss cheese. Now had the (ah-hem) "Grouper", been a thicker cut and not done so well, it may have been a contender. This was not good, but def better than the previous FAIL. 
Before I get to the burger, I want to mention I don't take pleasure in exposing bad food, I want every place I walk into to have great food every time, and I certainly do not want to bash hard working small business owners. However, in the name of honesty and integrity, I  feel I have a duty to call them as I see them - and yes, a restaurant is allowed to have an "off"  day just like the rest of us, but let's again be honest, when  you are served 4 or 5 widely varied entrees you can definitely get a feel for what's going on in the kitchen as well as get a pretty good estimate of what other menu items will be like. Make sense? Now onto the burger, (I want to leave on a good note).
The burger was very good - and in hindsight I realized that Lefty's is the type of place that will consistently serve great bar food. Period. Stick with bar food and  you'll always leave Lefty's happy. The burger was 1/2 lb. patty cooked medium (I asked for med/rare but we'll let that slide) the pastrami topping was ample, probably more than 1/4lb, and the sauerkraut and Russian dressing all blended together on that toasty rye bread. It created a great taste and none of the ingredients overpowered another. Very nicely done.  9/10 
One more thing... the French onion soup was outstanding, full of flavor without being too salty. The chili was also worth noting. 
Lefty's is great for when there's snow on the ground, a football game is on TV and you're in the need for some good old fashioned comfort food.

The hat trick from left to right is the grouper reuben, reuben burger and black friday special.

And yet it looked soooo good.... CRAP FAIL.

French onion soup was out-of-bounds...

Great chili...

Grouper Reuben - great concept - not so good execution.....

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