Apr 11, 2018

At J&R's (or is it JR’s?): Farmers in the morning, Road Burgers at lunch and fine (maybe) art on Center Road

J&R's, despite what the awning says
The hairy guy's report:

The only problem with being retired is that even if you like to stay busy, you get to sit around and eat more. And you gain weight. So occasionally, you think about living healthier, drinking less and all that.

The urge usually passes. But for those moments, someone has come up with allegedly healthy cocktails -- things such as a Grape-Kombucha Sipper, which sounds as appealing as a shot of Old Tennis Shoe on the rocks.

When you tire of kale smoothies and you can again fit into your pants, a celebratory stop is in order at J&R's Center Road Bar. There, you can make up for lost time with one item.

It's called the Road Burger, and nobody will ask what you want on it. That's because it comes with everything.

Despite the name, it has no chunks of asphalt or concrete and no tread marks to suggest it's been run over. We did identify pickles, mushrooms, lettuce, tomato, mustard, ketchup, onion, cheese
The Road Burger
and, yes, bacon. None of it looked like road kill. Kelly, the bar manager, says it's a half-pound burger and that mayo is also in there. And it comes with fries (on the side) -- usual price $11.25, though it was on special for $9.95 both days we went in.

The Road Burger isn't among the best burgers we've found in town, but it's a good one and easily the largest. We didn't think to measure the whole thing (and we don't plan to buy another) but the uneaten half we took home measured 6 inches by 4 inches. And nobody skimped on it; the meat (and everything else) runs the full size of the huge bun.

At the bar, it was placed in front of us already cut in half -- a good thing because there'd be no way to pick up a whole one without making a mess. And really, half was more than enough.

And what to do while plowing through a Road Burger? Sure, you can watch sports on TV, but you can do that in most any bar. Here, you can admire two fine framed artworks.

No, we're not talking a nude on velvet. This is classy stuff.

One, on the east wall, is a copy of the best-known work by Cassius Marcellus (C.M.) Coolidge, commonly called "Dogs Playing Poker" but actually titled "A Friend in Need." It shows a cigar-
Dogs playing poker ...
smoking bulldog slipping an ace to his pal; unclear whether he'll get away with it. (Harry, for the record, doesn't condone cheating at poker. But he's not a bulldog.)

The other, in poorer condition and on the north wall behind the pool table, depicting dogs shooting pool, is a copy of "The Hustler" by Arthur Sarnoff. It shows another bulldog, this one smoking a cigarette, aiming for the eight ball.

A quick check online shows that either might be worth $19.95, though (as appraisers often note on "Antiques Roadshow") the owner might want to insure them for more.

But wait.

Kelly says the ones in the bar were painted by a local guy 30 years ago. A side-by-side comparison with photos of the originals shows that they're indeed not actual reproductions of the originals. The pool work in the bar is clearly painted and is signed "C. Ballard." The poker one bears the name "Bonnie Johnson." A
... and shooting pool
quick Google search finds no famous local artist by either name. Clever forgeries? Actual worth and provenance? Who knows?

Enough of art lessons. Back to J&R's menu.

Among the specialty drinks listed is Mug Sex Beach at $5.50. Sounds intriguing but turns out to be just Sex on the Beach in a mug. The menu also lists Harry's favorite drink, a Manhattan ($4.95); a request for one produced a momentary sense of fear behind the bar, but the drink turned out fine.

Food includes burgers, dogs, sandwiches, soup and wings (10 for $9.50; celery is an extra 50 cents). There are daily specials.

We understand that people who know how to run bars might not be expert menu writers. And here, for instance, the "Friday fish menu" includes chicken, ribs and the Road Burger with more
Heather, one of the bartenders
appropriate perch, cod and shrimp.

One of the local TV stations likes to say its news people "ask the tough questions." We came up with some.

That Friday fish menu says "1/2 pound perch" is $16.60 and "1/2 perch" is $14.60. Is that odd?

The answer is that is that, yes, it's confusing. The "1/2 perch" is really a half order of the 1/2-pound of perch. OK, (and here comes the really tough question) why would someone pay $14.60 for half of what costs $16.60? Kelly calmly says some foods don't reheat well and people just want to buy as much as they'll eat.

We have other tough questions:

  • Does anybody eat a whole Road Burger? Yes, said Heather, one of the bartenders, who saw two people do it the day we asked.
  • What's the actual name of the place? The menu says "J&R." The sign over the front door says "JR's." Another sign outside says "J&R's." The bar's Facebook page has it as "J & R". Kelly, looking at the sign outside, said it's J&R's. (We're not quite convinced but we decided to go with that because we had to pick one.)
  • Does anybody pay the extra 50 cents to get celery with the wings? Yes, says Kelly.
Some of the scenery
None of this really matters, though, except as a diversion from boredom or an excuse to talk to a bartender.

J&R's Center Road Bar, or whatever its name is, really is on Center Road, a bit east of town before Knight Road. It sits between a water conditioning supplier and a fishing and hunting supply store -- which is visible through the window with a bullseye and the words "Let's get it on" painted on the side wall. (Another tough question: Who is getting what on there?) Out back is farmland and an apartment complex. Directly across the road is an animal hospital.

Inside, the large open room has that pool table (only 50 cents a game), lottery games and one of those stuffed animal claw machines. The men's room is utilitarian and clean. A large screened area (with a good view of the "Let's get it on" wall) looks inviting for warmer weather.

On tap are Bud, Bud Light and Miller Lite. Assorted bottled beers -- "basic beers," no IPA's,
Beer prices
says Kelly -- are in a cooler.

Happy hour is 2-7 p.m., with hot wings 85 cents each and 50 cents off on beer Monday-Thursday.

We're told the bar opens at 7 a.m. for farmers who drink coffee and play cards (a few decks were piled near the poker artwork). The regular opening is at 9 a.m., and the kitchen opens at 11 a.m. The bar is open till midnight weeknights, 2 a.m. Friday and Saturday. Sunday hours are 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.

No artistic knowledge is required.

See Doc's report: Thoughts on life (and a victorious pool game) at J&R’s

  The particulars:
  J&R's Center Road Bar
  632 W. Center Road

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