Smokin’ Jack’s Rib Shack: Shacking Up With a Tasty Burger

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i love their logo

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pink…like a pig

Smokin’ Jack’s Rib Shack is located in a cabin-esque structure on the northern edge of Bloomington.  If you can’t find it, then open your car windows and take a good whiff outside.  If you smell smoked meats, then you are likely close.  Neither of the Burger Boys had heard of this fine establishment until Neil was told about it by his friend WannabeB[urger]B[oy].  And we’re glad we went…

Chris:

Smoking Jack’s just smells delicious. Imagine living inside a building with the walls made of barbecue brisket and you get the idea. Going to such a palace of smoked meats made ordering a burger difficult.

The burger you can order at Smokin’ Jack’s is pretty basic. I ordered that burger, and elected American cheese as my topping choice.

lots of tchotchkes

lots of tchotchkes

When it arrived, the burger had a classic diner style look. Two beef patties were each smothered in gooey American cheese, which cascaded over the side like a yellow Niagara.

"yellow niagara"

“yellow Niagara”

Immediately noticeable were the better than average toppings. Crisp romaine lettuce, a thick two rings of red onion, pickles, and decently red tomato made up the multicolor strata on this burger.

The bun, however, proved to be a disappointment. It was a standard white bun, similar to what we have had in the past. It was bland, and not even graced with so much of a toast. The result was a bottom bun that became soggy after I got only halfway through the burger.

The beef patties were certainly ample, and decently flavored with a nice balance of salt. The fact that no temperature specificity on the beef was not surprising given that the cook deployed something of a smash burger cooking technique [Neil’s note: I am of the opinion that the smash technique was not employed].IMG_0558

The potato salad was a bit of a disappointment, especially given that this is a barbecue place. The potatoes were not cooked well enough, and the salad was just plain bland.

In all, this was a decent burger. That said, you are better off going for the amazing ribs or pulled pork at Smokin’ Jack’s. For a barbecue shack, that is exactly as it should be.

Neil:

I have certain expectations when I go to barbecue restaurants.  I should be able to smell the barbecue from the parking lot.  The interior should smell so much of barbecue that it is in my clothes when I leave.  Bonus points for rustic or homey décor.[1]  Smokin’ Jack’s checks all those boxes and more (their phone number is 332-Ribs), which is why I almost felt bad ordering a burger.  What about the ribs?!  Or the pulled pork???  I’m going to have to go back there sometime soon to try their real specialty.  But our fans don’t read this blog for barbecue,[2] they read it for BURGERS!

Their standard burger is a double patty, diner style[3] burger.  I chose to add American cheese, as I like its gooeyness when melted.  Our meal arrived within a couple minutes of ordering it, which is faster than I’ve often experienced at fast food restaurants.  I barely had time to fill my drink.  I kind of wondered how it was made so fast, but it looked good, so LET’S EAT!

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Individually, the patties were thin, but it was plenty when the two were put together.  Both of the patties had a really good sear, which added a good textural element that is necessary when burgers are as cheesy as these.  Most importantly, the patties tasted good, a byproduct of both the seasoning and the grilling.

The burger also came with a leaf of lettuce, red onion and pickles.  The quality of the lettuce was not bad, but they skimped a bit on the onion, which might be okay considering the strong flavor of most red onions.  The bun was a bit of a negative.  It was an average bun that I might buy for a backyard cookout and was probably a tad big for the burger.  This wasn’t the big problem, though.  The problem was that the bun wasn’t toasted at all.  That automatically kills almost anything a bun has going for it, and this bun didn’t have much to give.

post-meal activity

post-meal activity

Like most barbecue restaurants, Smokin Jack’s offers a large number of sides.  I choose the macaroni and cheese, but they also offer fries, coleslaw, potato salad, cornbread salad, baked beans, mixed greens and green beans.[4]  I want to go back there just for more sides, if for no other reason (and I have other reasons).  The mac and cheese was pretty much what you would expect from a barbecue restaurant: very yellow and cheesy (see the picture).  And it definitely hit the spot.

After finishing our meal, Chris and I spent some time playing checkers at our table.  The restaurant is kind enough to include game boards and pieces at some of the tables (or at least ours).  It’s worth noting that we are much better at eating than at checkers.

Overall, I was pretty happy with this burger (probably happier than Chris). [Chris’ note: this is probably true.]  There’s nothing fancy about it.  I’ve had better burgers and better macaroni and cheese, but both left me very satisfied.  Sure I’d love it if they would toast the bun and give me some more onions and maybe have thicker, more juicy patties, but that didn’t stop the meal from being a success.  If it was a baseball player it wouldn’t necessarily win the Triple Crown, but most teams won’t complain if they have a player hit .265 with 16 HRs, 72 RBI and 12 SB.  Add in the quick prep and low cost (name one other place where you can get burger, side and drink for under $10) and it gets the BBB stamp of approval (or at least my stamp of approval).  I’d probably swing by for lunch pretty regularly if I didn’t have to drive there.  Chris and I plan to come back soon, but I think we’ll both probably go for the ribs.[5]

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Senior Night: Monday 4 pm – 9 pm

Raw Score:                      3 / 5 burgers
Price-adjusted:                3.5 / 5 burgers

Price:                              $9.90 for cheeseburger + side + drink
Gained points:                Nicely grilled, pretty good flavor, good value
Lost points:                    Good, but nothing exceptional
Drinks:                            Coca-Cola Cherry for Neil; iced tea for Chris
Date of visit:                   2/7/13 (Independence Day in Grenada)


[1] There were a lot of tchotchkes, particularly of the pig variety.

[2] Bloomington Barbecue Boys?  Not a bad idea.

[3] Somewhere between a fast food style burger like Hinkle’s and a restaurant burger like Uptown.  Probably most similar to Trojan Horse’s burger.

[4] My mom probably just thought “I’d choose the mixed greens” after reading that list.  IT’S A BARBECUE RESTAURANT, MOM.  PICK AGAIN.

[5] No, we will not blog about that visit.  Unless the Bloomington Barbecue Boys becomes a thing.

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4 thoughts on “Smokin’ Jack’s Rib Shack: Shacking Up With a Tasty Burger

  1. You got it right Neil…….the LAST thing I would order with a hamburger would be macaroni and cheese! (a bit HEAVY) Seems like a good balance to a great cheeseburger would be the mixed greens or coleslaw. The burger did sound delicious and I love the checker tables. I bet their pulled pork or ribs are worth a try.

  2. I just tried the burger there myself. Agreed: not bad — and it was really filling — but nothing special. Their brisket is awesome, when they slice it right. I’ve been disappointed with their sides, too: the potato salad had too much mayo and not enough flavor; the fries were limp and super greasy. I like their cornbread; it’s warm and sweet and they give you a ton, so I take a lot home.

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