Cock & Bull
I missed out on about three years of American culture (i.e., reality television or programs hosted by former reality "stars"), so the folks at Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives may have featured the little Lakewood institution. If not, it merely adds to my conviction that the show is just a vehicle for hair product.
Simply put, Cock & Bull is on a more interesting level as Twisted Root, although much, much dirtier. Strands of dust hang from jagged spots in the ceiling where, presumably, someone painted over other clumps of dust. Cobwebs cloud several corners, giving the place the same patina as your crazy great aunt's untouched drawing room. And on my most recent visit, someone in the back (where the kitchen sits) was hacking up a fur ball. It's dark and quirky--a real dive.
And it's the sort of place every neighborhood kinda needs.
Now, the cooking isn't really brilliant. Like I said, it matches up with cleaner mid-level joints. You just don't expect decent dishes from such a shabby place.
To put things in perspective, if The Grape served spinach-artichoke dip so one-sided, the taint of sour cream and vegetables forming into one long, unbending sharp note, you'd send the thing back. Here, however, it receives applause in the form of 'I didn't expect this.' After all, the kitchen dresses the dip in pastry and provides mini pita wedges scored by the oven.
Cock & Bull has a number of fans (I'm one of them). Part of the pub's reputation comes from the fact that Lakewood is so insular. Like Uptown (and many other parts of the city), a nagging 'stuff here is better than stuff over there' provincialism drives restaurant favoritism. But that's not the only reason for its popularity. For an unkempt dive, the kitchen is surprisingly competent. They're not afraid to tackle 'upscale' dishes, like crusted grouper. And the burgers they grill show an adept awareness of seasoning many other such joints should envy.
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Take their 'red bull' burger, for example--a selection of pre-roasted red peppers, spicy mayo and Gouda. There's a robust, earthy burn that extends from the burger to the condiments, thanks to a heavy-handed heave of the pepper shaker that steps back across the "too aggressive" line as it begins to tie into the other elements. The smokey cheese helps, as well, softening some of the intensity while finding acrid notes in the red pepper.
Some thought went into this, in other words--well, except for the side of cheap, store-bought tortilla chips. No need for a side, anyway, as the beef is nice and juicy and enough to satisfy hunger cravings.
All in all, there are plenty of shortcomings here. But Cock & Bull also provides highlights, enough that a venture to the little place is rarely wasted.
So where are you, Guy? This is a worthy dive.