Short Orders: Uptown Pub

Uptown Pub
3605 McKinney Ave.

This survivor of Uptown's gentrification helps ease shock as your eye transitions from The Loon and its neighbors to the cluster known as West Village. Call it an anachronism, a sore thumb, an at times smelly reminder of what real 'locals' look like.

Which is to say Uptown Pub is a dump...and I mean that in a good way: friendly, casual service, a prominent patio, guests who at least pretend to drop their pretensions at the door, that sort of thing. You always hope it's gonna be one of those dives with a world class kitchen.

It's not.

Instead, it fills the role of everyday standby, the kind of place you can go for routine comfort--burgers, fries--and be neither overly disappointed nor roundly impressed.

OK, so you've only tried one of their burgers after five or eight beers. Greatest thing you ever ate, your brain cells belched as they began to keel over. Now try one again, sober.

Yeah, they season patties nicely, but often overcook the meat. Sure, a real, warm burger sensation begins to envelop your palate, but it is too swamped by the stacked condiments to carry it through. It's like that: a series of qualifiers undercutting just about everything the kitchen does semi-well. The other stuff--the bun, lettuce and such--come across as serviceable, nothing more...except for the bacon (woeful) and orange glob (I'm guessing cheese) on some versions.

Which all sounds pretty bad, admittedly. But you have to remember that first impression, that balance of seasoning. Whoever works in the kitchen when I visit shakes on just enough salt to awaken the meat, just enough pepper to prick the taste buds.

There's nothing brilliant in this. Uptown Pub serves a basic style burger, the essence of the diner. You can find something similar in small towns around the country--the not to good, not too bad sandwich that carries in it just a flicker of back yards and road trips and whatever else makes us associate burgers with America...though, in truth, you can't say it is really that good.

And the fries are almost unforgivably bad.

So it's not a "gastro-pub." Call it, instead, the kind of step back from preening, fresh-local-chef driven-fusion we all crave, every once in awhile.

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