Douglas has been a professional food writer since 1986. He is also an award-winning actor and director in Community Theatre and has been for many years. His blog may be found at: www.urbaneguerilla.wordpress.com
We are constantly being admonished not to judge a book by it's cover. Never, for me, has this been more true than my first sight of the American Ribs and Grill at Hillary's Boat Harbour.
American Ribs and Grill at Sorrento Quay (Photo by D Sutherland-Bruce)
The Carvery is no more than a shop front with what i would call a miniscule kitchen behind. It's only a take-away and one sits at the bench tables all around under cover but open to the elements and seagulls with a truly spectacular view.
American Ribs and Grill's view (Photo by D Sutherland-Bruce)
My companions and I were there at the invitation of Jack, the former dentist and his family who run the place.
I freely confess that I wasn't expecting much. I dearly love ribs and I hoped for the best, while fearing the worst. And this is where the bit about books and covers comes in.
Because I have to tell you, gentle reader, the food coming from this unassuming, unpretentious, take-away is just about the best you or I have ever eaten.
Let us begin with the ribs, which though American, are not too sweet as quite a lot of American food is - even the savoury stuff.
Jack's BBQ ribs at American Ribs and Grill (Photo by D Sutherland-Bruce)
The ribs are prepared Memphis style, which means slathered with a sweetish, sharpish sticky sauce and served 'wet'. This particular BBQ sauce is Jack's own invention like all of the many sauces used in his cooking.
Jack is naturally a bit coy about what goes into his sauce but a typical rough list of ingredients usually include ketchup, cider and/or malt vinegar, brown sugar, white sugar, lemon juice, Worcestershire sauce, molasses, black pepper, hot sauce, onion powder, garlic, mustard and so on. Every chef has their own.
Whatever goes into Jack's sauce it is just magical. The ribs were succulent, tender and delicious and on a scale of one to Gordon Ramsey scores about eleven.
In addition it they are incredibly low priced, given the high quality of the meat and size of the portion. A full rack (see photo) costs $32.50, a half (which is enough for any normal person) is $16.50. and a quarter - enough say, for a greedy child is a mere $10.90.
We also tried, at Jack's suggestion some (seven of them) Buffalo wings ($9.90), again with his sauce, which he modestly calls 'red sauce' and is available as 'original', 'mild' 'spicy' and 'extra spicy', which Jack, who spent many years in Texas, says is mild by American standards.
American Ribs The Buffalo wings from American Ribs and Grill (Photo by D Sutherland-Bruce)
I must admit I found it more spicy and flavoursome than especially hot. This we accompanied by some of the better chips I've enjoyed in a while.
The 'red sauce' is marvelously balanced and subtle, as indeed are all Jack's sauces. And he's constantly adding to them. We tried the 'red sauce', as well as the 'yellow sauce' - mustard based, I fancy, but delicious with chips and the pepper sauce currently in development and which I feel sure he's going to call 'white sauce'.
The American Ribs and Grill board (Photo by D Sutherland-Bruce)
The dishes and sauces have the baldest, simple names. So simple that the customers have taken to naming the burgers themselves. The 'Chicken Burger' with a chicken breast prepared in the Texan style has been dubbed the 'Texas Ranger' ($11) and the beef burger is known as the 'Most Wanted' ($8).
The experimental Nacho Burger (Photo by D Sutherland-Bruce)
Now, apart from the ribs and chicken wings we sampled Jack's burgers. We tried a Lamb Burger. The buns are large and fat and crisply toasted with a great big juicy plump patty, Jack's incredible sauce, garlic sauce, lettuce, tomato, onion and pickles. Absolutely delicious.
The standard burger comes with a 120gm patty (generous). if you want to, you can have a 'jumbo' patty at 180gm, or a 'double' at 240gm or even a 'double jumbo' at a whopping 360gm - which makes a simple 'quarter-pounder' (114gm) look a bit thin.
I tried an experimental burger idea of Jack's - the 'Nachos Burger', with a good sharp cheese, guacamole and broken up nachos for texture - out of this world for flavour and hseer yumminess.
A serve of drumsticks (Photo by D Sutherland-Bruce)
As well as burgers, chicken and ribs, Jack has two meats in development, one is the brisket, slow cooked with a lightly smoky sauce (his own, naturally) and which is served pulled in a bun or as a meal. This is not only better than my mum's it's actually better than my gran's - who taught my mum.
The other meat is his pulled pork shoulder, again a long slow cook and again wonderously tender and tasty.
When I started writing for Weekend Notes an editorial guideline was 'don't gush', but with Jack's American Ribs and Grill I just can't help it.
Anyway, don't take my word for it, give yourself a treat, go and try the burgers, roasts, chicken, ribs and chips at Jack's for yourself. You will not regret it, I guarantee you.
The tiny, tiny shop is number 36 on Southside Drive, Sorrento Quay in Hillary's. They're open seven days a week - say 'hi' for me.