Need Rockabilly Juice and ramen burgers? Check out Jerry’s

Although I wouldn’t equate my general disposition with the title of Earl Sweatshirt’s last full-length album (I Don’t Like Shit, I Don’t Go Outside), a certain jadedness does creep up.

Lately I have to be dragged to show up and the last lucky spot to find me in a mildly genial mood turned out to be Jerry’s on Gleneagles Road in Greenside, Johannesburg. It was a Monday night in Spring. Cold. Wet. Deserted.

Jerry’s (I didn’t realise it was a “Burger Bar” until a day later) turned out to be a solid option because the kitchen was still open at 9.30pm. If you keep up with Greenside and its constant facelifts, Jerry’s is on that vast, just-off-the-corner spot where Rim and Rubber used to be. Or if your weekends usually blended into Mondays after a night of swinging hip-hop, that place would be the former Tokyo Star to you.

On this drab night, we’d become one of only four tables: a large, one-dozen-strong group celebrating their friend’s birthday, a waiter and his patient girlfriend and, from my unsuccessful eavesdropping, what sounded like a pair of South Africans hosting their friends from overseas.

[Jerry’s has a rockabilly vibe for patrons who feel for a taste of Americana (Paul Botes, M&G)]

Seated on leather-backed seats in a booth near the cash register, we settled down and began to make the whole thing about politics of the stomach. Our waitress, a woman named Khanyisile, guided our unsure palettes towards Mexican bean soup and chorizo croquettes as starters. The bean soup, although tagged as having “a slight bite”, seemed to be edging towards the saturated side of saltiness, which I guess happens when people are trying to translate the Mexican experience without much in the way of chillies. The tortilla chips, deep-fried to golden, slightly puffy triangles, brought much balance to my starter.

The chorizo croquettes, eaten by a pair of pudgy, voracious hands next to me, “were overpowered by the cheese, needing more spicing”, a blander table fellow to my bean soup. But don’t let that stop you. They seem to be a dependable aspect of Jerry’s self-promotion, popping up on home and other pages such as the Willowbridge Centre branch in Bellville, Cape Town. Food is subjective so I wouldn’t dwell on it, except maybe if they don’t bring extra chillies on request.

Our other adventures fared better, like my ramen burger, whose thick mound of beef meat came tucked in a ramen noodle bun, wafts of gari rising above the plate. Now if you believe quick internet searches, the Food Network describes the ramen burger as a thing pioneered by one Keizo Shimamoto, a second-generation Japanese-American chef who unveiled it at an outdoor Brooklyn-based food market in 2013.

Without getting all Brooklyn on you, the ish was the bomb, yo, but I screwed up by having it with those thin McDonald’seque fries, instead of the thick and sumptuous sweet potato chips that were on offer.

I was offered a bite of my partner’s wrath, which I refused because, you know, I’m familiar with it already. It was a burger with a patty stuffed with habanero tomato relish, cheddar, cottage cheese and slaw. She bit into it like three times and had to take it away, not because it was shit, and the sting in its tail was all a lie (it does have a lil’ swag), it’s just her passion for food outweighs her appetite a bit. Besides, she’s quite the quaffer.

I guess the backstory to all spirited late-night munching was the role alcohol plays in either increasing or suppressing one’s appetite. On Monday night I couldn’t quite call it, downing seven-year-old Havana rum with lime, bitters and ginger beer (that’s a Dark and Stormy in Jerry’s cocktail speak) and Rockabilly Juice (rum with lime, mint and soda) when all I wanted was more of that grapefruit-infused Pin Gin.

It was a Monday night of indulging, spurred on by Khanyisile’s cocksure decisions about what to try or snub. Grant, the manager, was that engaging type of friendly that doesn’t lay it on too thick. He snuck in a backstory about who Jerry the tattoo artist is, but I’ll let him tell it himself.

So if you’re on the lookout for American pub grub with some nooks and crannies, and a little consideration for your pocket, give this location a go.

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Kwanele Sosibo
Kwanele Sosibo
Kwanele Sosibo is the editor of Friday, the arts and culture section of the Mail and Guardian.
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