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Juke – In Which Drunken Master Makes an Appearance

Remember that guy named Drunken Master? My partner in crime on Drunkenoms who used to post as well? Well not only did he stop posting on the blog, but he sort of fell off the earth in real life too. I think I’ve only seen him maybe once in the past year. So imagine my surprise when I was dining at Juke with some friends recently, and I got a text from him telling me to hurry and free up my table. Confused, I looked around and discovered that he was standing with a friend in the entrance waiting to be seated. I headed over and chatted for a bit, assuming that I probably wouldn’t see or hear from him for another 6 months. Little did I know that I would see him once again the very next evening, when he and his girlfriend would show up at my house looking for bobby pins to use to help them get into their apartment after they locked themselves out (the key apparently broke off in the door when they tried to open it – I’m unsure how a bobby pin was supposed to help with this. I think they wound up climbing up to their balcony like a couple of burglars and letting themselves in through the unlocked patio door in the end).

What’s the point of this story, and how does it really relate to Juke? I’m not sure really. Juke brings people together? Sure, let’s go with that. Juke is what brought Drunken Master and Food Wench together after nearly a year of not seeing each other. I suppose it shouldn’t be surprising that it was a restaurant that brought us together again considering how much we both love food.

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Grilled Mortadella and Cheese – $9

Speaking of which, let’s talk about the food at Juke. Although I knew I wanted to try their famous fried chicken, I was also intrigued by their Grilled Mortadella and Cheese Sandwich. Despite the fact that it was listed as a ‘snack’ on the menu, the grilled cheese was a normal sized sandwich served with a dipping sauce and a side of kimchi. It did feel a tad pricey at 9 dollars though. Fortunately, I quite enjoyed it. The best part of the sandwich was the mortadella. It was cut super thick (a solid cm in some parts), and added a delicious saltiness along with the expected balogna flavour. Processed American cheese was used rather than real cheddar, but to be honest, that’s how I grew up eating grilled cheese sandwiches, so it’s actually my preference (I recognize that I’m likely in the minority on that one though). The bread was slightly crisp on the outside, but still retained a nice chew, and wasn’t overly greasy. I also thought it went really well with the dipping sauce, which tasted more or less like a homemade thousand island dressing. I can see how a lot of people would turn up their noses at this sandwich, but considering that it had mortadella, velveeta, and thousand island dressing – three staples of my childhood –  it brought back all the nostalgic feels for me.

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Two Piece Fried Chicken with Pork and Peanut Slaw – $7

To pair with my sandwich (if that’s a thing), I ordered the Two Piece Fried Chicken which comes with a side of pork and peanut slaw. Unlike the previous sandwich, this is a steal for only 7 dollars (and one of the cheapest sit down meals you’ll find anywhere). I’m not sure if Juke cooks only dark meat, but all the orders of chicken at our table consisted of a thigh and leg. This contributed to the meat remaining moist even after deep frying. As for the batter, Juke prides itself on it being gluten-free, so it naturally has a different texture than that of more traditional fried chicken. I found the skin to be firmer and crunchier, and although it didn’t slip off the meat, it didn’t really adhere to it either. If you look at the small hole in the batter of the leg in the above picture, you can see how the coating isn’t actually touching the skin. It’s not a bad thing – just an observation. Some of the early reviews coming out of the restaurant complained that the chicken was underseasoned, but the problem has definitely been taken care of, as both pieces were seasoned well enough that no one at the table bothered using either of the additional sauces provided (a hot sauce and dark sweet sauce). Overall, it was good fried chicken that I would be happy to return for.

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Cornbread Mac and Cheese – $10

In addition to the fried chicken, we also ordered some sides including the Cornbread Mac and Cheese. To be honest, I’m unsure where the cornbread came into play, but I’m guessing it made up part of the breadcrumb topping. As for the mac and cheese itself, the pasta was surprisingly al dente with a nice chew. The cheddar cheese veered more to the creamy than stringy side, which made me think that it was made at least partly with processed cheese. It also lacked much cheese flavour, further suggesting the use of processed cheese. It was, however, flavoured with jalapeno, which I liked. Having said that, the heat of the peppers didn’t actually come through which was surprising (I’d never before eaten a dish where you could taste the flavour of the jalapenos without actually tasting any spice). Overall, it was an okay dish, but one that you could find better elsewhere.

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Fried Brussel Sprouts – $7

We also ordered the Fried Brussel Sprouts. They were nicely roasted where they were cooked throughout, but still retained a slight bite. They were also slightly crispy on the outside, which allowed for a bit of a textural contrast along with the toasted sesame seeds. Flavourwise, the sprouts were cooked in a sweet, sticky sauce similar to the sweet sauce found on each table. Personally I found them too sweet, and as half of them were left at the end of the meal, it seems that others did too.

After finishing our meal, it was obvious to everyone at our table that the fried chicken is the reason to check out Juke. It’s good not only by gluten-free standards, but regular fried chicken standards as well. And at $7 dollars for two pieces of dark meat and a side of slaw (a full meal for many people), it really is ridiculously cheap. If I were to return, I would definitely skip the sides though. With prices that were equal or even more than the fried chicken, they weren’t worth it. The one exception might be the mortadella and cheese sandwich, but as I said earlier, that’s more for the nostalgia. Plus it would be easy enough to replicate at home (and make to your own specifications). Either way, I will definitely be back for the fried chicken.