First of all, I was a little reluctant to go to Jakes (formerly Jake and Earls) in Waltham because, one, the Boston Globe had mentioned it on Sunday and Globe mentions tend to bring about an onslaught of business, and, two, because there were four Texans in our group and, never having been to Jakes, I saw potential for embarrassing our region. Of course, the other suggestion was Mexican, which could have been just as bad. Anyway:
Things started out fine as a waitress took our drink orders and we perused the menu. I noticed immediately that there were few options for sides, compared to, say, Blue Ribbon. And any barbecue place that doesnt have greens of some sort should be ashamed. Jakes does have nice blues background music. I had ordered a Bombay Safire martini, Beefeater if there was no Safire. What I got tasted very citrus-y (no, it wasnt with a twist), so the waitress cheerfully offered to get me another, speculating that the mixing thingee might not have been rinsed enough. She left the original drink for anyone who wanted it.
While she was gone a bozo appeared, well call him Bozo, and announced: Me and her will both be serving you tonight, a usage I found amusing since most of the people at the table were in Waltham to make up next years MCAS test for English. (Its all right, one English teacher told me. Were off duty.) Bozo then said something we took to mean that the waitress was an intern, although he could have learned from her.
The waitress returned with a slightly better martini, and Bozo described some specials, which were not on everybodys menu, including a Cuban Sandwich. Bozo noted that Jakes doesnt press their Cuban Sandwich and that it contains lamb. Huh? Not wanting to skew the tab we were splitting, I passed on what I really wanted and ordered the less expensive Texas brisket. The Texans wisely avoided it, much as I would avoid clam chowder in Dallas.
As we waited for the food, I was explaining to my wife, who had a wheat beer, the difference between Weisse beer (as in Berliner Weisse) and Weizenbier, since the distinction had become cloudy in this country. Bozo interrupted us, which in itself was bad enough, but then he proceeded to add his own erroneous beer information. When my wife politely pointed out that Id spent 20 years or so writing about beer, it didnt deter him for going on about how he pours beer.
The food arrived. Jakes version of an egg roll was stuffed with barbecue, clever and tasty. We had ordered the habenaro poppers, figuring they would be spicier than jalapeno poppers, which can be dull, and the waitress told us an occasional seed or two remains in the habenaros, so we were warned. WOW! They are hot. From there it went down hill. The brisket was too dry and noticeably lacking in smokiness. It should have had some of the moistness of the limp, tired fries draped on top of it. (Say what you will about Redbones; they have terrific fries.) Corn bread was also dry. Pulled pork, which several people ordered, was OK, but again not terribly smoky. The Texans were mute.
Finally when the check came, there was a charge nobody could figure out. Turned out to be for substitutions, such as fries for beans. Bozo had told us you could substitute but neglected to mention the charge.
I suspect all of the above is why, despite the Globe, there were plenty of open tables. Did Earl take all the good stuff when he departed?