Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Newtown's latest and greatest: Earl's Juke Joint

Newtown's newest bar is bringing the Shady Pines Saloon brand of good times to the inner west, with Earl's Juke Joint opening about two weeks ago south of the station on King Street, behind a butcher's facade and lacy white curtains.

The bar at Earl's Juke Joint, King Street, Newtown
The result of an ex-Shady bar manager taking over and completely re-imagining the old Betta Meats site on the main road, Earl's is a surprising space that hints at New Orleans but feels right at home in Newtown. Indeed, locals won't see too much of a change to the Betta Meats frontage at all.

The back bar
There's no doubt that the Shady Pines crew have the Midas touch when it comes to bars small and large around town. In only its second week of opening, the bar at Earl's was packed by 7pm - and it's a long bar at that, with plenty of bar seating.

It's an unexpectedly spacious venue with a long, wide, shiny wooden bar taking pride of place, but still plenty of space in between it and the wall-attached tables for two or three drinkers, four at a squeeze.

The bar
There's a larger group space right down the back, but the bar is where the action's at. We have views of the hard-working bartenders, fellow bar perchers both ways, and those at the wall tables who eventually have to squeeze through those seated at the bar to order drinks.

Ferent branca and Reschs on tap
The many pages of the wood-backed menus make their way up and down the bar for those needing more choice than Reschs or Italian spirit Fernet Branca on tap. That's right, the bitter, herbaceous digestif spirit that's the domain of hipsters and bartenders is available on tap.

A bit too much like really strong Chinese herbal tea to me, the cool kids drink Fernet Branca by the shot which bartenders happily dispense from the tap.

Cocktail and Indian spice mix
While I can't drink it straight, I didn't mind Fernet Branca in a cocktail form; just a touch with (I think) rum, bitters and garnished with cucumber so the herbal notes make for an interesting, multi-dimensional addition without noticeable bitterness.

As per Shady Pines tradition (excluding Frankie's Pizza), complimentary snacks accompany our drinks; in this case, a seriously spicy Indian or Bombay mix of crisp chickpea noodles and dried peas. For more substantial eats I'd highly recommend bloodwood just across the road, as we did after a few drinks.

Phife Dawg (left) and Angostura Phosphate (right)
In addition to some great house rules (I particularly like number 2, "Don't be creepy" and wish it could be applied more broadly), the menu offers a few mixed drinks - like the tequila refrescoes at cousin venue Tio's Cerveceria - for $10.

The Phife Dawg is an easy pick, featuring rum, lime and sugar cane juice with the fresh and true flavours of the latter, and both a sugar cane and half lime garnish.

The Angostura Phosphate is a great one for anyone who likes the flavour of Angostura bitters. Six dashes make their way into the drink along with (I think) rum, lemon and acid phosphate, which we're told is essentially citric acid. The drink goes down easy with plenty of ice, if not a little too easy.

Corrugated metal on the ceiling
The overall fitout of what used to be a butcher shop is actually pretty swish; think The Baxter Inn with dark wood all round, fantastic wooden arches in the back bar and on-theme decorations on the walls.

There's a quaintness in the front lace curtains and light fixtures which is befitting of the old site, while the corrugated and in some areas rusted metal on the ceiling returns the space to drinking den status.

Good times at Earl's
Meanwhile, the vibe at Earl's is of laid-back fun. The service is friendly and efficient given the length of the bar, music reaches a reasonably loud volume that still makes conversation possible, and there's even silly liqueurs on the top shelf to show that they're not taking themselves too seriously.

Earl's Juke Joint is definitely the latest and greatest to join Newtown's burgeoning bar scene - welcome to the neighbourhood, Earl.

Earl's Juke Joint on Urbanspoon


Vivian - vxdollface said...

woohoo! can't wait to visit this place but I imagine the lines to get in will be like Frankies

Lorraine @ Not Quite Nigella said...

There's so much going on in Newtown isn't there! And they definitely seem to have the Midas touch.

Ally@Edibles&Travels said...

Sounds awesome! No one I know has been there yet but I definitely want to check it out :)

JB said...

What with the flag at the bar? It looks like a Filipino flag with some elements missing/added.

penny aka jeroxie said...

This place sounds like my type of hang out. Long queues?

Helen (Grab Your Fork) said...

Love that they have fernet branca on tap! And lol at rule number 2!

Tina said...

Hi Vivian - I haven't gone past on a Friday or Saturday night yet (though I've not queued to get into Frankie's either...)

Hi Lorraine - IT's all gold ;)

Hi Ally - It's good fun; hope you like it :)

Hi JB - I thought it was some reference to New Orleans...?

Hi Penny - I've not seen queues yet. Let me know when you're planning to go!

Hi Helen - Yup, it's pretty funny stuff and great service too.


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