Monday 20 November 2017

Warning: may contain real hipsters

Edel Coffey


4-5 Castle Market, Dublin 2



Warning: may contain real hipsters

I have a friend who hates hipsters. Let's call her The Hipster Hater. Show her a pair of primary-coloured skinny jeans and the effect is the same as pouring water on a gremlin. Instantaneous hissing, spitting and clawing.

This friend's hatred of hipsters knows no bounds. She sees them as the empty wraiths of humanity, sucking a shallow identity from the corpse of cool. I figure who better to come along to the new Jo'Burger place in Dublin's Castle Market. I float the subject past her. She suggests gathering all hipsters into a mothership and bombing them from the safety of her favourite gentleman's pub.

"Jeez," I say. "It's just a burger joint."

"I know this sounds ridiculous," she says, "but the fact that you drink from jam jars and that everything looks broken ... ," she sputters, outraged.

"It's called shabby-chic," I say. "It's quirky!"

She is quite the lady as well as a hipster hater, whereas I am not and am game to drink from a jam jar, at least once in my life. Besides, it would be hypocritical not to, as I have been known to drink out of lesser receptacles. And they give you a straw.

Any other objections she might like to get off her chest while we're on the topic?

You know there is: "The deafening music, why on earth have a DJ in such confined space?" "It's what the young people like," I tell her. "Is that all?"

"The burgers are very tasty," she says, magnanimously and a bit miffed that she can't come up with any other negatives off the top of her head.

And so it comes to pass that The Hipster Hater concedes to sampling the wares of the latest flag in the Jo'Burger empire.

I'm slightly on edge about it. She has a willful glint in her eye that suggests she is taking her task seriously and that she really, really wants the hipsters to fail. She may as well have a clipboard and red pen.

It's pouring rain on the day we decide to go along for lunch, but the place is still busy enough. I arrive a little early and decide to sit in the canopied street-dining area with a cup of coffee. But alas, my lovely and ethereally vacant waitress tells me they don't have coffee yet. "We're only open a month."

"Ah, I see," I say, but I don't really see. I'm glad The Hipster Hater hasn't arrived yet as she'd happily mark them down on the coffee front. According to the latest tweets by @JoBurgerDublin, they are now supplied with coffee by Two Spots Coffee of Dublin's Science Gallery.

The Hipster Hater arrives a few minutes later and we sit at one of the long bench and table set-ups, beside a couple who seem very pleased with the daily special chicken sandwich they have ordered.

There is a regular menu, the same as the one in Rathmines, with a million varieties of burger toppings, as well as a small lunch menu, with specials for around the fiver mark.

They do their own in-house lemonade varieties and I want to order a lime and ginger but they're all out of that. I plump for hibiscus as a second choice but they're all out of that.

The Hipster Hater spots a weakness and swoops, saying, "what do you have?" Hipster waiter responds, "everything elssssse".

I order a cranberry cooler and The Hipster Hater has a lemonade, straight up. Our drinks arrive in the fabled jam jars. We swap, hers is too bitter for both our tastes (I know, right?) but this is easily rectified by adding a bit of water.

The Hipster Hater is convinced hipster waiter was snappy with her. I'm not so sure. And weren't you provoking him anyway ... ?

We order burgers (the price ranges from around €9 for a basic one up to around €13 for the fancier stuff).

The Hipster Hater gets a classic beef burger and I get a chicken burger with Harissa Mint and Aioli and we both get bush fries (€3.95) on the side.

My fries are forgotten but my waitress gets me some immediately, telling me she stole them from another order. I beam at her -- you've got a love a woman who's willing to double-cross her fellow waiter to get you your food.

This is not first date food. I cannot overemphasise the importance of this. I have food in my hair and by the end of it all I feel like I should be drinking lemonade out of a trough, as opposed to just a jam jar.

The first Jo'Burger opened in 2007, the brainchild of Joe Macken, and it was a smash hit from the word go. Still is, in fact.

But Macken has learned hard lessons too.

He expanded rapidly into Blackrock but by 2009 Jo'Burger was in examinership. You might say Jo'Burger didn't last in Blackrock because the global economy imploded.

That's one theory. My own personal theory is that the Superquinn'n'Starbucks lovers of Blackrock couldn't comprehend the allure of sipping juice from a jam jar whilst distressing their favourite handbags against an exposed brick wall.

Macken traded out of the rough patch and went on to open a series of cheap, trendy and popular restaurants, including Crackbird on Dame Street, Bear on South William Street and Skinflint on Crane Lane. The décor in Jo'Burger Castle Market is cleverly in keeping with the Rathmines branch and a chain of Jo'Burgers can only be a heartbeat away.

Much as we tried, we found it hard to spend more than €15 each here. I ordered as much food as I could, but with no coffees or desserts on the menu to bump up the cost, the bill came to a grand total of €32.60.

I did feel that things weren't running quite as smoothly as they could just yet but, as my waitress said, it's only been a month.

Jo'Burger knows what it is and it does that extremely well. Who cares if that means your waitress is a little distracted?

Macken knows his product, his customers and his restaurants all have a strong sense of identity, which is consistent. If you don't like drinking out of jam jars, you can always go to Blackrock.

TYPICAL DISH: A burger, any which way you like it

RECOMMENDED: A classic burger with bush fries (Jo'Burger's own-recipe chunky chips)

THE DAMAGE: €32.60 for two burgers, two bush fries, two lemonades

ON THE STEREO: Something you're not cool enough to know

AT THE TABLE: Pleasantly mixed, from couples,to worker bees, students and, of course, hipsters

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